The Party’s Over…..

17 10 2016

I almost republished Raul Ilargi Meijer’s excellent article titled “Why There is Trump”, but I was too busy, or ran out of data or some other poor excuse.  Anyhow, this new article quotes Raul’s writing so much, I no longer feel the need to. This item was lifted straight from the Automatic Earth, and because it’s written by someone with an important past, and the subject matter is critical, it needs to be shared around.

The farcical US presidential election as far as I am concerned is proof positive that America is in an utter state of collapse. Let’s face it, what intelligent person would want to be in charge right now, when nobody will be willing to implement any of the solutions I at least believe are necessary?

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Alastair Crooke: ‘End of Growth’ Sparks Wide Discontent

Raul Ilargi Meijer, the long-standing economics commentator, has written both succinctly – and provocatively: “It’s over! The entire model our societies have been based on for at least as long as we ourselves have lived, is over! That’s why there’s Trump.

“There is no growth. There hasn’t been any real growth for years. All there is left are empty hollow sunshiny S&P stock market numbers propped up with ultra-cheap debt and buybacks, and employment figures that hide untold millions hiding from the labor force. And most of all there’s debt, public as well as private, that has served to keep an illusion of growth alive and now increasingly no longer can.

“These false growth numbers have one purpose only: for the public to keep the incumbent powers that be in their plush seats. But they could always ever only pull the curtain of Oz [Wizard of Oz] over people’s eyes for so long, and it’s no longer so long.

“That’s what the ascent of Trump means, and Brexit, Le Pen, and all the others. It’s over. What has driven us for all our lives has lost both its direction and its energy.”

Meijer continues: “We are smack in the middle of the most important global development in decades, in some respects arguably even in centuries, a veritable revolution, which will continue to be the most important factor to shape the world for years to come, and I don’t see anybody talking about it. That has me puzzled.

“The development in question is the end of global economic growth, which will lead inexorably to the end of centralization (including globalization). It will also mean the end of the existence of most, and especially the most powerful, international institutions.

“In the same way it will be the end of -almost- all traditional political parties, which have ruled their countries for decades and are already today at or near record low support levels (if you’re not clear on what’s going on, look there, look at Europe!)

“This is not a matter of what anyone, or any group of people, might want or prefer, it’s a matter of ‘forces’ that are beyond our control, that are bigger and more far-reaching than our mere opinions, even though they may be man-made.

“Tons of smart and less smart folks are breaking their heads over where Trump and Brexit and Le Pen and all these ‘new’ and scary things and people and parties originate, and they come up with little but shaky theories about how it’s all about older people, and poorer and racist and bigoted people, stupid people, people who never voted, you name it.

“But nobody seems to really know or understand. Which is odd, because it’s not that hard. That is, this all happens because growth is over. And if growth is over, so are expansion and centralization in all the myriad of shapes and forms they come in.”

Further, Meijer writes: “Global is gone as a main driving force, pan-European is gone, and whether the United States will stay united is far from a done deal. We are moving towards a mass movement of dozens of separate countries and states and societies looking inward. All of which are in some form of -impending- trouble or another.

“What makes the entire situation so hard to grasp for everyone is that nobody wants to acknowledge any of this. Even though tales of often bitter poverty emanate from all the exact same places that Trump and Brexit and Le Pen come from too.

“That the politico-econo-media machine churns out positive growth messages 24/7 goes some way towards explaining the lack of acknowledgement and self-reflection, but only some way. The rest is due to who we ourselves are. We think we deserve eternal growth.”

The End of ‘Growth’

Well, is global “growth over”? Of course Raul Ilargi is talking “aggregate” (and there will be instances of growth within any contraction). But what is clear is that debt-driven investment and low-interest-rate policies are having less and less effect – or no effect at all – in producing growth – either in terms of domestic or trade growth, as Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge writes:

 

“After almost two years of the quantitative easing program in the Euro Area, economic figures have remained very weak. As GEFIRA details, inflation is still fluctuating near zero, while GDP growth in the region has started to slow down instead of accelerating. According to the ECB data, to generate €1.0 of GDP growth, €18.5 had to be printed in the QE, … This year, the ECB printed nearly €600 billion within the frame of asset purchase programme (QE).”

Central Banks can and do create money, but that is not the same as creating wealth or purchasing power. By channelling their credit creation through the intermediary of banks granting loans to their favored clients, Central Banks grant to one set of entities purchasing power – a purchasing power that must necessarily have been transferred from another set of entities within Europe (i.e. transferred from ordinary Europeans in the case of the ECB), who, of course will have less purchasing power, less discretionary spending income.

The devaluation of purchasing power is not so obvious (no runaway inflation), because all major currencies are devaluing more or less pari passu – and because the authorities periodically steam hammer down the price of gold, so that there is no evident standard by which people can “see” for themselves the extent of their currencies’ joint downward float.

And world trade is grinding down too, as Lambert Strether of Corrente rather elegantly explains: “Back to shipping: I started following shipping … partly because it’s fun, but more because shipping is about stuff, and tracking stuff seemed like a far more attractive way of getting a handle on ‘the economy’ than economics statistics, let alone whatever books the Wall Streeters were talking on any given day. And don’t get me started on Larry Summers.

“So what I noticed was decline, and not downward blips followed by rebounds, but decline, for months and then a year. Decline in rail, even when you back out coal and grain, and decline in demand for freight cars. Decline in trucking, and decline in the demand for trucks. Air freight wobbly. No Christmas bounce at the Pacific ports. And now we have the Hanjin debacle — all that capital tied up in stranded ships, though granted only $12 billion or so — and the universal admission that somehow “we” invested w-a-a-a-a-a-y too much money in big ships and boats, implying (I suppose) that we need to ship a lot less stuff than we thought, at least across the oceans.

“Meanwhile, and in seeming contradiction not only to a slow collapse of global trade, but to the opposition to ‘trade deals,’ warehousing is one of the few real estate bright spots, and supply chain management is an exciting field. It’s disproportionately full of sociopaths, and therefore growing and dynamic!

“And the economics statistics seem to say nothing is wrong. Consumers are the engine of the economy and they are confident. But at the end of the day, people need stuff; life is lived in the material world, even if you think you live it on your device. It’s an enigma! So what I’m seeing is a contradiction: Less stuff is moving, but the numbers say ‘this is fine.’ Am I right, here? So in what follows, I’m going to assume that numbers don’t matter, but stuff does.”

Fake Elixir

Or, to be more faux-empirical: as Bloomberg notes in A Weaker Currency is no longer the Elixir, It Once Was:“global central banks have cut policy rates 667 times since 2008, according to Bank of America. During that period, the dollar’s 10 main peers have fallen 14%, yet Group-of-Eight economies have grown an average of just 1%. Since the late 1990s, a 10% inflation-adjusted depreciation in currencies of 23 advanced economies boosted net exports by just 0.6% of GDP, according to Goldman Sachs. That compares with 1.3% of GDP in the two decades prior. U.S. trade with all nations slipped to $3.7 trillion in 2015, from $3.9 trillion in 2014.”

 

With “growth over,” so too is globalization: Even the Financial Times agrees, as its commentator Martin Wolf writes in his comment, The Tide of Globalisation is Turning: “Globalisation has at best stalled. Could it even go into reverse? Yes. It requires peace among the great powers … Does globalisation’s stalling matter? Yes.”

Globalization is stalling – not because of political tensions (a useful “scapegoat”), but because growth is flaccid as a result of a veritable concatenation of factors causing its arrest – and because we have entered into debt deflation that is squeezing what’s left of discretionary, consumption-available, income. But Wolf is right. Ratcheting tensions with Russia and China will not somehow solve America’s weakening command over the global financial system – even if capital flight to the dollar might give the U.S. financial system a transient “high.”

So what might the “turning tide” of globalization actually mean? Does it mean the end of the neo-liberalist, financialized world? That is hard to say. But expect no rapid “u-turn” – and no apologies. The Great Financial Crisis of 2008 – at the time – was thought by many to mark the end to neo-liberalism. But it never happened – instead, a period of fiscal retrenchment and austerity was imposed that contributed to a deepening distrust of the status quo, and a crisis rooted in a widespread, popular sense that “their societies” were headed in the wrong direction.

Neo-liberalism is deeply entrenched – not least in Europe’s Troika and in the Eurogroup that oversees creditor interests, and which, under European Union rules, has come to dominate E.U. financial and tax policy.

It is too early to say from whence the economic challenge to prevailing orthodoxy will come, but in Russia there is a group of prominent economists gathered together as the Stolypin Club, who are evincing a renewed interest in that old adversary of Adam Smith, Friedrich List (d. 1846), who evolved a “national system of political economy.” List upheld the (differing interests) of the nation to that of the individual. He gave prominence to the national idea, and insisted on the special requirements of each nation according to its circumstances, and especially to the degree of its development. He famously doubted the sincerity of calls to free trade from developed nations, in particular those by Britain. He was, as it were, the arch anti-globalist.

A Post-Globalism

One can see that this might well fit the current post-globalist mood. List’s acceptance of the need for a national industrial strategy and the reassertion of the role of the state as the final guarantor of social cohesion is not some whimsy pursued by a few Russian economists. It is entering the mainstream. The May government in the U.K. precisely is breaking with the neoliberal model that has ruled British politics since the 1980s – and is breaking towards a List-ian approach.

 

Be that as it may (whether this approach swims more widely back into fashion), the very contemporary British professor and political philosopher, John Gray has suggested the key point is: “The resurgence of the state is one of the ways in which the present time differs from the ‘new times’ diagnosed by Martin Jacques and other commentators in the 1980s. Then, it seemed national boundaries were melting away and a global free market was coming into being. It’s a prospect I never found credible.

“A globalised economy existed before 1914, but it rested on a lack of democracy. Unchecked mobility of capital and labour may raise productivity and create wealth on an unprecedented scale, but it is also highly disruptive in its impact on the lives of working people – particularly when capitalism hits one of its periodic crises. When the global market gets into grave trouble, neoliberalism is junked in order to meet a popular demand for security. That is what is happening today.

“If the tension between global capitalism and the nation state was one of the contradictions of Thatcherism, the conflict between globalization and democracy has undone the left. From Bill Clinton and Tony Blair onwards, the center-left embraced the project of a global free market with an enthusiasm as ardent as any on the right. If globalisation was at odds with social cohesion, society had to be re-engineered to become an adjunct of the market. The result was that large sections of the population were left to moulder in stagnation or poverty, some without any prospect of finding a productive place in society.”

If Gray is correct that when globalized economics strikes trouble, people will demand that the state must pay attention to their own parochial, national economic situation (and not to the utopian concerns of the centralizing élite), it suggests that just as globalization is over – so too is centralization (in all its many manifestations).

The E.U., of course, as an icon of introverted centralization, should sit up, and pay attention. Jason Cowley, the editor of the (Leftist) New Statesman says: “In any event … however you define it, [the onset of ‘New Times’] will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.”

The Problem of Self-Delusion

So, to return to Ilargi’s point, that “we are smack in the middle of the most important global development in decades … and I don’t see anybody talking about it. That has me puzzled” and to which he answers that ultimately, the “silence” is due to ourselves: “We think we deserve eternal growth.”

 

He is surely right that it somehow answers to the Christian meme of linear progress (material here, rather than spiritual); but more pragmatically, doesn’t “growth” underpin the whole Western financialized, global system: “it was about lifting the ‘others’ out of their poverty”?

Recall, Stephen Hadley, the former U.S. National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush,warning plainly that foreign-policy experts rather should pay careful attention to the growing public anger: that “globalization was a mistake” and that “the elites have sleep-walked the [U.S.] into danger.”

“This election isn’t just about Donald Trump,” Hadley argued. “It’s about the discontents of our democracy, and how we are going to address them … whoever is elected, will have to deal with these discontents.”

In short, if globalization is giving way to discontent, the lack of growth can undermine the whole financialized global project. Stiglitz tells us that this has been evident for the past 15 years — last month he noted that he had warned then of: “growing opposition in the developing world to globalizing reforms: It seemed a mystery: people in developing countries had been told that globalization would increase overall wellbeing. So why had so many people become so hostile to it? How can something that our political leaders – and many an economist – said would make everyone better off, be so reviled? One answer occasionally heard from the neoliberal economists who advocated for these policies is that people are better off. They just don’t know it. Their discontent is a matter for psychiatrists, not economists.”

This “new” discontent, Stiglitz now says, is extended into advanced economies. Perhaps this is what Hadley means when he says, “globalization was a mistaalastair-crooke-photoke.” It is now threatening American financial hegemony, and therefore its political hegemony too.

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British
intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum, which advocates for engagement between political Islam and the West.

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19 responses

17 10 2016
Chris Harries

When Meijer says “I don’t see anybody talking about it”, I think he must be referring to big time media and politics. Over the year many thousands of good people have put their minds to the diabolical problem of sustained growth on a finite planet – otherwise known as the growth ethic. Many have theorised about it and stared at this problem from every direction, seeing that it has to collapse. Some economists have even postulated whether or not a steady state economy could displace what we have.

I think he’s done a good job in placing that well known paradigm into the current, crazy political context. We seem to be drawing near to an end game. Amazingly, I think we’ll hit the wall hard while the body politic is still in total denial about all this. But then climate change has taught us a lot about public and political denial. It tends to be impervious even to evidence that hits us smack in the face.

17 10 2016
ejhr2015

I can with confidence say that the TPP, TTIP, TISA etc treaties may be signed into law but that any victory by the PTB behind them will be Phyrric, illusory and quickly useless. So, therefore, it will not matter whether they happen or not. They will all too soon be relics of our collapsing civilization!

Climate change too can really be left out of consideration. Firstly it’s too late to make a difference as other events will overtake it. And second, our emissions will soon enough fall to pre industrial levels as we crash out of civilization. Our finite world will have the last word. It cannot be denied!

18 10 2016
rabiddoomsayer

The silence is because the alternative is just to horrible to contemplate. To discuss, is to open the possibility of admission where we are at. The silence does not surprise me, the silence is entirely expected.

When the powers that be admit where we are at, the game of civilization will end. The smoke and mirrors are not working very well, collective denial is all that remains.

18 10 2016
rabiddoomsayer

The only argument I have is with surprise at the silence. The silence is entirely expected. The balloon of bullshit is so hyper-inflated that the bluntest of analyzing will burst it. Sharp analysis is no longer required.

Silence is all that is left. The smoke is fading and mirrors are cracked, so smoke and mirrors is not working.

Look rabbit

18 11 2017
Eclipse Now

You mentioned trucking? Tesla trucks will be *cheaper* than diesel trucks, safer, smarter, faster, more reliable and less time off road. Partially self driving, with bullet-proof glass, they’ll have less time off road. They have a 500 mile range and recharge in 30 minutes as they unload.

Oh, and for fun it was carrying the new Tesla roaster that will be the “fastest production car, period!” and has a 1000km range. Here to Melbourne in one charge. Oh the fun old days when you denied battery energy density could ever replace oil!

19 11 2017
mikestasse

You are such a source of amusement…… none of this even exists yet, and you fall for it hook like and sinker. Tesla will probably be bankrupt soon….. ebofe ANY of this even comes off the production line..!

Brake pads that last FOREVER? I mean yeah, I understand regenerative braking, but….. FOREVER? Musk has found the answer to entropy as well now…? And why would you need an app for your truck? Won’t it come with a DASHBOARD? Most cars these days have dashboards that tell you when to service your car, when something’s not right with the brakes, or engine getting hot, or how far you can go before refueling……. but an APP???? It’s actually illegal to use a fuckin’ phone while you drive……
He even makes mistakes by quoting 7c/kW. WHERE can you buy kW’s…….? and how can he garantee energy prices not knowing what’s in store for the economy (because he clearly doesn’t….)

Thanks for the entertainment…… and that roadster? It kills people just standing still. Like, how many people can handle a car that’s faster than a double A fueler dragster? FFS……….

19 11 2017
Eclipse Now

Mike, we’re a little low on details here. What if they’re not even break pads, but some other technology? Did you consider you’re talking out your butt when you say he’s “reversing entropy” when we actually don’t know *what* they are? Oh, but of course YOU know all about what’s in store for the economy. 😉 Just like 2015 was the end, oh no, it’s 2016, really truly wooly this time, then half way through 2016 Gail Tverberg was assuring us it’s REALLY true this time… blah blah blah. Economic cycles kind of bore me, and as long as you keep predicting them eventually you’ll get lucky. But I remember you insulting today’s oil prices (projected about a decade ago) as weed induced dreams, but here they are: reality! You doomers are pretty good at this prophecy game aren’t you? 😉 Dude, it’s so frustrating because there’s a lot about your lifestyle that we could all learn from, but your secular cult of doom is no use at all. It kills young people. Literally! One day your conscience is really going to have to deal with what happened on ROEOZ all those years ago!
In the meantime, Dyson vacuum cleaners own a new battery technology and are so confident they can produce a better cheaper car than even Tesla that they’re launching into the established old market of cars! That’s a tough gig to get into, yet Dyson are confident. Toyoto and Volvo and others are all starting to follow suit so they can compete with Tesla. The market war for the best battery rig and tech is on. Who knows where it will end?
And even if there are some farming or mining situations where diesel is absolutely necessary, Blue Crude can replace that, with the price of the electricity to produce it built in. Need a few new nukes to power the growing Blue Crude market? It’s included in the price.
https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/synthetic-diesel/
We’re not in Mad Max now, not even in a Great Depression! It’s time for you to grow a pair and admit you were dead wrong. But it won’t bring back young Tas McKee, will it?
http://restoringmayberry.blogspot.com.au/2008/12/moment-of-darkness.html

20 11 2017
mikestasse

a) I did not say he was reversing entropy, I said he’d found an answer.
b) HE said brake pads, not me…… so now even you are saying he’s not telling the truth?

BTW, the economy is right now in a state of collapse…. it’s a slow collapse, because the bankers are pedalling like fury in the background to try and avoid it happening. My instinct is that many retailers won’t survive Christmas…..

I’ve also been thinking about Musk’s claim that his truck will go up hills at 60MPH. I don’t doubt it can….. but to go 50% faster uphill than a diesel truck can takes 75% more energy. It’s Physics 101. you can make a diesel truck do this too, but it would need a 50% bigger engine… If they do this all the time, the range won’t be 500 miles. BTW, 500 miles is not enough for the Brisbane-Sydney or Sydney-Melbourne trips, both of which are 20% longer, and are the most common truck runs in Australia.

Also, charging an 8000kWh battery in 30 minutes… now THAT’s something I’d like to see! A 16MW load?

His range claim of 500 miles requires a 15 ton battery bank which reduces payload 40 tons – 15 tons = 25 tons. So his economics claims are very doubtful….. the way his audience cheer him on really reminds me of those millionaire Evangelical Christian paif he’s the second coming.stors in Amrika……. like Chris said, it’s as if he’s the new Jesus…..

Also…. If you want one of his alleged “Super-Roadsters” you need to ante up $5,000 now plus $245,000 more within 10 days by wire transfer. And the car won’t be ready for three years! Given Musk’s stated aim for Tesla was to make electric cars mainstream, starting with high-priced cars to fund the development of the cheaper and more mainstream Model 3, what’s the Roadster’s purpose?

Anybody wanna buy a 20 year old ute that will carry 1300kg for $4000? And it has a range of 600km…..

20 11 2017
Chris Harries

What’s Musk’s time frame for the conversion of the world’s trucking fleets to this technology and how much energy and resources would be used up in the process and if all this can happen within the context of the Energy Trap? It takes a lot of energy just to undertake such a massive infrastructure transition and that quantum of additional energy alone can be the final nail in the coffin.

That’s why it’s very important to know. Intuition tells us that the time element now is so narrow that these technological ‘solutions’ have come way too late. Their main function is to give rise to false hopes and a last ditch frenzy of production that takes us over the brink.

I say all this in the context of there needing to be a higher priority of reducing demand (why do we have thousands of trucks criss crossing the country, filled with cigarettes, coca cola, bottled water and junk food?) rather than a top priority on futilely maintaining the self-destruct pathway that civilisation has embarked upon.

It’s not what we produce that’s important here, it’s where we are coming from and what our cultural expectations are. Musk has become a latter day Jesus Christ because he offers salvation and he feeds the all-pervasive dream of endless growth.

20 11 2017
Eclipse Now

Hi Chris,
I get that it takes energy to create new energy systems. But in a *real* emergency, there are all sorts of new laws and industries that would be kicked into play faster than the WW2 Victory gardens. Culture’s really can respond to an oil decline. Fast.
https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/sudden-oil-crisis/

20 11 2017
mikestasse

I’m gobsmacked…….. HOW can you compare WWII Victory gardens with Musk?

20 11 2017
Chris Harries

OK, Eclipse, I’m taking it that you are agreeing that we have a ‘real’ emergency. If you believe there are straws to clutch then I also agree that people will grab them, for sure.

But we do have a fundamental problem in having to defy basic laws of physics and mathematics. In an emergency it is possible for a plane to glide to a crash landing to try to minimise the impact, but this is not not an assurance that the pilot will relish giving to the passengers. So he / she may (understandably) try to stop them panicking by announcing: ‘Don’t worry, all will be fine’.

It’s very unlikely for a trained pilot to be in denial of a real emergency, seeing the tank on empty and the engines on fire.

20 11 2017
Eclipse Now

Emergency? Maybe, but according to whom? In 2004 I was told I had better get out of the corporate rat race, buy a survivalist farm and bunker and tinned food and plenty of ammo, because we only had a few years. 13 years later… what’s the price of oil again? How much fracking gas are they getting at? I’d welcome peak oil, really I would! It would force governments to finally get serious. Shipping could replace trucking for half the global population. Half. Then there’s car pooling apps, mass adoption of bikes, various emergency fuel rationing schemes to essential sectors, and the mass fast build out of nuclear power. Look at history. France used to burn oil for electricity. When the 1970’s oil crisis hit, they realised energy is the lifeblood of modern civilisation. It’s a national infrastructure and security issue! They nationalised energy. In one decade (1977–1987), France increased its nuclear power production 15-fold, with the nuclear portion of its electricity increasing from 8% to 70%. Abundant affordable electricity can be used to generate all the “Blue Crude” we need from seawater at an affordable price. We can do this, we just need the motivation, and nothing motivates us to action like rationing!

21 11 2017
mikestasse

Yeah well……. you should’ve, because it takes ten years to settle in and setup. I’ve been on my new farm for two and a half years (almost) and while you can see where I’ve been, I’m sure as hell not ready for what’s coming next year…

Oh and France increased its nuclear capacity with Algerian oil. Which no longer exists! And I wish people would stop fretting about the price of oil… it’s that cheap because the economy is so stuffed nobody can afford the real price, while the REAL ISSUE is its collapsing ERoEI. Economic collapse is imminent, not only because of all the bubbles yet to burst (like the debt bubble, the student-loan bubble, the tech bubble, or the giant real estate bubble that caused China’s double-digit growth and led to vast half-finished ghost towns for millions of inhabitants — China used more cement in three years than the US in the entire 20th century for those projects, which in turn is one of the reason the world is running out of sand), but simply because economic growth is reaching its absolute limit.

And then we have the looming collapse of the Middle East……. watch this space.

21 11 2017
ejhr2015

Have you seen this article? It’s 64 pages but well worth reading.My only quibble is that he doesn’t understand that commonwealth taxes do NOT! fund any government spending. So in that he’s in the same boat as the government, flailing around cluelessly. It’s a very sobering read. We in Aus are indeed a House of Cards!
View story at Medium.com

21 11 2017
mikestasse

Ah yes….. I tried republishing this from another website, but when I copy/pasted the article, it came in its own text frame that made the text disappear at right. When I resized the frame, it ALL disappeared so I gave up…… I might try again with this new source, thanks…

21 11 2017
Chris Harries

I play this according to all the evidence that’s around – increasingly these are stories that we are reaching a number of hard limits. But, yes Jonathan, we can’t be 100 percent sure how it’s all going to pan out. That’s why it’s best to adopt the Precautionary Principle – i.e. to respond to the most likely events sensibly. The majority won’t do this and will just await their fate, or go into denial, and I think that’s ok too. It’s how humans are wired to respond to hard challenges.

19 11 2017
Chris Harries

Elon Musk, the new Jesus Christ.
Disciples worshipping the ground under his feet and extolling his every word.
Could he be the Second Coming?
Or just a very cunning salesman?
I think the latter.

20 11 2017
mikestasse

The only thing he’s selling is snake oil……

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