Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America

Introduction:  This is the first in a series of dashed off speculative opinions.  Normal procedure on the FM website for these topics would be 3 thousand word posts, supported by dozens of links.  I dont’ have the time to finish them, and too many of these outlines have accumulated in my drafts file.  Perhaps these will spark useful debate and research among this site’s readers.  All of these have been discussed at length in other posts on the FM website.

A major revolution in American politics during the past decade or so:  the increased use of outright propaganda, and Americans acceptance of it.  Both side have participated, but only one side has been successful.

To see how far we’ve decayed, I recommend a look at the transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates (also see the Wikipedia entry). They read like term papers of today’s college sophomores.  They are longer, more complex and sophisticated than the “debates” of today, in which candidates volley sound-bites with journalists.  The L-D debates gave tangible evidence of a vibrant democracy.  American will be back on track when we produce something like this.


  1. On the left
  2. On the right
  3. Bipartisan lies
  4. Conclusions
  5. For more information from the FM site

(1)  On the left

On the left we have the intense campaign to convince people about the imminent danger of global warming.  Almost all the major news media, educational institutions, and scientific institutes signed on to the crusade (to some degree).  Their opposite was a small number of skeptics and conservatives (big corporations financed both sides).    Much of the governments regulatory apparatus signed onto the crusade, seeing the potential for a vast expansion of their powers.

Nevertheless he project has failed to capture the high ground of US public opinion.  Without this they have little ability to implement powerful new regulations, let alone reshape America’s society and economy — no matter how intensely believed by the green minority.

(2)  On the right

The right (conservative) end of the political spectrum undertook a more ambitious task:  erase from the public’s awareness much of what we know about macroeconomics and replace it with fake history and faux theory.  I have not seen a full description (let alone analysis) of this, but the broad outlines are easily stated.

  • Tax cuts are good in both booms and busts, no matter how large the resulting deficits.
  • Fiscal and monetary stimulus programs don’t stabilize economic downturns.
  • Vast military spending and tax cuts are good; the resulting deficits are bad.
  • During recessions stimulus programs cause the big deficits, more than the collapse in government revenues.
  • Deficits don’t matter for Republican Administrations, only  for Democratic Administrations.

The last has become a primary principle for conservatives, as explained in this excerpt from page 291 of The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill Ron Suskind (2004):

The package of post-Waco tax proposals, led by a 50% cut in the individual tax on dividends, had been all but buried since O’Neil took his stand in early September. It came up infrequently, and always in the past tense — what we were thinking of doing but couldn’t afford. After the midterms, though, {Treasury Secretary} O’Neil could sense a change inside the White House, from Rove, Lindsey, and others. … Now Cheney mentioned them again …

O’Neil jumped in, arguing sharply how the government was ‘moving toward a fiscal crisis’ and ‘what rising deficits will mean to our economic and fiscal soundness.”

Dick cut him off. “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter,” he said.  O’Neil shook his head, hardly believing that Cheney — whom he and Greenspan had known since Dick was a kid – would say such a thing. He was speechless.  Cheney moved to fill the void. ” We won the midterm elections. This is our due.

For example for this propaganda in action, see Glenn Reynold’s Instapundit website.  During Bush Jr’s Administration deficits were seldom mentioned and less often blamed on him — and reports of the recession were attributed to media bias (see his mocking “Dude, where’s my recession” posts even 6 months after the recession started).  Now almost every bit of bad news is tagged to Obama.  And although the current Federal fiscal year began 1 October 2009 (even before the election), they blame Obama for the resulting deficits.

(3)  Bipartisan lies

Both parties support our wars, which requires a large superstructure of lies.  Wars are wonderful things for making the proles fearful and obedient.

The original rational for the Iraq War sent down the memory hole, we’re told to consider as victory the conversion of a secular enemy of Iran into a Islamic ally of Iran — at a vast cost in lives and money (perhaps 2 trillion dollars, whenever it ends).  Tough luck for the women and religous minorities of Iraq, but we can easily ignore their problems.

The Afghanistan occupation requires bolder lies.  Although almost irrelevant to 9-11, the occupation prevents more 9-11’s.  A few hundred al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan become a threat to the entire region, perhaps even a cause of atomic war.  An so forth.  For more on this see The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan and You can end our war in Afghanistan.

(4)  Conclusions

Let’s not point the finger of blame (or any other finger)  at our political activists.  Political debates consist of exaggerations and lies to the extent that we passively accept them.  We have the tools to become well-informed, and minds with which to balance competing theories.  We we have become gullible, that’s our problem — not theirs.

(5a)  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 relevance to this topic:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

(5b) Afterword

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

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32 thoughts on “Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America”

  1. The importance of education – learning to think for oneself. That is the core problem: lack of the ability to think clearly. American pre-college education has been a farce since the 1920’s or so.

  2. As a conservative observer,I don’t disagree with your analysis. But all of this is to be expected at this time of a building inflection point of our society.

    You and I have discussed before,the prospect that we as a nation are plunging toward a repeat of either the 70 BC era or the 370 AD era. Either way we are on fast forward, the future will arrive soon. Strap in tightly folks, it’s going to be a rough ride indeed. The current economic bumpiness and degraded political cohesion is the leading edge. THE SEAT BELT SIGN IS ON!
    FM reply: I agree. Fasten your seat belts. Put your seat back and folding trays in their full upright position.

  3. I think a lot of people sense the BS in our government about global warming and about deficits. Obama can never sell AGW to us because it really is a bunch of BS, but he definitely failed to explain that the stimuli were necessary to all of us. I mean, most people aren’t economists and definitely don’t remember macro econ from high-school. And we don’t have trusty media with any of the major networks or cable channels. So, people know their is BS, but don’t have a method for interpreting the actions of DC.

    Rush Limbaugh is so much better than Obama at selling his ideas to people. Obama and his crew are really failing to explain it. I mean, can’t we expect the prez to do that? Or, should we not be surprised at least that people will protest spending when Obama is a worse sales than radio-jockeys? He should be talking to people, arguing with them, setting them straight.

    Or we could all just be uber smart citizens that understand PPP or whatever.
    FM reply: I agree about Obama. As I said during the campaign, I’ve never seen Obama as a good communicator. I’ve never heard his speeches, but the transcripts read like a collection of Hallmark cards.

  4. American college education has been a farce since the 1960s or so. When professors try to cause their students to adopt the professor’s own point of view, education is not taking place. It is more accurately called indoctrination.
    FM reply: That’s an exaggeration. Much of American college education is world class, among the best in the world.

  5. Anecdotally, FM, I found more of my conservative friends more angry about the GM bailouts than the Stimulus 2.0
    FM reply: Agreed. There are no absolutes in these things, and there is wisdom to be found on all sides of the political spectrum. But IMO both sides lie far more often than in the past.

  6. I went to UCSD for college and it was full of a lot of BS. There’d be big equality recognition events where only 4 people would attend and all that kind of PC expected stuff. But the classes were hardcore and we learned a lot, and I learned a lot to prepare me for my job in biotech. So I agree and disagree with Leftist Radical (even though I have no idea what college was like before the 2000s.

  7. FM: “We have the tools to become well-informed, and minds with which to balance competing theories. We we have become gullible, that’s our problem — not theirs.

    There needs to be a big movie on this theme. FM, how do un-gullibize an entire nation? One man at a time?
    FM reply: Good question, to which I have no answer. These things are beyond our current understanding. The changes of a human heart or the spirit of a nation are equally mysterious. But we need not understand such deeper things, we need only try the obvious steps within the power of each of us.

  8. I am not sure of this idea, FM. I agree, of course, that America’s political discourse has declined dramatically since its founding. One only has to realize that the Federalist Papers and the Haynes-Webster debates were published in their entirety in the newspapers of the early Republic to see the totality of this decline. Can you imagine similar things being published in today’s dailies? The thought is lamentably laughable.

    I suspect that this decline can be traced to a number of things: the relative deterioration of educational standards over the last century, communication mediums which reward the flashy and short, and the the simple fact that the elite do not need anything more than propaganda to secure their interests surely all play a part. I doubt, however, that any of these trends are reversible.

    Yet while I applaud your efforts to end America’s idiotic rhetoric, I fear the attempt may have caused you to veer too far in the opposite direction. Where do you make the distinction between simply being wrong and being deceitful? Sure, the “deficits-only-matter-when-you-are-not-in-charge” is fair example; I will give you that without dispute. But is it so easy to dismiss the Right’s claims about tax rates and recessions? From F.A. Hayek to the present time there have been many economists who accept and propagate these claims. Are they all propagandists?

    It is a reflection of our times that our most intelligent commentators must resort to calling those they disagree with propagandists. That is not entirely fair to you of course, as you have written many rigorous posts grounded in data and fact in response to the kind of claims you have listed here. Still, I must look on this post with incredulity. Anyone who believes in or argues for a coordinated response to AGW, an American presence in Afghanistan, tax cuts in recessions, or the alleged ineffectiveness of stimulus programs is either willfully dispenses or blindly believes propaganda. I hope you realize the implication that is inherit with such claims: men and women who author arguments in opposition to your proffered menu of policies are not wrong. They are not even stupid. Their evil. Or deceitful. You can choose which of these sounds nicer.

    Actually, there is a more interesting task, if you have the time to complete it. Might you provide a list of political topics in which one is allowed to disagree with the proprietors of this site without having fallen for propaganda? I am interested in seeing what you may come up with.
    FM reply: I don’t believe the examples I cited are unreasonable examples. Rather your characterization of them misrepresents what I said.

    (1) “Right’s claims about tax rates”
    I know of no economic or financial expert who believes tax rates should be cut under all circumstances, boom or bust, while running massive secular deficits. The Laffer curve gives no support for such an idiotic idea, esp now — when tax rates on income and capital (the usual targets) are at historically low ranges. I await your contrary evidence.

    (2) “recessions”
    As the post I cite shows, there is not only broad agreement among economists about the value of stimulus programs but that this consensus includes conservative economists. There are a very few economists who take this position, which is almost devoid of empirical support. Also showing its origin in political propaganda, it appeared on center stage only during Obama’s administration (no such objections to Bush’s stimulus programs). I await your contrary evidence.

    (3) “an American presence in Afghanistan”
    I said nothing so broad. I referred to specific claims used the pro-war campaign which are contrary to facts.

    (4) “Anyone who believes in or argues for a coordinated response to AGW”
    I said nothing remotely like that. I referred to the pr campaign, which by now should be obvious to anyone paying attention contained a large element of fiction. Culminating in James Hansan’s claim we have only 4 years to save the world (now only 3).

    (5) ” I am interested in seeing what you may come up with.”
    I am interested in seeing if you can reply using quotes, rather than making stuff up, attributing it to me, and giving a witty rebuttal.

  9. Burke G Sheppard

    A number of things went wrong for the global warming crowd, but the main problem seems to be that in the end they wanted too much. They might have done better had they been willing to keep their depredations down to a more modest level. People will put up with a certain amount of nonsense in the name of warding off carefully stoked fears, but this just came with too high a price tag. The AGW crowd did better in Europe than they did here, partly because elections simply don’t count for as much over there.

  10. Subjectivity and paranoia are like wonderful drugs that almost everyone uses and loves. We call for others to renounce them but they don’t trust our claims to be sober. They suspect that when we get home we toke up too. And so “objectivity” becomes a place of hypocrisy and pretense.

    I agree that the objective situation is worse today than at many times. But I disagree that our collective mentality is any worse now than it was in say, 1955 or 1887. I think our civilization is simply under more strain than it ever was before, from sources we don’t understand. I think this is reflected in our thoughts, feelings and spirit. The strain is reflected in our soul.

    Calls for prohibition will never work with the subjectivity drug. Too many people are under the influence and the need goes too deep. But we might be able to get sober for long enough.

  11. From #8 — “Actually, there is a more interesting task, if you have the time to complete it. Might you provide a list of political topics in which one is allowed to disagree with the proprietors of this site without having fallen for propaganda? I am interested in seeing what you may come up with.”

    T.Greer, don’t be so passive-agressive. You disgree with Fabius Maximus on certain heavy topics, that much is clear. Well so do I. You could deal with this situation by:
    1. Ignore those topics and focus on others.
    2. Try to convince Fabius Maximus to agree on those topics.
    3. Go find another site where you agree with the blogger on everything.

    “Please make a list of where you are not openminded” is a little much to ask, don’t you think?

  12. Highlander:

    In the interests of promoting information about medieval China, may I point your attention to the An Lushan Rebellion, which shook the Tang Dynasty in 756? The An Lushan Rebellion was not only a period of political disaster; it also was the great period of Chinese poetry. Tu Fu and Li Bai, the two greatest Chinese poets were active then.

    This episode illustrates something I have noted: that political turmoil and creativity seem to coincide. To cite another instance from Chinese history: The age of Confucius, of Lao Tse, and the other great philosophers is called the Warring States period.

    Following this logic, the thing to do is to develop one’s creativity.

    Much has been said above about the need to develop one’s critical thinking, and that is fine and good. But it not only is important to think clearly but also to see clearly. This is fundamental for any genuine creativity. For assistance on this, consult the classic, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

  13. Comment #8: “Can you imagine similar things being published in today’s dailies? The thought is lamentably laughable.”

    Both the Washington Post and the New York Times, among others, published the full text of the Unabomber’s manifesto back in 1995, despite the fact that it was extraordinarily long and damn near incomprehensible. So there is some hope that major media outlets can work with sustained arguments, even today… the stakes just have to be high enough.
    FM reply: That’s a logic inference. But comparing the Unabomber’s manifesto to the Federalist Papers and the Haynes-Webster debates seems a stretch to me. More likely it was his killing that made the bomber’s manifesto interesting to the papers.

  14. You don’t need to bring in the hobbyhorse of AGW to illustrate the importance of propaganda in modern government. Orwell describes it convincingly in 1984 and in the essay “Politics and the English Language”. Long before that, Woodrow Wilson hired journalist Edward Bernays to sell the American people on the need to enter World War I. Here’s a quote from the Wikipedia article on Bernays that highlights the issue:

    “”If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within certain limits.”[5]

    Bernays called the process “engineering consent”, and its purpose was to manipulate the uninformed masses into accepting the agendas of the elite.

    Plato, the philosopher elitist, foresaw this as an inevitable consequence of “democracy”.
    FM reply: This comes up in discussions of any social attribute — “it’s seen in the past.” Yes, we all know that. Probably no human or social attributes is new. We’re discussing magnitudes, which vary over time — producing the different kinds of societies seen in history.

  15. Duncan,

    Yes, the old “may you live in interesting times” curse . . . instructive that the Warring States period produced China’s greatest literary achievements. Suffering seems to stimulate the search for answers, to “concentrate the mind wonderfully.” Although I’m sure if you asked them, the people alive then would have preferred to forgo the great literature in favor of not being massacred and having enough to eat . . .

    Your comment also reminds me of:

    Prescription of Painful Ends

    Lucretius felt the change of the world in his time, the great republic riding to the height
    Whence every road leads downward; Plato in his time watched Athens
    Dance down the path. The future is a misted landscape, no man sees clearly, but at cyclic turns
    There is a change felt in the rhythm of events, as when an exhausted horse
    Falters and recovers, then the rhythm of the running hoofbeats is changed: he will run miles yet,
    But he must fall: we have felt it again in our own life time, slip, shift and speed-up
    In the gallop of the world; and now perceive that, come peace or war, the progress of Europe and America
    Becomes a long process of deterioration – starred with famous Byzantiums and Alexandrias,
    Surely – but downward. One desires at such times
    To gather the insights of the age summit against future loss, against the narrowing of mind and the tyrants,
    The pedants, the mystagogues, the barbarians: one builds poems for treasuries, time-conscious poems: Lucretius
    Sings his great theory of natural origins and of wise conduct; Plato smiling carves dreams, bright cells
    Of incorruptible wax to hive the Greek honey.
    Our own time, much greater and far less fortunate,
    Has acids for honey, and for fine dreams
    The immense vulgarities of misapplied science and decaying Christianity: therefore one christens each poem in dutiful
    Hope of burning off at least the top layer of the time’s uncleaness, from the acid-bottles.

    -Robinson Jeffers

    Of course we should also strive to do our best to change the situation for the better at the same time. And, as you imply, the creative process itself is essential to producing solutions, and can be a positive influence itself, as Jeffers admits . . .

  16. Duncan,

    Your point about creativity is well taken. In the end a new generation’s creativity may possibly be our only salvation. Because obviously the “old ways” seem to work less and less well. After 50 plus years of self indulgence and navel staring the Baby Boomers are pretty much burned up and out. Don’t expect anything from them creative or otherwise.

    For instance while I am a proponent of free markets, I do have some doubts that Capitalism can contiue on it’s present course and survive.

    In my case the only fields of endeavor I have ever shown even a small amount of creativity in is welding a war axe, flying an airplane, and manipulating a political election or a local real estate market. So I too probably won’t be of much creative assistance in saving the Republic either. It’s all going to be up to you Laddie so get creative quickly, please.

  17. We live in a world based upon myths and falsehoods. For most (like Dick Cheney), they truly believe in the BS they spew (or they are indifferent to being wrong in their quest for money and power).

    But this is really nothing new. The Fire-Eaters of the Old South really believed they were fighting for Southern Honor and Southern Rights when those concepts were largely frauds (and most slave-owners at the time were heavily leveraged and involved in out-of-control market speculation, making them very fearful of any market decline).

    If we really wanted to fix the US economy, we could simply impose tariffs, which would not only help pay off the national debt, but provide domestic employment with good-paying manufacturing jobs. But hey, let’s just continue to believe in the propaganda of the free traders…..

  18. From #16: “In my case the only fields of endeavor I have ever shown even a small amount of creativity in is welding a war axe, flying an airplane, and manipulating a political election or a local real estate market. So I too probably won’t be of much creative assistance in saving the Republic either. It’s all going to be up to you Laddie so get creative quickly, please.”

    So, OK, I’m confused. You seriously don’t think someone who can wield a war axe, fly an airplane, and manipulate a real estate market or a political election is creative?

  19. The human predilection for accepting propaganda is based on “irrationality” being the default position of the human brain. We have
    to struggle to become rational. It is so much easier to believe anecdotes than it is to analyze data, information, knowledge, and become wise. So long as so few Americans practice for wisdom, we will be condemned to our constant descent into the oblivion of lsot empires.

  20. “You seriously don’t think someone who can wield a war axe, fly an airplane, and manipulate a real estate market or a political election is creative?”

    So far as the war ax is concerned, there are a lot of oriental martial arts, which indeed are arts, such as kendo. I see no reason why there could not be a war ax art. Of course there were the barnstorming air shows of the 1920’s, which IMHO were creative. As far as manipulating the real estate market is concerned, the board game “Monopoly” does that. So we could create another such game.

    Indeed to apply creativity to some such apparently humdrum item is to be highly creative indeed.

  21. OK, I’ll beard the lion again.

    1. AGW has been a charade from the get go. The initial IPCC report and its estimates of warming was superseded by much reduced estimates in the second report. We have had the debunking of the Mann hockey stick by McIntyre. We had the withdrawal by NOAA of the Hansen temperature data. We have documented IPCC errors in both rain forest and glacier melting. FM tells us there are only a handful of skeptics, but even if that were ever true, the numbers have grown substantially. The hacked or released emails and data have cast serious doubt on the AGW research. I have noticed that whenever the data is “corrected”, it is always corrected in the direction of more warming, never less warming. Now, we find that water vapor has declined and that has resulted in cooling. Hansen is now claiming the last 10 years were hotter than ever. I don’t believe that and, again, Hansen does not release the raw data.

    2. I am skeptical of stimulus and Keynesian economics. I can’t think of a single place Keynesian theory has worked. Certainly, not in Japan and certainly the Bush deficits did not end happily. If Keynesian economics were true, we would still be in a booming economy and housing prices would be continually increasing. BTW, the Democrats were trashing Bush for the deficits as early as 2004 and they never let up.
    * “Democrats chide Bush on deficit“, Washington Times, 27 January 2004
    ” “Kerry Pins Record Deficit On Bush“, CBS, 3 September 2004
    * “Democrats assail Bush’s budget, deficit“, USA Today, 6 March 2005

    So, that seems to be quite an unfair shot at Reynolds.

    If what we know about macroeconomics is Keynesian economics, then we don’t know much. Clearly, Milton Friedman and the Chicago school or the Austrians have differing opinions. I will also add the deficits of Reagan and Bush II pale in comparison to Obama and today’s $1.56 trillion deficit (and that assumes tax increases and spending cuts that are unlikely to happen). Then, too, the last I looked, the polls are showing Bush is still being blamed for the recession, not Obama. “Poll: Obama Not Blamed For Economy“, CBS, 29 July 2009.

    But, even then, this is a world wide recession, not a US only recession. Also, Obama is not firmly in favor of the war in Afghanistan. Do not confuse campaign apples with governing apples.
    FM reply: Much of this is just wrong. Just like your comments about health care on this thread. You appear to get information from conservative websites that frequently lie to you.

    (1) “AGW has been a charade from the get go.”
    That’s a gross exaggeration. There is a large body of evidence supporting some degree of AGW. As usual in science, the debate concerns the magnitude of the effect and that of offseting factors.

    (2) “I can’t think of a single place Keynesian theory has worked”
    Bizarre. The post-WWII era, in which all western nations used some form of Keynesian economics, has seen rapid economic growth. The quarter century ending 2007 saw global economic around the global probably never before seen in modern times. The five years before the crash saw global per capita growth probably not seen since the invention of agriculture.

    (3) “If Keynesian economics were true, we would still be in a booming economy and housing prices would be continually increasing.”
    This is more bizarre than your previous statements. I know of no economist who believes we can prevent business cycles.

    (4) “the Democrats were trashing Bush for the deficits as early as 2004”
    This explains your confusion as you appear to know almost nothing about Keynesian economics. Keynes saw deficits as counter-cyclical measures. Deficits during recession, counterbalanced by offsetting surpluses during the expansions. The recession ended in November 2001. By 2004 we were well into the expansion, hence deficits were inappropriate.

    (5) “showing Bush is still being blamed for the recession, not Obama.”
    Not for lack of trying by conservatives. Also, that poll is six months old.

    (6) “Obama is not firmly in favor of the war in Afghanistan”
    Do you have any evidence for this astounding statement? He campaigned in favor of an expanded Af-Pak war. One of his first acts was to send more troops. Then he sent still more troops.

  22. Atheist comment #10: “But I disagree that our collective mentality is any worse now than it was in say, 1955 or 1887. I think our civilization is simply under more strain than it ever was before, from sources we don’t understand. I think this is reflected in our thoughts, feelings and spirit. The strain is reflected in our soul.”


    This is confusing. You and FM say that american universities are world class (etc.), but they generally have trouble understanding the soul, the psychic aspects of social change, and so forth. FM dismisses the significance of the “culture wars” elsewhere, and only looks at postmodernism’s surface problems. I think this simply demonstrates that being “systems centric”, as opposed to holistic/integral, is limited. A “systems” perspective is valid, and will reveal many truths. Specifically, it is good at debunking grand myths and “universal” narratives. Marx’s idea that economy/technology drive cultural development and change is far better than the previous idea that the hand of god shapes human events.

    However, “systems” perspectives are not good at providing insight into the “soul”. For instance, Mark Turner and George Lakoff have established that, as someone else said in this thread, the human brain has to strain mightily to operate rationally (“Conceptual Integration Networks“, Cognitive Science, 1998) . This is true because evolution created a human brain that is primarily optimized for story-telling and to construct “emotional” meaning (reinforce clan/tribe bonds). The contemplative traditions map out the emotional-spiritual landscape, and teach detachment from ego.

    As valid as the truths of “systems” perspectives are, they don’t inspire transcendence, contemplation, insight, redemption, salvation, compassion, or altruism. Just as the clear boundries between “liberal” and “conservative” have become permeable and fuzzy in postmodern culture, holism/integralism weakens the boundries of meaning needed to support “colonization of lifeworld by systems” (Habermas).

    Once valid paradigms that regress into absolutisms: The sources of strain have been described by counter culture, new age and other “fringe” types since at least the 1940s: Jean Gebser, Sri Aurobindo, and Rudolph Steiner. The holistic enchilada: (see the following comment). Also:
    * Four Quadrants, Ken Wilber, Shambhala Publications
    * AQAL – an integral map, posted at Formless Mountain
    FM reply: Thank you for this interesting comment. However I disagree with this — “FM dismisses the significance of the “culture wars” elsewhere.” No, I don’t believe this is accurate. I believe it both exists and is a defining feature of our time.

  23. Excerpt G: Toward A Comprehensive Theory of Subtle Energies, Part I. Introduction: From the Great Chain of Being to Postmodernism in Three Easy Steps, By Ken Wilber, Shambhala Publications, undated — Excerpt:

    “Part of the problem is that the relation of human consciousness to human neurophysiology is something that is not obvious (and not even available) to introspective phenomenology (i.e., to meditation or contemplation), which means that items such as dopamine, serotonin, synaptic pathways, the Kreb’s cycle, hypothalamic regulation, and so on, were not generally available to the ancients. Again, this does not mean that their spiritual realization was flawed or inadequate, but simply that they did not have the advantage of some of the finite facts that modern science has discovered. Were Plotinus alive today, you can bet that several chapters of the Enneads would be devoted to brain neurophysiology and its relation to spirit. Were Shankara alive today, his commentaries on the Brahma Sutras would no doubt have extensive discussions on the relation of the nadis to neurotransmitters.”

  24. As early as the mid 90’s John Daley an John Brignell, Steve Malloy and others have been attacking CO2 based AGW. This is not some new attack. In the words Hillary, it takes a willing suspension of disbelief to accept AGW as CO2 based and settled science. In addition, we have global warming on Mars. There is a large body of work showing little to no warming and it is not clear that what little has occurred between the mid 70’s and 1998 was due to CO2. You may have noticed U of Pa was not kind to Mann in the past week and Phil Jones is now under attack in England. Then, too there is the IPCC’s Pauchauri and the calls for his resignation. The AGW guy are not at all clean and becoming dirtier.

    My counter example to Keynesian economics is Japan. But, in addition I point out that all this stimulus since WWII has resulted in increasing deficits that are becoming more difficult to support and work to inhibit growth. Projections are a total debt of about $20 trillion b 2020. At 5% interest, that comes to $1 trillion a year. Keynes did not advocate that, but people like Krugman do. The politicians use Keynesian economics as an excuse to keep spending. I don’t know why you feel the need to insult those who disagree with you, but in that vein, I find your claim Keynesian economics has been responsible for the growth of world economies to be “bizarre”. It has been the engine of debt that will bring everything to a stand still. I also add that tax cuts work better than government spending Liz Ann Sonders of Schwab pointed out that we are now at $6 debt for $1 of increased economic activity. Rhomer, before being in the administration, said tax cuts had a multiplier of 1.5, much better than government spending. Tax cuts were the method for JFK, Reagan, and Bush II.

    I did not argue that Keynesian economics can prevent business cycles. But, I do not, and you should not claim this current recession is due to the business cycle. That poll may be 6 months old, but if you even listened to Obama’s introduction to his budget, it was all Bush’s fault. Here is a later poll from November still showing the opinion the Bush is responsible: source.

    My evidence for Obama and Afghanistan is the long delay in authorizing more troops and even then authorizing fewer than requested. The Obama support of Afghanistan was only to contrast with Iraq. It clearly was not because he was a strong supporter of the war in Afghanistan. The left thought he was lying about Afghanistan during the campaign.

    Again , can we not disagree without insults or is that an important part of your debating style? I assure you, I am not intimidated, only disgusted.
    FM reply: I don’t believe much of this is correct, but is beyond my time to sort out. A few quick notes.
    (1) Japan is hardly a “counter example” to Keynesian economics, unless you consider K a religion. It’s a science. Like all sciences there are knowns and unknowns. Since economics is the study of society, which changes, it has a more difficult task than the physical sciences.
    (2) Of course the current downturn is a business cycle (there are many, related to differeing factors, operating over different time spans). It’s long been identified, perhaps best known as the “debt supercycle” (coined by BankCredit Analyst in the late 1980’s. Maria Fiorini Ramirez described it presciently in the mid-1980s.
    (3) All presidents blame their predecessor for problems. What’s you point?

    “My evidence for Obama and Afghanistan is the long delay in authorizing more troops and even then authorizing fewer than requested.”

    This is IMO wrong on many levels.
    * Obama quickly granted the first request for 17,000 troops after his inauguration (Wikipedia).
    * DoD did several (4?) major reviews of Af-Pak policy in the months before the final version of the request to Obama. That suggests great uncertainty about our goals and methods, certainly warranting Obama’s measured response. It also suggests that DoD was in no hurry, so why should haste have necessary by Obama.
    * The military requested different numbers of troops at different times, probably as a result of discussion with the field on one side and civilian leaders on the other. The original secret request (leaked) by General Stanley McChrystal was reported for 500 thousand troops.
    * In fact troop levels are increasing at the maximum rate possible. The authorized 30 thousand deployment is scheduled for completion by the end of this summer (source), allowing time to authorize more troops if appropriate.
    * It sounds like your define Obama as supporting the war only if he responded by saluting and obeying the generals.

    “without insults or is that an important part of your debating style?”

    Please give a specific, as I dont’ see any insults in my reply to your comment (insult: “a rude expression intended to offend or hurt”). Based on the 15,000+ comments posted this site, people’s standards of debate vary widely. The comments posted on instalanche (from Glenn Reynold’s Instapundit) make anything here look like Sunday School.

  25. Bloomberg column today that is on point: “Obama’s Pyramid Schemes Would Make Keynes Happy“, Caroline Baum, Bloomberg, 3 February 2010.
    FM reply: It’s a mystery to me why anyone pays attention to the writings of journalists about technical matters, other than to the extent they quote experts. Journalists covering beats (environmental, economic, etc) often come to believe that they have magically absorbed actual knowledge about the subject. That’s usually wrong (anymore than a retriever understands chemistry of gunpower by accompanying a hunter). Baum’s understanding of these things is minimal, IMO.

  26. (trying again, 1st post disappeared)
    re: “But I disagree that our collective mentality is any worse now than it was in say, 1955 or 1887. I think our civilization is simply under more strain than it ever was before, from sources we don’t understand. I think this is reflected in our thoughts, feelings and spirit. The strain is reflected in our soul.”


    It seems odd that FM states that american universities are world class (“all the kings horses and all the kings men”), but then says that they don’t explain the major breakage in the culture (“can’t put humpty dumpty back together again”). (Good at numeracy/literacy, bad at contemplation and healing psychic pain, damage, and suffering?) The sources of strain have been understood at the *creative margins* since the 1940s when Jean Gebser (Wikipedia) wrote “Ursprung und Gegenwart” (The Ever-Present Origin).

    Also see Sri Aurobindo and Rudolph Steiner. Then later Clare Graves. Counterculture spirituality and other new age thought, e.g. the transpersonal psychology movement, have been trying to define the “problem” for at least 40 years. Places like Naropa, Esalen, Noetic institute were instrumental in bringing “traditional” academia into fruitful contact with experimentation in east-west synthesis.

    Esalen: America and the religion of no religion” By Jeffrey John Kripal. Note: the long history of marginalized, non-conforming spirituality: A Republic of Mind and Spirit – A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion (see here).

    “In its own way, Albanese argues, American metaphysical religion has been as vigorous, persuasive, and influential as the evangelical tradition that is more often the focus of religious scholars’ attention. She makes the case that because of its combinative nature—its ability to incorporate differing beliefs and practices—metaphysical religion offers key insights into the history of all American religions. “

    The shortcomings of rationalist and “systems” perspectives have been explained by those on the *creative margins*, and attempts at a more holistic/integral model of consciousness were proposed as being “better” – more capable of satisfying the “coherence needs” of the current stage of development at the “leading edge”. (Over the last two decades, nasty debates broke out about romanticism and then postmodernism’s “mean green meme”.)

    As someone else noted insightfully, the natural state of human brain activity (as a product of evolution) isn’t pure rational thought, it is “constructing meaning” via story telling – emotional bonding at the level of clan/tribe for survival. The great mechanistic model of a rational universe is doomed as the dominant paradigm. (see here).

  27. Liberalism and Religion – We Should Talk“, By Ken Wilber, Shambhala Sun, July 1999 — Excerpt:

    Liberalism’s objections to mythic forms do not apply to formless awareness. Thus liberalism and authentic spirituality can walk hand in hand. There are two major dialogues in the modern world that I believe must take place, one between science and religion, and then one between religion and liberalism.

    The way it is now, the modern world really is divided into two major and warring camps, science and liberalism on the one hand, and religion and conservatism on the other. And the key to getting these two camps together is first, to get religion past science, and then second, to get religion past liberalism, because both science and liberalism are deeply anti-spiritual. And it must occur in that order, because liberalism won’t even listen to spirituality unless it has first passed the scientific test. (Showing how that might happen was a major theme of my book, Sense and Soul.)

    In one sense, of course, science and liberalism are right to be anti-spiritual, because most of what has historically served as spirituality is now prerational, magic or mythic, implicitly ethnocentric, fundamentalist dogma. Liberalism traditionally came into existence to fight the tyranny of prerational myth and that is one of its enduring and noble strengths (the freedom, liberty, and equality of individuals in the face of the often hostile or coercive collective). And this is why liberalism was always allied with science against fundamentalist, mythic, prerational religion (and the conservative politics that hung on to that religion).

    But neither science nor liberalism is aware that in addition to prerational myth, there is transrational awareness. There are not two camps here: liberalism versus mythic religion. There are three: mythic religion, rational liberalism, and transrational spirituality. …

  28. Team Obama does not want a progressive populist movement? “Lei-off: Obama snubs Dean“, Politico, 8 January 2009 — Opening:

    “The conspicuous absence of Howard Dean from Thursday’s press conference announcing Tim Kaine’s appointment as Democratic National Committee chairman was no accident, according to Dean loyalists. ather, they say, it was a reflection of the lack of respect accorded to the outgoing party chairman by the Obama team.”

    FM reply: I don’t believe that’s a reasonable conclusion to draw from this article. I don’t respect Dean much, either.

  29. FM said: “FM reply: I don’t believe much of this is correct, but is beyond my time to sort out. A few quick notes. …

    Japan has been practicing the Keynesian prescription of low interest rates and government spending. All to no avail. Economics is no more a science than sociology. They are both social sciences in search of rigorous proofs. (My degree is in theoretical mathematics.. that is a science). From

    “Yes, I do maintain that the Debt Supercycle (a description first used, I believe, by The Bank Credit Analyst, written by Martin Barnes in recent years) is not over following the August and September ‘credit crisis’. Incidentally, noted bears have been predicting a collapse of the Debt Supercycle for decades, and have been notably wrong each time.

    The Debt Supercycle persists because it is the creation of the US Federal Reserve and other central banks (CBs). Yes, the commercial banks and investment banks can create a great deal of credit but the broad monetary conditions under which they operate are determined by CBs, which will increase or contract liquidity as required. Consequently, the Debt Supercycle will not collapse of its own weight, as so many continue to predict, if the Fed and other CB are willing to pump it up whenever a debt deflation threatens.

    Yes, this may require greater amounts of liquidity to be pumped in each time but this is in part a reflection of the larger global economy. And these crises are not without some self-correcting mechanism, as we are currently seeing with write-downs by commercial banks and investment banks.”

    In my opinion, a phenomenon that is a creation of the central banks is not a part of the business cycle. As I read Barnes, the debt super cycle is a creation of the political response to recessions which does not allow the debt to be wrung out of the system. In that case, we are seeing that now in that the housing bubble has been the creation of the reaction to the dot com bubble. The avoidance of pain will often result in greater pain. In this case, all the additional liquidity needs to find an owner other than the Fed. The majority of the current problems have been government induced running from low interest rates to Federal intervention in the housing and mortgage markets. Those interventions encouraged the private sector to abandon risk assessments and go into over drive.

    No, I do not define Obama as supporting the war in Afghanistan by acceding to the military’s request. I do define limited interest based on significant delays in responding to the requests: (source). Even the Democrats were complaining about the delay. Some Presidents may blame their predecessor, but it is bizarre when the current President supported the actions, such as TARP, and is still blaming his predecessor more than a year later while still calling on him for help with Haiti.

    BTW, your comment of Reynolds was unclear. He does not allow comments. I can only remember him linking to you once. That is how, much to your chagrin (I am guessing), I found your blog. As far as the Bloomberg column, I found that via Mish (at the end of the post). I consider him right up there with Zero Hedge, Calculated Risk, and Denninger.
    FM reply: Just a quick reply. Too much misinformation here to deal with in a comment.

    (1) “Japan has been practicing the Keynesian prescription of low interest rates and government spending. All to no avail.”

    Japan has structural problems beyond economics. For one, their women don’t have enough babies to maintain a stable population — so the population is both aging and shrinking. If you consider that a failure of Keynesian economcis, fine. Demographic transitions are poorly understood. For a current discussion see “The Age of Aging: How Demographics are Changing the Global Economy and Our World” by the London economist George Magnus.

    (2) “Economics is no more a science than sociology”

    I’ll give the standard reply of social scientists to such assertions: “whatever, dude.” Congratulations on your fine self-esteem.

    (3) “The Debt Supercycle persists because it is the creation of the US Federal Reserve and other central banks”

    Broadly speaking right, but your explanation is not really accurate. The US government’s bank regulatory agencies control the banks ability to lend. Hence the post-WWII debt supercycle was allowed by them, as was the housing bubble.

    (4) “In my opinion, a phenomenon that is a creation of the central banks is not a part of the business cycle.”

    No. Debt cycles (and investment bubbles) pre-date the Great Depression and central banks. See Hyman Minsky’s work, or read about the big 19th century bubbles.

    (5) “much to your chagrin (I am guessing)”

    It’s a poor guess. The comments to this site are filled with debates like this.

    (6) ” I consider him {Mish} right up there with Zero Hedge … and Denninger.”

    Perhaps that’s why you have so much misinformation! All are valuable sources of information (i.e., excellent links, fun to read); none are IMO reliable sources of information. As brief examples:
    * Note Zero Hedge’s persistent use of non-seasonally adjusted numbers to report wrong conclusions, and frequent featuring of weird conspiracy theories.
    * Mish’s grasp of economic theory is weak (at best), IMO.
    * Denninger might be a great trader (I’d want to see proof before believing that, however), but some of his articles are bizarre. Such as this: “Bernanke Inserts Gun In Mouth“, 19 March 2009 — right at the bottom of the markets he concludes:

    Let me be succinct – it has been my considered belief that you need enough in liquid cash – not credit access in the form of credit card available balances or anything similar – for at least 6 to 12 months. I’m upping that here and now to 12 to 24 months – that’s right – one to two full years of “minimum necessary to make it” expenses.

    … That’s a minimum; if you can in fact have enough available to be able to execute a “bug out” plan where you are able to become effectively self-sufficient on short notice (a couple of months maximum) if necessary, that’s even better. Yes, we’re talking chickens, goats, enough arable land to grow what you need to survive (bartering for what you don’t have with what you do) and the means to defend it. If you live in a big city consider carefully what you intend to do if unemployment goes north of 20% and the city effectively goes feral – if you’re interested in “how bad can it get” go drive through major parts of Detroit – bring an armored vehicle for your tour and/or at least semi-automatic weapons.

    There’s an ill-wind blowing and while this storm has not yet reached the shore, I’m putting up the plywood.

  30. Hmm, i forget, which one is Deninger?


  31. Ah, Ye Olde Ancient Secrets …

    “Why did Duke Nukem Forever stay in production for so long? More to the point, why did some employees at the game’s developers, 3DRealms, stay committed to the project for so long in the face of unlikely payoffs and irreparable harm to their careers? Would you have?”
    — “Duke Nukem Forever: Escalating Commitment and Chewing Bubblegum“, Jamie Madigan, The Psychology of Video Games, 30 December 2009

  32. Europe is showing the same demographic problems as Japan. In fact, we would be too if it were not for the Hispanic migration. As it is, the US is barely above 2 and rapidly aging. That explains our Social Security and Medicare problems. Maybe your point, then, is that Keynesian economics do not work in the face of demographic changes.

    I noticed earlier you had referenced Zero Hedge as your model for anonymity. I do read a lot of other stuff than just those I mention. Denninger writes “Market Ticker”.

    I know, it is Wikapedia, but “Social sciences may draw upon empirical methods and attempt to emulate the standards of conventional scientific practice.” Notice the word “attempt”. Essentially, all theory, no proof. That does not mean some of the theory is not persuasive.

    Minsky has never been put to the test. Maybe, this will be the time. It is interesting that Steve Keen, Mish, and Denninger were all against the reappointment of Bernancke, but the markets seemed to want him. It is not at all clear, though, that Minsky was really arguing the business cycle. We have had many overly expansive business cycles that did not result in a financial meltdown. I find something like the “The Fourth Turning” to be more persuasive than the “Minsky Moment”.
    FM reply: Can you cite any evidence for your demographic information? What I’ve seen says you’re overstating the collapse in both US and Euro fertility. Europe’s is not as bad as Japan, US not as bad as Euro’s. For more information see the FM reference page Demography – studies & reports.

    “the US is barely above 2 and rapidly aging”
    The US is rapidly aging primarily as a result of the population distribution by age (aka the baby boom), not that the fertility is “barely above 2”.

    As for the rest, your self-esteem is boundless to so casually dismiss large bodies of work about which you appear to know almost nothing. Other than that congratulation, it’s not a worth reply.

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