Colbert Good, Keynes Not So Smart

Another hugely interesting article from Patrice Ayme

Patrice is a good friend of this Blog so it pleases me very much to point you towards a recent article on Patrice’s own Blog.  Here’s the abstract:

Obama is well on his way to become one of the most unaccomplished presidents of the USA, ever. This is made worse, because we are at a crucial juncture of history, and the USA is in leadership position. When the car is travelling fast, and the leader is asleep at the wheel, it will not just end in the ditch.

The little smoke and mirrors Obama threw up, will be easily reversed by the republicans, as planned. So, in the end, Obama will turn up as just an extension of Bush, without the smirk… nor the originality. By choosing the same ideological, Goldman Sachs team, that implemented plutocracy under Clinton, Obama asked those who put the car in the ditch, to get it out, not understanding that they were still drunk in their quest to selfish profit.

This story presently unfolding has been seen before; it was Great Depression II, the great depression of the 1930s. It was the stall after the deliberately engineered bubble of the 1920s.

The West got out of it by massive state enforced job programs, started under president Hoover (Hoover dam, Empire State building, etc,) and pursued by FD Roosevelt (Grand Coulee dam, etc.) and Hitler (Autobahn system, copied by Eisenhower in the 1950s, and everybody else since).

Millions got employed directly by the government and the massive mobilization of WWII did the rest, followed by the GI Bill in 1945. Europe had massive state organized and financed economic activity, led by the US Marshall plan (Marshall was the US chief of staff during WWII, and Secretary of State of Truman). Europe, traumatized by what had happened also made important institutional changes, oriented towards welfare, such as free health care. Sully’s plan of circa 1600 for a “Very Christian Council of Europewas also implemented.

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(Labeling used on aid packages.)

The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program,ERP) was the primary program of the USA for rebuilding and creating a stronger economic foundation for the countries of Europe (1947–51). Efforts focused on modernizing European industrial and business practices using high-efficiency American models (themselves learned from French industrialists to implement American production of the 75mm gun, the mainstay of French artillery in WWI).

All this help and investment, in the USA and Europe, was paid bymarginal tax rates on income as high as 90% in the USA (under US president Ike).

Right, now, instead, the richest Americans pay the lowest tax rate (15%), and wealth has not been so concentrated in a century (a century ago, great spaces and freedom were another form of wealth, at least in the USA, which have now disappeared).

Starting in 1996, a succession of ever larger bubbles, following part of Keynes’s ideas, has injected more and more money in the economy, money which came neither from savings nor production, but mostly borrowed from aliens, and, increasingly, the Chinese.

Robert Reich (UC Berkeley), who lost to Robert Rubin (Goldman Sachs) the debate on the economic strategy to pursue in the Clinton administration, wrote an essay in the New York Times, “How to End The Great Recession”, reflecting the approach that wealth needs to be redistributed. Reich mentioned what I have long observed: the real (inflation adjusted) median income has been going down for thirty years now. This is worse than what happened during Great Depression II. So this is Great Depression III, not just another recession.

I approve of Reich’s anti plutocratic approach, of course. As he says: “The Great Depression and its aftermath demonstrate that there is only one way back to full recovery: through more widely shared prosperity.”… However, this is not the whole story.Redistribution is good, however production is necessary.Keynes, as we will see, is about throwing money to the people, as the Roman emperors invented. That is not about meaningful employment.

Obama’s ineptitude is not all his fault. The economic advice he got, even from his opponents, has been terrible. For example, Krugman, whom I approve a lot of, wanted, like Romer (the ex-chair of economic advisers) a bigger stimulus. And so did I.

But stimulating what? How? To which aim? Most of Obama’s stimulus was wasted on short term alleviation of long term structural defects, exactly the sort of trap one does not want to fall into (French socialists fell into that very trap in the recent past, with the result that the income tax started to fully go to paying the interest on the French national debt).

The USA stimulus ought to have targeted to jump start a big energy infrastructure first, followed by a massively innovative scientific industry, modeled after the military industrial complex (the only thing the USA does really well nowadays, besides plenty of hot air). Instead, the debate in economic theory has been pretty much Keynes (somewhat of a neo-stupid, see below) versus Hayek (a pro-plutocratic neo-fascist who influenced the Chicago school’s meta principle that GREED, AND ONLY GREED, MAKES GOOD).

However, the military-industrial complex of the USA, by now, by far, the most competitive part of its economy, is not run according to Hayek, or Keynes. It is run along the lines defined by Jean Baptiste Colbert. That ought to be a hint, but no main stream American economist has picked it up.

American economists in good standing do not know who Colbert was, perhaps because he thrived when Indians were outnumbering European colonists in North America, and studying history is not as important than learning sports, and to learn to agree with one’s peers, in American schools.

Colbert started his career, and this is overlooked, overlooking the military, at the grand old age of 21. Colbert branched off into economy and finance much later, after helping to send the hyper rich “superintendent of finances”, Fouquet, to jail, for life.

The American economist Paul Kennedy, in a book about The Rise And Fall Of The Great Powers, basically expounded, as his theory, what was pretty much Colbert’s theory and practice(unsurprisingly, Kennedy does not talk about Colbert too much, and got rewarded with a prize for his depth and originality).

Colbert had perfectly understood that Great Power status necessitated a Great Economy. Thus Colbertism could be viewed as the highest form of militarism. Just like the USA is itself the highest form of militarism which ever was. Notice the rapprochement. Not to make fun of it: the position of Europe and the USA is unstable, just as the entire world economy, society and military situations are all simultaneously unstable, and military superiority is what keeps thing together, right now (unfortunately it is courting defeat in Afghanistan).

Colbert was actually following the model implemented, with spectacular success, by Henri IV and his economy and finance minister, Sully, a protestant military engineer, around 1600 CE, with state financed canals, silk factories and free markets.

Why are great powers great powers? Because they have achieved a technological superiority gradient, and have enough numbers to sit on top of it. Numbers are not everything: the Mongols carved the world’s largest empire in a few years, and with 200,000 warriors. “Technology” here is meant in the full etymological sense: any specialized discourse.

If we want to keep a superior lifestyle in the empire of the West, and a stable planet, it is high time to recover such a gradient, which is, basically, an intelligence gradient. Thus it is high time to redistribute the sort of economy which makes the military industrial complex of the USA so superior, namely COLBERTISM MODERNIZED.

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The full article is here

Well worth reading.

By Paul Handover

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