A Portrait of the US as an Old Europe
Let’s review. What have I been saying our fate would be if we continued to march to the beat of the neosoc drum?
Our fate would be to go the way of Europe. Not the Europe that emerged from under the skirts of the Iron Curtain, but the Europe that the Western Allies had saved from the fate of idiot socialism imposed by Russian fiat. This idiot socialism imposed by fiat fell flat on its ass 72 years after it hoisted itself up by its own dogeared polemics because it refused to understand that progress comes from a prosperous middle class, and a prosperous middle class comes from obscenely-wealthy industrialists hiring them to make the things they sell to the middle class workers of other obscenely-wealthy industrialists.
Socialism of all varieties abhors wealth outside of politics – it’s too hard to control, and what happens if a Russian version of John Paul Getty were to get Big Ideas® and parlay his wealth into alternative politics? Socialism can’t compete; it is built on the premise of state-monopoly of both power and money. Individuals with power and money tend to abuse them. Governments never do ... except when they do ... which is always.
Instead, the Europe that was saved from the fate of incompetent economics where 2+2=whatever-the-dictator-wishes-it-to-be adopted their own idiot socialism imposed by popular assent. In the rest of Europe [including, strangely, West Germany but largely excluding Switzerland], 2+2=whatever-the-majority-says-it-is.
The difference was negligible as it turns out.
What happened to the Soviet Union 72 years after the Bolshevik Revolution was disintegration of the national government, fracture into regional fiefdoms along historic boundaries that had been presumed to be erased by unification, and – had it not been for NATO standing guard over the smoldering ruins to prevent outsiders from looting the remains – there would have been foreign incursion and territorial claim-laying as well. As it was, there was plenty of domestic looting to go around.
Additionally, there was massive unemployment, currency was largely useless for several years, many criminal gangs sprang up to exhort and extort for private gain, and if it weren’t for the black market there’d have been no market at all.
This grand experiment in applied economic ineptitude commenced in 1917 and ended in 1989, symbolically with the fall of the Berlin Wall. That was the world-wide clarion call that the Central Government was no longer willing or able to control what happened. Control is the primary function of government; without control the government is ... not exactly impotent, because it still has vast amounts of power ... incontinent, because it can’t control the power that it has. Not to mention, it usually ends up pissing off the majority of its erstwhile citizens. So incontinent it is.
The one saving grace of idiot socialism arrived at by popular will versus imposed by dictatorial fiat is that the majority has the capability of looking at the results of the past, recognizing the historical patterns being played out in the typical socialist eschatology, and to vote in those who had been predicting rack and ruin all along. Don’t laugh – France had a conservative government for a number of years, and Spain does now as well. Greece voted Papandreou out of office and replaced him with the party that agreed to Germany’s financial terms.
Of course, the downside to all that is that people have gnat-like attention spans. France booted its conservative government because of some silly sex scandal and put in the Socialist [with his own sex scandal] whose first act was to reimpose the 75% tax bracket on high earners that had been discontinued as a millstone around French industry. Many high earners to whom that tax rate applies have notified the French post office of a change of address to Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and other European nations who don’t eat their own rich. Included among this list is the head of Louis Vuitton, a premier French clothing and accessory designer, who was informed that he can’t move to Belgium, because Belgium has no fashion. “Too bad” was as close to a literal translation of his response as there is. The rich can always take care of themselves, Monsieur Hollande. The only question you need to ask yourself is whether you want the Louis Vuitton company to be employing the French, or the dowdy Belgians. Is a 75% tax you can’t collect because the money jumped the border really worth it?
Spain’s conservative government is frantically trying to cut government expense, and raising taxes on those who are still employed – which isn’t many. Spaniards in Madrid are rioting over the cuts in government service, while the increase in taxes is annoying the only productive region left in Spain: Catalan. Catalonians are now demanding independence – beats moving to Belgium, I guess; the rich can still take care of themselves.
Greeks are also rioting once again over the austerity program they signed up for in order to get German cash to keep them from dissolving into a puddle of their own Molotov cocktails. They’ve got all that German money now, so they should be able to go back to their government jobs where they rubber-stamp each other’s rubber-stamped paperwork in and endless circle jerk of ink while they wait until the age of 50 to retire on a full pension. Germany paid for all that, didn’t they? Well, Germany paid for everything but Greek Soccer sponsorships; the Greek brothels are paying for those. Greece has no other wealth worth mentioning; they ate them already.
The most ironic thing about this new round of Greek rioting is that the rioters threw rocks and bottles at police for interfering with their “peaceful” riot.
Italy is still trying to sort out its own governmental profligacy, Portugal isn’t doing much better than Spain, and Ireland is almost as bad off as Greece. These nations all went popularly socialist in the first few years after WWII. Let’s say 1948 as a tip of the hat to George Orwell. European governments spent money they didn’t have on things that were politically expedient for the sake of buying votes – free education, free health, free jobs, free vacations, free retirement – until no one will loan them any more money to pamper themselves with this freedom. 72 years from 1948 puts them at default, collapse, fracture and foreign intrusion in 2020 – which hopefully describes our hindsight on their plight. They would seem to be right on schedule.
Meanwhile, closer to home, the welfare umbrella in the US went over $1Trillion dollars per year for fiscal 2012 – a cool 30% increase from 2009, the last Bush budget. This doesn’t include Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security or the huge sucking-sound of Obamacare. Money we don’t have for items that are politically expedient – free food, free housing, free education, free health, free retirement. Can’t buy votes without spending someone’s money. In this case, the “someone” is China.
We started our own foray into voter-approved socialism – in earnest – with LBJ’s “Great Society” [sic] nonsense. Technically we started with Hoover at the outset of the Great Depression and went nuts under FDR, but we lucked out with WWII being held mostly in other peoples’ front yards, and we had a generation-long episode as the only industrial nation left on the planet; we made money hand over fist. It was only when the rest of the world developed their own industry [you’re welcome], or REdeveloped it as the case may be [you’re also welcome], and we actually had to compete with their industry, newer and more efficient than our own, that our socialisms started to matter. It mattered because we learned, repeatedly, that we can’t compete in most things.
Japan and South Korea makes better cars than we do. Everybody makes better televisions – easy to do since we don’t make any, and haven’t since the early 70s. Everybody makes better steel than we do. Most places which make computers are better at it than we are, down to the software that runs them. Thank god for the monopoly that is Microsoft and its unfairly competitive bundling, otherwise we’d be shut out entirely. The list of things we make better than everyone else includes wars and litigation, and not much else.
72 years from 1965, when LBJ started his elected term, puts us at default, collapse, fracture and foreign intrusion in 2037. That’s 25 years from now.
We have one full generation to pay attention to what happens to nations which spend money they don’t have on political expedience. If the Soviet collapse was too long ago and too far away for you to consider relevant, then keep your eyes on Europe over the next decade. They will either collapse into a pile of fiscal ruin, or they will vote out those who promise them everything borrowed money can buy – as long as it lasts.
Failing that, and failing would be a good side to place your bets if the collectively deluded masses do what they’ve historically done [hint: watch Greece and Madrid this week], I plan to be elsewhere.