The Mises Institute’s put this out a while ago, but I just stumbled across it; it’s worth reading the whole thing. Excerpts, with my comments, follow.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned about the optimistic estimates for 2023, stating that it will likely be a much more difficult year than 2022.
Why would that be? Most strategists and commentators are cheering the recent decline in price inflation as a good signal of recovery. However, there is much more to the outlook than just a moderate decline in price inflation rates.
Price inflation is accumulative, and the estimates for 2023 and 2024 still show a very elevated level of core and headline inflation in most economies. The longer it remains this way, the worse the economic outcome. Citizens have been living on savings and borrowing to maintain current levels of real spending. But this cannot last for many years.
The slight reduction in the inflation rate to 5% is being ballyhooed by the Biden(‘s handlers) Administration and the political Left as some kind of victory, which strikes me as a sick joke. The middle class is being pinched worse of all – too prosperous to get on the Free Shit gravy train, but without the resources to comfortably sit out a significant economic downturn.
The outlook for 2023 is widespread impoverishment while governments continue to spend and raise taxes, which means an even worse destruction of real disposable income.
The worst policies have been implemented and all have decimated real savings and wages. Money printing and tax hikes have not made the rich poorer and they have certainly not damaged the wealthy. The entire negative impact of the widespread increase in taxes has fallen, yet again, on the shoulders of the middle class.
To which I would ask: “What are the odds that this is deliberate?” Now, you might say, “Animal, that’s just a little paranoid, isn’t it?”
But is it, really?
Anyone who has read these virtual pages for any length of time knows that I have little patience for nutbar conspiracy theories, but it’s worth reflection that the recent Davos conference that we just discussed last week saw none other than Jane Goodall advocating for a dramatic reduction in Earth’s human population. While that is perhaps extreme even for the Davos crowd, is it hard to imagine that some of the “elites” would find an impoverished population much easier to control, to coerce, to force into the kind of “green” rabbit warrens they are advocating.
Even if we set aside the hypocritical elites at Davos, it’s easy enough to see how the political Left in the United States has worked for decades to increase the population’s dependency on government, which gives the government more power, which enables them to place further controls on our behavior, which increases dependence still more… It’s an evil, self-perpetuating cycle, and we may be seeing it come to a head in 2023. The question is: Will the citizenry of the USA figure it out and chuck the bastards out? I’m skeptical; the siren song of Free Shit is very seductive, and plenty of people will react to any serious downturn by buying into that guarantee for comfort, even at the expense of their liberty.
When you demand more government, this is what you get. An extractive and confiscatory view that always blames those who invest and create jobs for the problems yet creates a larger bureaucracy to administer the so-called benefits you never get.
On this point the late Robert Heinlein was prescient when he wrote these words:
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.”
Issues & Insights gives us a Davos wrap-up profiling two of the most insufferable, pompous pricks on the planet. Excerpts, with my comments, follow:
John Kerry, former senator, former secretary of state, and now chief climate alarmist for the Biden administration, said in so many words Tuesday during his World Economic Forum rant that it’s too late to save the planet from global warming. Yet he claimed climate programs still need more “money, money, money, money, money, money, money.” The only reason he’s not the worst person in the world is because he has so much competition at Davos.
What Kerry actually said was that he is “not convinced we’re going to get there in time to do what the scientists said, which is avoid the worst consequences of the crisis,” meaning that he doubts that the global temperature will stay under the cap of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial temperature set by scientists (though it is actually a random figure with no scientific support).
Of course the cap of 1.5 degrees is arbitrary; it’s also rather arrogant to assume that we humans, who have been around for about 300,000 years (3 million or so if you count the totality of genus Homo) should know what the planet’s ‘correct’ temperature is. Throughout most of the planet’s 4.55 billion year history it has been warmer than it is now. As recently as the Miocene earth had little or no in the way of polar icecaps. And these assholes want you to eat bugs – I’m not kidding about that – for 1.5 degrees.
Yet he continues to crusade for a cause that hopes to strip Westerners of both their wealth – yes, according to the United Press International, he said “money” seven times – and freedom to move about.
With absolutely zero self-awareness, the man who flies in private jets, has multiple homes (which most of us would consider mansions) and more cars than most families, and up until a few years ago owned a yacht, preached about “the way we live,” and thundered against “the incredible sort of destructive process of growth the way we interpret it.” He called it “robber-baron growth.”
John Kerry can fuck right off. This insufferable prick jets around the world lecturing other people on their carbon footprint, and clearly has no intention of giving up his own Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous.
But his luxurious lifestyle and those of the other wealthy men and women fighting global warming must be OK, because he assured members of his fawning audience that they are all special, “a select group of human beings” who “are able to sit in a room and come together and, uh, actually talk about saving the planet.”
No less nauseating was the performance of another failed presidential candidate, Al Gore, the mother of the global warming cult. He came off like the crazy uncle that the family tries to keep away from the outside world. Author and columnist Michael Walsh said that Gore is a man who appears to need help. During his tirade, Gore gesticulated “wildly, his face reddening, his voice rising,” said Walsh. “The former vice president of the United States became a man in the deadly grip of a panicked, violent, superstitious reaction to … the weather.”
The video of Gore confirms that Walsh was not exaggerating. Gore is a man whose pot is cracked. Once just a hypocrite, he’s now an all-out headbanger.
Now Al Gore is more than just an insufferable prick – although he is that. He is unhinged, and has been since losing the 2000 Presidential election by the skin of his teeth. Although he hasn’t been unhinged enough to prevent him amassing a fortune from preaching climate terror.
This kind of thinking, this kind of activism, this kind of condescending prickery, is precisely why I’ve been preaching for liberty all these years. Forget making government act more the way we want it to – the only way to handle this kind of thinking is to strip government of the power to make these kinds of decisions. As Barry Goldwater famously said, “I have no interest in making government more efficient; I mean to make it smaller.” Make it smaller and weaker, move most governance to as local as it can be, devolve power to the states, devolve state powers to counties or cities as much as possible, cut, cut, cut, make people responsible for the consequences of their own decisions and actions.
Then let people like John Kerry and Al Gore blather all they want. They have First Amendment rights too, after all. But if there is no government with the ability to implement their tyranny, we can rest a little bit more easily.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Mises Institute recently released Rome’s Runaway Inflation: Currency Devaluation in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries. Excerpts, with my comments, follow.
By the beginning of the fourth century, the Roman Empire had become a completely different economic reality from what it had been at the beginning of the first century. The denariusargenteus, the empire’s monetary unit during the first two centuries, had virtually disappeared since the middle of the third century, having been replaced by the argenteusantoninianus and the argenteusaurelianianus, numerals of greater theoretical value, but of less and less real value.
The public excesses in the civil and military budgets, the incessant bribes and gifts, the repeated tax increases, the growth of the state bureaucracy, and the continuous requisitions of goods and precious metals had exhausted the Roman economy to incredible levels. To cap this disastrous reality, inflation had risen from 0.7 percent per year in the first and second centuries to 35.0 percent per year in the late third and early fourth centuries, impoverishing all social strata of the empire by leaps and bounds.
Holy crap! Does any of that seem familiar to you? There’s an old truism that states that ‘history may not always repeat, but it frequently rhymes.’ This is one of those cases. Almost every one of those issues in fourth-century Rome are also issues of twenty-first century America: Excessive government spending, corruption, the runaway growth of the Deep State, and inflation. And, as happened in Rome, none of these things are going away.
In 301, Diocletian sought to put an end to this out-of-control situation by promulgating the Edictum de pretiis rerum venalium (Edict Concerning the Prices of Goods for Sale), which prohibited, on pain of death, the raising of prices above a certain level for almost thirteen hundred essential products and services. In the preamble to the edict, economic agents were blamed for inflation, labeled as speculators and thieves, and compared to the barbarians who threatened the empire.
Most producers and intermediaries, therefore, opted to stop trading the goods they produced, to sell them on the black market, or even to use barter for commercial transactions. This weakening of supply drove real prices even higher, in an upward spiral that further deteriorated the complex Roman economic system. Just four years later, in 305, Diocletian himself, overwhelmed by his political and economic failures, abdicated in Nicomedia and retired to his palace in what is today Split, Croatia.
The Nixon Administration flirted with price and wage controls in the Seventies. A number of people on the political Left are advocating for the idea today. And, in some ways, wage controls are already here; what is a state-mandated minimum wage if not a wage control? As Diocletian did in 301, so the United States does today, moving increasingly towards central control.
During the fourth and fifth centuries, the Roman economy finally deteriorated completely, taking with it society and, consequently, the ambitions of the politicians of the time. The Roman Empire was now a failed and outdated project. The persistent excess of public spending between the first and third centuries forced Roman rulers to devalue the currency continuously. This chronic devaluation, together with the decline in population and economic activity throughout the third century, triggered price inflation throughout the empire, a phenomenon that the Romans did not know how to handle.
Roman rulers attempted to use harmful price controls in order to mitigate the decline in the effective purchasing power of the middle and lower classes. For instance, the Edictum de pretiis rerum venalium of 301 ended up withdrawing what little supply of products remained on the white market, making them more expensive on the black market. It is truly shocking to note how many politicians and populist parties of all ideological stripes continue to propose these same “remedies” even today.
The response to attempted market control is always the rise of black markets. The Soviet Union was notorious for goods and services being sold Nalevo, or “on the left,” in the thriving black markets that sprang up almost on the inception of the Soviet system. America has a thriving black market in recreational drugs. Market demands will always be met by supplies.
And that, True Believers, is the rub; currency, like any other commodity, is subject to the rules of supply and demand. When the currency supply is increased, the value decreases. When the currency is degraded, the (relative) price of every other commodity increases. Black markets will spring up, and barter will increasingly replace currency. That was the case in the Roman Empire, and it’s the case now.
Taken together, the aggregate effects of public overspending and inflation on the Roman economy in between the first and third centuries ultimately led to an unprecedented structural weakening of the economic capacity of fourth- and fifth-century society, reflected in the incompetence of its rulers and elites to hold the empire together in the face of external threats, which, to quote Ludwig von Mises himself, “were not more formidable than the armies which the legions had easily defeated in earlier times. But the Empire had changed. Its economic and social structure was already medieval.”
Japan (as we’ve discussed before) is continuing to dial its military in, and unsurprisingly, that’s provoking some responses around eastern Asia. Air Force Intel officer Ryan Ashley has some thoughts. Excerpts, with my comments, follow.
Japan’s new defense vision is laid out in three strategic documents: a National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy (formerly known as the National Defense Program Guidelines), and the Defense Buildup Program (formerly known as the Medium-Term Defense Program). In conjunction, the documents commit Japan to gradually increase its defense spending to meet 2 percent of gross domestic product, mirroring the NATO target for defense spending. Within that vision would come 5-year investments of $7 billion in cyber warfare, $7 billion in space, and $6 billion towards a combined sixth-generation fighter aircraft development program with the United Kingdom and Italy, known as “Tempest.”
The highest profile investments in the documents are those for “counterstrike” or “counter-attack” capabilities, referring to the acquisition of long-range missiles capable of hitting ships or ground-based missiles from potentially 1,500–3,000 kilometers away. This would be a significant upgrade from Japan’s current supply of missiles, which are limited to a range of a few hundred kilometers and are predominantly designed for short-range defense. The documents correctly identify that Tokyo’s current missile arsenal and questions about the legality of so-called “left-of-launch” (striking an adversary’s missile before it can be launched itself) strikes have created gaps in Japanese deterrence.
Now consider the implications of this missile-capacity upgrade. Japan will now have not only a new sixth-generation fighter that may well be on a par with the F-22 and F-35, but they will have a new capability to carry out missile attacks on their neighbors – like, say, North Korea. They have, correctly, identified a gap in their defense structure, and now they mean to fill that gap.
Diplomatically, the documents pull few punches, declaring that “Japan is finding itself in the midst of the most severe and complex security environment since the end of [World War II].” The NSS unequivocally calls China “the greatest strategic challenge” facing Japan, labels North Korea “an even more grave and imminent threat to Japan’s national security than ever before,” and reiterates Tokyo’s strong stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Indeed, few countries face a harsher strategic environment than Japan, in close proximity to China, North Korea, and Russia, and perceived as a threat or adversary by the governments of all three. The new strategic documents reinforce what Japanese security experts have long argued: Tokyo is on the front lines of conflict with two adversarial nations, and at a key vulnerable flank for another.
In other words, Japan is sitting out there alone, and they are concerned with the increasing instability of some of their neighbors – like, say, North Korea. Here’s the onion:
Observers in the United States should draw three conclusions from this new NSS. First, Japan is indeed committing to its most meaningful boost in defense capabilities since the end of World War II. The three strategic documents identify and attempt to address deterrence gaps that have long plagued Japanese security. Until recently, Tokyo proved unwilling to fill these gaps themselves, preferring to depend on the United States as its security guarantor. For several reasons, including the fear of American disengagement and an increasingly harsh strategic environment, the era of dependence on the United States appears to be over. The Japanese government still wholeheartedly supports its alliance with the United States, yet is simultaneously seeking to couple that relationship with the development of indigenous capabilities.
In other words, Tokyo no longer feels that the USA has their backs, for the first time since the post-WW2 treaty structure went into place.
It’s hard to fault Japan on this estimation. While the Trump Administration had very good relationships with then-Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, the subsequent Biden(‘s handlers) Administration has been marked with incompetence and indecisiveness. Add that to the increasing tendency towards nationalism in the USA, and you can see how Tokyo may be concerned that the USA no longer has Japan’s back in the event of a conflict.
But, to my thinking, there’s a much simpler reason for Japan to continue to dial their military in, and that is the fact that a nation should not have to rely on any other nation for their own defense. Japan is no exception, and it’s rapidly becoming apparent to the Japanese that they shouldn’t rely on the USA any longer. Also, if you read the referenced documents, there’s no indication that Japan is returning to the bad old days of imperialistic ambitions; they are remembering their martial traditions but their aim is still defense and vigorous response, not first-strike.
It should come as no surprise that I’m glad to see the Japanese taking more responsibility for their own defense. Mrs. Animal and I have spent a fair amount of time in the Land of the Rising Sun; we’re very fond of Japan, and hope to see it remain the unique place it is now.
This week, per our tradition at the start of a new year, we celebrate diversity with a Blondepocalypse. Enjoy! Continue reading Saturday Blondepocalypse
Beam-down power is a common staple in science fiction. In this kind of a system, a society receives energy from a constellation of massive solar collectors in orbit, which is beamed down to the surface usually in the form of microwave lasers, which are then converted to usable electricity. Now it seems Northrop Grumman has cleared a hurdle towards just such a system, and, not surprisingly, I have some thoughts. Excerpt:
“As far as the technologies go, we’re very confident in our design and we’ve proven it out,” Tara Theret, Northrop Grumman’s Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) program director, told SpaceNews. “Now, it’s just building, testing and integrating the rest of the hardware on a challenging timeline.”
Northrop Grumman announced Dec. 15 the successful demonstration of a key element of SSPIDR, the ability to beam radio frequency energy toward various antennas by steering the beam. The testing was conducted in one of Northrop Grumman’s anechoic test chambers in Baltimore.
Next, Northrop Grumman will “take those findings and translate them into our prototype, which we anticipate launching in 2025 to actually show the capability of beaming RF energy down to the planet,” said Jay Patel, vice president of Northrop Grumman Remote Sensing Programs.
Beyond the prototype for the future objective system, Northrop Grumman will need to shrink electronic components and significantly scale up the quantity of “sandwich tiles,” or panels of photovoltaic cells to collect solar energy and provide power to another layer of components that enable solar-to-RF conversion and beamforming.
If solar power can be gathered in space and beamed to the ground, there are many promising applications, Patel said.
“If you have a flood or a hurricane that knocks out power to an area, it takes weeks sometimes for them to get back online,” Patel said. “This system can provide temporary power during those periods until that infrastructure is built back up.”
So the possibilities of this technology are largely due to the ability to “steer” the beam – indeed, that seems to be what this breakthrough is mostly about. Now think about that for a moment.
In order for this to be useful on any scale, the amount of power being beamed down would be massive. It would have to be carefully aimed at a collection facility, something capable of capturing that massive amount of power and translating it into usable electricity. Granted I’m not an engineer, but that sounds like a pretty fragile system. What happens if there is an earthquake, or some other event that disturbs that delicate alignment? Will the beamdown stations be in a carefully plotted geosynchronous orbit, or will they have to be re-aligned every time they come over the horizon, and maintain that alignment as they pass over the receiving facility?
All that is worth discussing, but here’s the one thing I don’t see mentioned in the article: Has no one involved in this given any thought to what a horrendous weapon this technology could be, if in the control of the wrong people? Say, at the offices of an inconvenient political opponent, or some activist group that the powers-that-be find irksome? Like, say, the NRA?
Even ten years ago I wouldn’t have worried too much about this kind of thing. I would have snorted and written it off as a paranoid conspiracy theory, suitable for enriching lawns. But now? Given the current political climate? Think on it, True Believers; how many in the political arena today would you trust with this kind of a weapon?