Saturday, 15 December 2018

A handful of quotes - 4

Irving Kristol, Reflections of a Neoconservative: Looking Back, Looking Ahead, 1983

A neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. A neoliberal is a liberal who got mugged by reality but has not pressed charges.


Macbeth Act 5, scene 5

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


Alexander Pope

The worst of madmen is a saint run mad.


Rene Girard, A Theater of Envy: William Shakespeare 1991

Our supposedly insatiable appetite for the forbidden stops short of envy. Primitive cultures fear and repress envy so much that they have no word for it; we hardly use the one we have, and this fact must be significant. We no longer prohibit many actions that generate envy, but silently ostracise whatever can remind us of its presence in our midst. Psychic phenomena, we are told, are important in proportion to the resistance they generate toward revelation. If we apply this yardstick to envy as well as to what psychoanalysis designates as repressed, which of the two will make the more plausible candidate for the role of best-defended secret?


Rene Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 2004

In the affluent West, we live in a world where there is less and less need therefore and more and more desire... One has today real possibilities of true autonomy, of individual judgments. However, those possibilities are more commonly sold down the river in favour of false individuality, of negative mimesis… The only way modernity can be defined is the universalisation of internal mediation, for one doesn’t have areas of life that would keep people apart from each other, and that would mean that the construction of our beliefs and identity cannot but have strong mimetic components.


Rene Girard, Battling to the End, 2010

Clausewitz sees very clearly that modern wars are as violent as they are only because they are “reciprocal”: mobilisation involves more and more people until it is “total,” as Ernst Junger wrote of the 1914 war… It was because he was “responding” to the humiliations inflicted by the Treaty of Versailles and the occupation of the Rhineland that Hitler was able to mobilise a whole people. Likewise, it was because he was “responding” to the German invasion that Stalin achieved a decisive victory over Hitler. It was because he was “responding” to the United States that Bin Laden planned 9/11… The one who believes he can control violence by setting up defenses is in fact controlled by violence.


Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago, 1973

By an unexpected turn of our history, a bit of the truth, an insignificant part of the whole, was allowed out in the open. But those same hands which once screwed tight our handcuffs now hold out their palms in reconciliation: “No, don’t! Don’t dig up the past! Dwell on the past and you’ll lose an eye.” But the proverb goes on to say: “Forget the past and you’ll lose both eyes.”


Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Committee lecture, 1970

Dostoyevsky once let drop an enigmatic remark: “Beauty will save the world.” What is this? For a long time it seemed to me simply a phrase. How could this be possible? When in the bloodthirsty process of history did beauty ever save anyone, and from what? Granted, it ennobled, it elevated—but whom did it ever save?

There is, however, a particular feature in the very essence of beauty—a characteristic trait of art itself: The persuasiveness of a true work of art is completely irrefutable; it prevails even over a resisting heart. A political speech, an aggressive piece of journalism, a program for the organization of society, a philosophical system, can all be constructed—with apparent smoothness and harmony—on an error or on a lie. What is hidden and what is distorted will not be discerned right away. But then a contrary speech, journalistic piece, or program, or a differently structured philosophy, comes forth to join the argument, and everything is again just as smooth and harmonious, and again everything fits. And so they inspire trust—and distrust.

In vain does one repeat what the heart does not find sweet.

But a true work of art carries its verification within itself: Artificial and forced concepts do not survive their trial by images; both image and concept crumble and turn out feeble, pale, and unconvincing. However, works which have drawn on the truth and which have presented it to us in concentrated and vibrant form seize us, attract us to themselves powerfully, and no one ever—even centuries later—will step forth to deny them.


Malcolm X, God’s Judgment of White America (The Chickens Come Home to Roost), 1963

The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political “football game” that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.  


RenĂ© Daumal, Mount Analogue, 1952

You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.


George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949

There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.


Walter Lippman, A Preface to Politics, 1913

Ours is a problem in which deception has become organised and strong: where truth is poisoned at its source; one in which the skill of the shrewdest brains is devoted to misleading a bewildered people.


Robert Greene, 48 Laws of Power, 1998

To some people the notion of consciously playing power games-no matter how indirect-seems evil, asocial, a relic of the past. They believe they can opt out of the game by behaving in ways that have nothing to do with power. You must beware of such people, for while they express such opinions outwardly, they are often among the most adept players at power. They utilise strategies that cleverly disguise the nature of the manipulation involved. These types, for example, will often display their weakness and lack of power as a kind of moral virtue. But true powerlessness, without any motive of self-interest, would not publicise its weakness to gain sympathy or respect. Making a show of one's weakness is actually a very effective strategy, subtle and deceptive, in the game of power.


Iain M. Banks, Transition, 2009

Socialists, charity workers, carers, people who volunteer to help others; they're all - and he's quite convinced about this - they're all in reality mean-spirited bastards, either self-deceiving bastards or - for their own filthy left-wing reasons - deliberately trying to destroy the self-esteem of normal, healthily ambitious people like him.


C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, 1970

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.


Friday, 14 December 2018

Propaganda in a time of internet cholera

Quick test, who wrote this?:
Just as a man's denominational orientation is the result of his upbringing, and only the religious needs as such slumbers in his soul, the political opinion of the masses represents nothing but the final result of an incredibly tenacious and thorough manipulation of their mind and soul. 
By far the greatest share in their political 'education,' which in this case is mostly designated by the word 'propaganda,' falls to the account of the press. It is foremost in performing this 'work of enlightenment' and thus represents a sort of school for grownups.
That would be - yes - Adolf Hitler.

You don't have to be a Nazi to see that popular opinion tends to match public education. In other words, people believe what they are told to believe - sometimes minus a little stubborn deviation that usually falls under the threshold to be politically dangerous.

But then there's this guy. His name is James P. Warburg, and he is (or, thankfully, was) crazy as a loon, more evil than a Komodo dragon, and almost as rich as the Pope. But he knew whereof he spoke because before he wrote Unwritten Treaty (1946) he had been a big wheel at OCI and OWI.

Bearing in mind that Mr Warburg is a pathological liar, you should really hear his definition of "psychological warfare" and compare it with Hitler's. Don't forget, this guy was Jewish American:
In addition to the destruction of enemy morale, the functions of a psychological warfare agency in time of declared or actual war include: the maintenance of home morale; the maintenance of the confidence of the peoples of friendly or allied nations; and winning the sympathy of the peoples of neutral countries. 
All these assignments are carried out by the implantation of carefully selected ideas and concepts. These ideas and concepts are neither necessarily true nor necessarily false. In fact, whether they are true or false makes no difference whatsoever, so long as they successfully serve to create the desired state of mind. It follows that there is no validity whatsoever to the widely held belief that propaganda consists by definition of the spreading of lies. There is equally little justification for the belief that the propaganda of "decent," democratic nations should be "the truth and nothing but the truth."
There is a dangerous popular confusion, particularly in this country, between propaganda and information. This confusion arises from the fact that we are novices at psychological warfare even though we are experts in the techniques of propaganda. No other nation is as skilled in sales propaganda, or advertising, as we. No other nation indulges in orgies of political propaganda to the extent that we do once in every four years when we elect a President. And yet, in spite of our familiarity with some of the techniques of psychological warfare, we are unfamiliar - even after this war - with the use of these techniques as an adjunct of modern warfare. Perhaps just because we are so familiar with the use of propaganda for peaceful domestic purposes, we seem unable to avoid applying to its use in wartime the moral standards of peace.
It cannot be stated with sufficient emphasis that information is one thing - propaganda quite another. The purpose of spreading information is to promote the functioning of man's reason. The purpose of propaganda is to mobilise certain of man's emotions in such a way that they will dominate his reason - not necessarily with evil design.
The function of an information agency is to disseminate truth - to make available fact and opinion, each carefully labelled and separated from the other. The aim of an information agency is to enable as many people as possible to form their own individual judgments on the basis of relevant fact and authoritative opinion. 
The function of a propaganda agency is almost the exact opposite: it is not to inform, but to persuade. In order to persuade it must disseminate only such fact, such opinion, and such fiction masquerading as fact as will serve to make people act, or fail to act, in the desired way.
The collapse of the traditional media is a microcosm of the collapse of the nation-state and all that implies. But to understand how this is happening, it is important to consider that journalism is official. Media is failing precisely because the nation-state is failing. Since the media is part of the government, and its only job is to maintain the concept of the nation-state (vote here, educate like this, consume this way, breed like this) it teaches us how to live, not what to think. The media, as it was conceptualised post-WWII, is not equipped to cope in the days of the internet.

  • a global system of communications that will increasingly prevent any nation-state from managing its own culture, penetrating every society and enabling social networking that bypasses national cultural institutions;
  • a global system of trade and finance preventing any state from controlling its national economy and bringing a heightened vulnerability to the financial security and stability of every country, increasing the power of markets to assess and even determine the viability of each society;
  • a global system of international human rights that pre-empts the laws of each national society and has been the basis for armed attacks on states, that posed no particular threat to any other state, which had only viciously and unlawfully attacked its own peoples;
  • transnational crises, such as Aids and Sars, climate change and the development of global, non-national terrorist networks from whose threats no state can hide, nor can it arrest by its own efforts;
  • and finally the commodification of weapons of mass destruction whose essential components are sold on a black market or simply downloaded off the internet, such as the information by which benign viruses can be made into deadly human pathogens.

Keeping such a world together will require the intellectual capture of a large number of hominids, whose opinions on these subjects are extremely fixed and whose intelligence and education are not, on average, impressive. While this is obviously not easy, new media tools are changing the battlefield such as Facebook groups as a technique for democratic organisation.

The game is young and there was never any chance legacy media could move quicker or decentralise more efficiently than 3 billion people with a cellphone. But the thing is, the ideas of Messrs Warburg and Hitler are still exactly useful in this new landscape. And you can see them play out every day online.

On Melania Trump, or, Why You Shouldn't Negotiate With Terrorists

Listen to the way Melania Trump describes her husband Donald Trump after about 7mins in.

She's the queen in the White House and he is the king. Trump lifts her up to her highest level and she is his number two. She obviously trusts his decisions, but their relationship is such that he lets her have a say in some of those decisions. But both know it's Trump's job to lead.

There is no such thing as a 50/50 relationship. A relationship is not a seesaw, it's a tug of war for control, a fight. A 50/50 relationship is just the woman’s way of being in control but not saying she is in control. She wants authority but not the responsibility. She wants to order the direction of the relationship but be shielded from the consequences of those decisions.

But for her to get control depends on the man giving up some of his power. And when that happens, she loses all respect for him because he failed to control his own space. No woman wants to be with a man who cannot control his own space. Melania Trump is a woman, so she wants control too, but her desire for a man who can take control is more important for her, and that’s why the relationship works. That’s the calculation she makes every day because he supplies the denominator.

Women don't fight in the same way as men. They'll say things like "why are you yelling?" or "I thought we were going out today, not playing Xbox?" Women will try to take everything from men, but never directly. It’s always an oblique approach, always deniable. The last bastion of manness is their anger, our physical imposition over women. If women could figure out a way to end a man’s ability to punch them through a wall, they would take it away immediately.

But a happy man means everyone else in his life is happy. I’m sure Trump and Melania argue, but Trump is smart enough to know that any waves in the relationship are his fault. His entire job is to figure out ways to make the situation better for him. Making it better for Melania is not going to make her happy, but making it better for him will make both of them happy.

Women's power is in the man’s fear of what he thinks she will do if he says no. But Melania doesn’t have anything to threaten him with aside from denying him her vagina. But there’s plenty of girls out there, and she knows that he knows this, which is why it works. Her deep fear of losing the best kind of man she believes she can get gives him the power in every interaction.

Women will force a man to like them on a woman’s terms. If you see a happy woman, it's a woman making deals trying to take inch by inch. She says "you don't take me out to dinner anymore like you used to." So, you take her out to dinner. Then she says "you don't take me to the movies anymore like you used to." So, you take her to the movies. Each time, the man gives away more of his power because she convinces him that if he doesn’t take her to the movies or out to dinner, then he won’t get any sex with her (or anyone else). This reveals simply that no matter what men say, they still see women as sexual objects first and humans second. Why else would this manipulation work so often?

This is negotiations with terrorists. Do not negotiate. Do not. If you negotiate, the rest of the world will start screwing with you because you will become the kind of person who can be screwed with. If she asks those questions, and you're in love, you'll negotiate.

But it won’t stop there. She's not going to say "since I asked to go to the movies and you've been taking me to the movies, now everything is alright in my life. I'm so happy now, and I'm going to stay happy because not going to the movies was my only problem." No. She'll start asking why you don't kiss her on the back of her neck anymore.

Melania is correct – a girl must want to listen to a man. But I understand the struggle. So many women have never been around a man who she thought was better than her. It's always been 50/50. But for a girl to want to be with a man, and to smile like Melania does when she talks about him, she has to think he's better than her.

The crazy thing is, if she’s in a relationship, then she already suspects he’s better than her because he’s more charming. She doesn’t need to know how to charm, all she has to do is give up her pussy. No guy cares about a girl's “wonderful spirit.” That's what she thinks she’s selling, but it's not what men are buying. Sex is her only product when Melania met Trump. I get that she thinks she's more than her vagina, but she only became more than her pussy when Trump made her more than her pussy. That’s the king/queen model.

If a king marries the lowliest girl in the land, she becomes the highest-level woman – a queen. Just by marrying him, she is transformed into the best woman she can be. If a queen marries a loser dude, then he's just the queen's husband. The queen can't respect him because she cannot elevate him to his highest level. No woman can elevate a man to his highest level because that would mean he has to go above her, at which point he would be the king. The king is always and everywhere better than the queen. It's the same in the relationship. Melania is the queen and Trump is the king, look how happy she is. No girl wants a wussy man, but a non-wussy man is better than any girl. What's a woman’s response to this? What's her next level to counter this reality? Where does the relationship go if it is 50/50? Nothing in this world moves forward when both people are in the middle.

How can a girl say a relationship is 50/50 when her vagina already trumps his dick in her mind? She thinks she wants to be the boss. Women don’t know what they want. They want chivalry and feminist power. They want to run everything, but they also want men to be men. Women want masculinity but they also want to control your manness when it doesn’t suit them. She doesn't even know why she's duplicitous. She’s not doing this stuff maliciously, it’s just what girls do.

But the truth is, Melania’s smile is one of very slight anxiety. And that’s excellent. Somewhere in her head, she’s nervous that Donald Trump might leave her for another queen in the future, and she knows he could get another younger girl. Her attitude proves there is no such thing as a “relationship.” Trump is with her today. And Melania is with him today. The two of them must maintain their desire for each other in order for them to stay “together.” Her nature is to look at him and ask if she’s getting bored and comfortable. His job is to make her constantly want him.

She loves Trump precisely because she thinks he’s better than her. But even Melania – the First Lady of the United States of America – has two competing parts in her brain. She is constantly testing, or using proxies to test him, to see if he is the king she needs him to be, but she hates that she needs a king. She loves that Trump is decisive but hates that he chooses the direction of the relationship. One half of her brain wants him to be better than her, but the other half wants to be better than him because she hates the fact that he's better than her. Imagine living like this! God made women miserable.

Even Melania is fighting hard to make a 50/50 relationship with the President of the United States of America. No man is immune from these niggling attacks. That’s why Trump can never let his guard down, and neither should you. His only job is to stay better than her, and so in doing he becomes the kind of person who can lead a country into a better reality.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Notes on the system - 10

Saying what the eye sees – rather than what the brain sees – is like a camera shutter. Long exposures soak in more light. Short exposures are for speed. The following rough notes are about light:

Selfish interests

We foolishly glorify entertainers and diversion (distraction from suffering we wouldn't have if we were capable of acting in our own selfish best interests). Our values defeat us, inflicting the suffering from which we need to be distracted, defeating us. Humans just defeat themselves non-stop. If we accept that "acting in one's own selfish best interests" is a workable definition for "sanity," then the entire world is barking mad.

Form of the question

The media commentators always say "we've seen the social media influence elections already." But that's not the full sentence. The full sentence goes "we've seen social media influence elections in a way we cannot control." See the difference?

The required direction

In the West, ALL – repeat – ALL advertising is aspirational. “This is the kind of person I want other people to see me as.” THE PRODUCT IS IRRELEVANT!! There is no money in marketing to different ethnic groups. The money is in abolishing the concept of ethnic groups. Why do you wear jeans? Listen to rock music? Watch Netflix? Vote? Go to church? Do you think these are your ideas? You’re a carbon copy. Whatever differences you think you have are allowed to exist because they avoid you making the painful realisation of just how similar you are to everyone else. Now, multiply that effect by 7 billion and you have “globalisation.”

Round and round

There are no morals and ethics in business, there is only marketing. The point of consumer advertising is to change the human being into a battery; into someone who measures their self-worth in terms of dollars i.e. quantifiable, not qualifiable. What is “right” is defined only as what you can do to boost overall consumption. The system only goes in one direction. Consider what a powerful tool this is. Once the default assumption is set up of what a “good” company looks like (diverse, social, environmental, etc) then competitors can use it as a weapon to discredit their opponents and capture more of the market. Remember, competition is for losers – monopoly is for winners.

Controlling the capital

The demand for more female representation in business is a diversion. The force of this argument is in encouraging women to aim for “senior management” and no higher. The game is to convince women to spend all their energy working for a company so that they don’t have any time to think about starting their own company. That’s called controlling the capital.

Merit-based

Why do we believe merit should dictate employment? It’s not an obvious fact. Merit hasn’t ever really been the default standard of employment. I have met many, many mediocre men in positions of influence and commercial power over my years. They all got there not by working on their talent – which is what suckers do – but by getting to know the right people. That’s the game. You have to join a cartel. The only question that matters is: who are the “right people”?

Governance is easy

One of the strange tragedies of the modern world is that, with modern technology, governance is actually incredibly easy. The guilty aristos are so bad at performing their role that they don’t even know this simple truth. For instance, because of the genocide, the international aid community gave Rwanda a pass to essentially govern itself. Rwanda is now the best-governed country in Africa if not the entire Third World. Frickin' Rwanda. Likewise, it is not in the abstract a problem to move a bunch of Syrians to Belgium, because Syrians are human beings and human beings are easy to govern. It may not be the best idea, but it is not an obvious disaster. However, with the present system of government, I'm a lot less enthusiastic. Belgians, and more generally today's First World populations, basically need no government at all – and it seems our governments have lived down to this challenge.

The Young-Girl

If the young lady wants to be judged “on her own terms,” it simply means that she is not really interested in an honest assessment, but rather wants to get public approval for her behaviour no matter how offensive it may be to others. As life has taught me, women have typically little interest in being judged honestly. Just try to answer the question “does this make my butt look big?” honestly.

Taking sex

By the logic of the female-led system, since women control the sex but do not control a man’s anger or strength, any attack on the primacy of a woman’s sexual choice is a revolutionary act of the oppressed against the oppressors. Men are told not to violently take sex, they are told this by other men who have made words and persuasion the mechanism for achieving sex, who were in turn convinced by women that persuasion is the only way to achieve sex. It is not immediately obvious that men shouldn’t take sex, and it is not obvious at all that any beautiful woman has ever been convinced of sex when she didn't want it in the first instance.

Define success

The more appropriate description of "relative" poverty is to unpack the subjective nature of what people consider success. For instance, saying someone is poor assumes the quantity of currency owned by that person is a useful measurement of their life-effort. This might be true in some cases, but not for everyone. If you try to force all the homeless into houses, jobs and the wider system, many of them will choose to be back on the streets in two weeks. Is it because they're lazy or silly? Have you considered that their victory conditions might be different to yours? The worst form of oppression is to compel others to comport with your description of success. Failing to question the default assumption that currency measures success boosts the system in which everything is measured by currency.

Questions on climate

I still have three sets of questions for people who get hysterical about the climate: One, what's the climate supposed to look like and how has that state been measured? Two, assuming an answer for this, how do we alter the climate to become what is defined as the perfect state and what defines success or failure here? Three, who pays for this change? Who gets rich off the solutions? And what's the payoff for those who fund the fixes in regards to quality of life?

Immigration

Saying we should let everyone into our developed countries because "some people got a bad roll of the dice" is actually racist reasoning. It implies that some cultures are inferior and that the participants of those countries/cultures shouldn't stay to fix their situation because they are worse than the West.

Global theft

Globalisation gives us cheaper goods but robs us of a specific kind of power: the power to practice. To get good at something. To fail and try again. To learn and create a mode of work (not job) for ourselves to pass on to future generations. Using our money on trinkets was never the point of earning it. Offering cheaper products so our funds can go further is just partial slavery. The point of earning money is to fashion a better life for the people coming after you. It’s to build something that doesn’t yet exist. It’s to give you and your future family members time. It’s about the chase, the hunt, for something new and not-yet-created. Buying cheaper soap is just a distraction.

The skill debt

Tinder is another example of artificial intelligence robbing people of the freedom to practice. Tinder circumvents rejection for males. Their picture might be rejected by a thousand females in a row, but they would never know. Instead, they are only ever shown the female who is attracted to him, giving him a false sense of skill. He trades personal development for the benefit of skipping rejection and getting to quick sex. On the other hand, she trades the action of rejecting a man in public - which would display her sexual power - for the AI supplying access to desirable males. You can't see it, but the problem here is debt. A skill-debt. It is the natural evolution of letting credit cards become the default philosophy of modern society. But at some point, all debt must be paid.

HEAT

I think the point of the movie was that Hanna and Macauley were almost identical people. Both were methodical and relentless in their work, with an incredible focus and attention to detail. What Hanna sees in Macauley is a guy who is just like him but who knows something more, which is the central truth of the film. To live in either man's world, you cannot have anything in your life that you can't walk out on in thirty seconds if you spot the cops coming (Macauley) or get the call from dispatch (Hanna). Hanna admires Macauley for this monastic devotion to his profession. Hanna is only able to succeed when he adopts this rule, as shown in the scene at the hospital when his soon-to-be ex-wife lets him leave to answer his pager. Macauley's downfall is when he rejects this rule, turning around on the highway to finish off Waynegro. For example, HEAT and Michael Mann's later film Collateral could almost be considered part of the same "universe",,and both films are commentaries on anxiety and alienation in sprawling post-modern cities like LA. (SPOILER) Heat opens with Macauley getting off an MTA train and ends with him dying at LAX. Collateral opens with Cruise (Vincent) arriving at LAX and dying on the MTA. There are other similarities as well.

Workplace culture

The movement towards creating a "culture" within companies meshes with the observation that governments are no longer the holders of power or sovereignty over citizens. Power is flowing to companies, especially internet companies. Culture creation is a way of making employees and customers feel they are participating in something larger than themselves connected by more than just work choice. It is companies making use of the strategies of nationalism in a corporation. A time-tested way to make people loyal, patriotic and amenable to direction.

Timebomb

I find it at once hilarious and horrifying how our culture treats very attractive, sexually self-aware women as some kind of ticking bomb to be scuttled away and hidden. It's almost as if we worry that good-looking women will have an epiphany, realise how attractive they are and the effect it has on men and will proceed to use that to conquer the world. Oh, wait, that is precisely what we're worried about.

Maybe free trade doesn't work after all

My scepticism of free trade is growing.

If the West doesn’t rethink “free trade” policies – which just means allowing other countries to wreck our economies with imports while keeping our products out of their markets – then the West will be suffocated, and end up only selling a bit of oil or food and not much else.

Free trade treaties are sold to the public on dubious promises that haven’t panned out at all. We’re always told free trade will create “millions of high-paying jobs for workers," will open other countries’ markets and "put our people to work building products to export." Free trade, we're told, will raise our economic growth from 3.5% to 5% or better. It will prosper the entire world! Rah! Rah! Cis-boom-bah for free trade!

But when free trade treaties are signed, we return a few years later to find that:

1. No noticeable amount of jobs have been created in Western countries by free trade. In fact, jobs have disappeared. Companies that used to employ us fired their fellow citizen employees who already had well-paying jobs, moved their work to China, and now import the product back into their home countries. Meanwhile, the factory towns, which were supposed to prosper with free trade, become a blighted wasteland.

2. Taking just the US as an example, it exports less after free trade agreements are signed, because American companies close their home factories and produce nothing to export. The Americans export less to most countries in 2018 than it did five years ago, and much less than ten years ago.

3. The economy shrivels when free trade agreements are signed. Many Western countries already had 3.5% economic growth before free trade deals were signed. Today US economic growth averages 1.8% and has been cut in half.

4. The propaganda about free trade benefiting workers is reversed after free trade is signed. When progressives hawk their free agreements, they portray workers “as the most productive in the world who deserve the right to sell to the rest of the world.” Then when workers lose their jobs because of free trade, progressives turn around and say the home workers are too lazy/stupid/mal-educated to compete with the rest of the world.

5. Free trade agreements are signed on the promise of exporting high-value computers, electronics, and appliances. But after a country signs a free trade agreement it starts importing those products instead, and the home factories that used to make them shut down and fire their workers. Then the propaganda changes to exporting corn, wheat and tree nuts, which are low-tech commodity products with so little value that they must be subsidised with imported labour and tax subsidies. So instead of exporting high-value products, Western countries now export turnips grown by temporary workers!

6. Nor do these exports of agriculture products ever amount to much. Most countries protect their domestic farmers. Even our Canadians don’t permit foreign farm products to glut their market. They wrote a clause into the old NAFTA treaty allowing them to restrict imports of many ag products to 3% of their domestic market.

7. The only time businesses ever oppose free trade is when the imported products would prevent them from robbing consumers. Big Pharma spends billions of dollars lobbying not to allow the importation of foreign-made medicines. Why would they want to let someone buy a pill made in Mexico, Canada, or Germany for 89c when they can monopolise the New Zealand, US or British markets and sell it for $89,000?
 
8. The world economy is less stable than it has been at any time since WWII. Global wealth has declined with the replacement of millions of Western jobs at $25/hour with the $2/hour labour pool of Vietnam and China. Not only has the US become blighted by poverty, for instance, but Mexicans are poorer than before NAFTA because their jobs have been replaced by $2/hour jobs in American-owned Chinese sweatshops. What little growth there is in the world economy is propped up by trillions of dollars of public debt issued by governments who have no intention of ever repaying it.

I must say I had no idea how many weird defences of free-trade there were. The only ones that should matter are those based on economic efficiency and sustainability.

Big Business promotes free trade because it allows them to fire the higher-paid workers in their home countries, replace them with peons in China, use China as a base to import products back into the home countries and inflate corporation profits by arbitraging a First World price list with Third World labour and it helps them avoid paying taxes on profits by laundering the money through overseas tax havens like Ireland where the effective tax rate on corporate profits is zero. Big Business promotes the creation of unelected supra-national organisations and agreements like the WTO, GATT, NAFTA, IMF and CPTPP to shield them from compliance with the laws of any nation. Since Big Business controls these supranational organisations and helped write the bulk of the agreements, they become accomplices to what is essentially multinational corporation piracy.

Progressives support free trade because it promotes the creation of the same supranational, unelected governing bodies that use each nation’s tax dollars to impose values that don’t represent the people’s interests. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the progressive Christian empire wants to transfer wealth from the West into the pockets of the Rest, whom they believe have been oppressed for years, via a bureaucracy paid with tax dollars. If that's so, then it would be a great way for progressives to undercut their domestic political enemies (the traditionalists) by wiping out their livelihoods with imports.

On top of this, economists are pretty much all paid by government and Big Business interests to conform to the free trade agendas if they want to keep their meal tickets. But even they are also mostly ignorant of the free trade icons they revere. For example, Adam Smith never believed in free trade as a means of competing higher-paid workers in developed countries out of their jobs by shipping work to low-wage countries. David Ricardo, the father of “comparative advantage by free trade” advised the Portuguese and British governments to embrace free trade, launching both countries on a journey to economic oblivion.

And outside the US, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia almost no one really practices free trade, choosing instead to protect their markets from imports of Western-made products. The US runs a $347 billion trade deficits with China; $155 billion with the EU; $65 billion with Japan; $63 billion with Mexico; $28 billion with South Korea, and so on. Its export totals to all these countries are lower today than in 2011. The US even sells less to Canada today than then.

Once an industry leaves, it generally doesn’t come back. The knowledge, experience and traditions (known as “intellectual capital”) are sold by CEO’s to foreign businesses and countries for a pittance. The West no longer innovates much of anything in electronics because it no longer has an electronics industry in which to innovate. Likewise, the rapid loss of the motor vehicle, aviation and computing industries is destined to turn the West into a bunch of Portugals, which only knows how to export olives, wine and goat cheese.

The West has propped their economies up with $30 trillion worth of government debt. Once the inevitable defaulted comes, the collapsing power vacuum will be heard on Mars. This is exactly what China wants, of course, and the reason it protects its economy from foreign products and sabotages the West with predatory imports and cyber warfare.

Economist Ian Fletcher sums it up this way:
“All over America, other industries are quietly falling apart in similar ways. Losing positions in key technologies means that whatever brilliant innovations Americans may dream up in small start-up companies in future, large-scale commercialization of those innovations will increasingly take place abroad. A similar fate befell Great Britain, which invented such staples of the post-war era as radar, the jet passenger plane, and the CAT scanner, only to see huge industries based on each end up in the US.”
Now, I’m not attacking trade itself for its power to enhance productivity and well-being when combined with divisions of labour, I am simply pointing out that there are externalities and dynamics (often significant) beneath the surface of claims about the gloriousness of free trade. This policy often acts as a conduit that exacerbates problems caused by perverse time preferences in consumption and saving which makes the whole thing unsustainable.

But we’re beaten over the head and told to stop being arrogant and accept that the world isn’t our oyster anymore and the West isn’t entitled to be richer than foreigners. Fair enough: we’re not entitled to any particular living standard. But we certainly are entitled to a government that seeks to defend our prosperity, if democracy means anything.

Signs that the West’s trade policies are dangerously wrong are often reinterpreted as evidence these economies are strong enough to survive even the problems of free trade. For example, because many Western countries have survived a trade deficit that would have collapsed currencies in any other nation, trade deficits must not matter. That is like saying because a patient’s strong constitution enabled her to survive cancer, cancer isn’t a disease.
 
If free trade is a cancer slowly eating at our economies, we need to know now – especially if the solutions to this problem have long lead times. And contrary to what is asserted by media, trade deficits are a real debt that will have to be paid back. The way I see it, this can be done in three ways: a) selling manufactured goods to other nations, b) selling assets like real estate to foreign nations, or c) by issuing debt instruments.

The last two are the worst possible ways because they generate no benefit to the US, UK, New Zealand or and “free trading” nation. Real estate is a finite commodity accumulated over many years and cannot regenerate itself like selling manufactured goods. Once it's gone, that's it (although real estate can’t actually be removed from a country). Debt Instruments are also a terrible way to pay to pay off the debt. But if this keeps going on, we will eventually have to work for free to pay back the debt accumulated to purchase foreign goods purchased today.

I doubt the claim that Western countries will always come up with some new industry that replaces the manufacturing jobs lost to free trade or artificial intelligence. One look at the unemployment statistics shows this is a false argument. Labour and jobs do not and cannot move to new industries very well. The new industries don’t employ anywhere near as many people as the jobs removed. Think of how easy it would be for a 55 or 60-year-old manufacturing employee who has been out of work for several years to be retrained as a blockchain coder. Not to mention that technology doesn’t employ nearly as many people as steel or automobile manufacturing.

Contrary to the Religion of Free Trade, tariff and non-tariff barriers – like the ones implemented by the US – will not and have not started a trade war. The Chinese are deeply concerned it may destroy too much of America’s manufacturing capability and its ability to absorb Chinese manufactured products before Beijing can increase living standards and evolve into a consumer economy.


The question of how to get from here to there is a critical one countries like China, Japan and Korea are tackling aggressively but that free traders don't even think to ask.