Global South: Gold-backed currencies to replace the US dollar

The adoption of commodity-backed currencies by the Global South could upend the US dollar’s dominance and level the playing field in international trade.

January 19 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

Let’s start with three interconnected multipolar-driven facts.

First: One of the key take aways from the World Economic Forum annual shindig in Davos, Switzerland is when Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan, on a panel on “Saudi Arabia’s Transformation,” made it clear that Riyadh “will consider trading in currencies other than the US dollar.”

So is the petroyuan finally at hand? Possibly, but Al-Jadaan wisely opted for careful hedging: “We enjoy a very strategic relationship with China and we enjoy that same strategic relationship with other nations including the US and we want to develop that with Europe and other countries.”

Second: The Central Banks of Iran and Russia are studying the adoption of a “stable coin” for foreign trade settlements, replacing the US dollar, the ruble and the rial. The crypto crowd is already up in arms, mulling the pros and cons of a gold-backed central bank digital currency (CBDC) for trade that will be in fact impervious to the weaponized US dollar.

A gold-backed digital currency

The really attractive issue here is that this gold-backed digital currency would be particularly effective in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of Astrakhan, in the Caspian Sea.

Astrakhan is the key Russian port participating in the International North South Transportation Corridor (INTSC), with Russia processing cargo travelling across Iran in merchant ships all the way to West Asia, Africa, the Indian Ocean and South Asia.

The success of the INSTC – progressively tied to a gold-backed CBDC – will largely hinge on whether scores of Asian, West Asian and African nations refuse to apply US-dictated sanctions on both Russia and Iran.

As it stands, exports are mostly energy and agricultural products; Iranian companies are the third largest importer of Russian grain. Next will be turbines, polymers, medical equipment, and car parts. Only the Russia-Iran section of the INSTC represents a $25 billion business.

And then there’s the crucial energy angle of INSTC – whose main players are the Russia-Iran-India triad.

India’s purchases of Russian crude have increased year-by-year by a whopping factor of 33. India is the world’s third largest importer of oil; in December, it received 1.2 million barrels from Russia, which for several months now is positioned ahead of Iraq and Saudi Arabia as Delhi’s top supplier.

‘A fairer payment system’

Third: South Africa holds this year’s rotating BRICS presidency. And this year will mark the start of BRICS+ expansion, with candidates ranging from Algeria, Iran and Argentina to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor has just confirmed that the BRICS do want to find a way to bypass the US dollar and thus create “a fairer payment system not skewed toward wealthier countries.”

For years now, Yaroslav Lissovolik, head of the analytical department of Russian Sberbank’s corporate and investment business has been a proponent of closer BRICS integration and the adoption of a BRICS reserve currency.

Lissovolik reminds us that the first proposal “to create a new reserve currency based on a basket of currencies of BRICS countries was formulated by the Valdai Club back in 2018.”

Are you ready for the R5?

The original idea revolved around a currency basket similar to the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) model, composed of the national currencies of BRICS members – and then, further on down the road, other currencies of the expanded BRICS+ circle.

Lissovolik explains that choosing BRICS national currencies made sense because “these were among the most liquid currencies across emerging markets. The name for the new reserve currency — R5 or R5+ — was based on the first letters of the BRICS currencies all of which begin with the letter R (real, ruble, rupee, renminbi, rand).”

So BRICS already have a platform for their in-depth deliberations in 2023. As Lissovolik notes, “in the longer run, the R5 BRICS currency could start to perform the role of settlements/payments as well as the store of value/reserves for the central banks of emerging market economies.”

It is virtually certain that the Chinese yuan will be prominent right from the start, taking advantage of its “already advanced reserve status.”

Potential candidates that could become part of the R5+ currency basket include the Singapore dollar and the UAE’s dirham.

Quite diplomatically, Lissovolik maintains that, “the R5 project can thus become one of the most important contributions of emerging markets to building a more secure international financial system.”

The R5, or R5+ project does intersect with what is being designed at the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), led by the Macro-Economics Minister of the Eurasia Economic Commission, Sergey Glazyev.

A new gold standard

In Golden Ruble 3.0 , his most recent paper, Glazyev makes a direct reference to two by now notorious reports by Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar, formerly of the IMF, US Department of Treasury, and New York Federal Reserve: War and Commodity Encumbrance (December 27) and War and Currency Statecraft (December 29).

Pozsar is a staunch supporter of a Bretton Woods III – an idea that has been getting enormous traction among the Fed-skeptical crowd.

What’s quite intriguing is that the American Pozsar now directly quotes Russia’s Glazyev, and vice-versa, implying a fascinating convergence of their ideas.

Let’s start with Glazyev’s emphasis on the importance of gold. He notes the current accumulation of multibillion-dollar cash balances on the accounts of Russian exporters in “soft” currencies in the banks of Russia’s main foreign economic partners: EAEU nations, China, India, Iran, Turkey, and the UAE.

He then proceeds to explain how gold can be a unique tool to fight western sanctions if prices of oil and gas, food and fertilizers, metals and solid minerals are recalculated:

“Fixing the price of oil in gold at the level of 2 barrels per 1g will give a second increase in the price of gold in dollars, calculated Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar. This would be an adequate response to the ‘price ceilings’ introduced by the west – a kind of ‘floor,’ a solid foundation. And India and China can take the place of global commodity traders instead of Glencore or Trafigura.”

So here we see Glazyev and Pozsar converging. Quite a few major players in New York will be amazed.

Glazyev then lays down the road toward Gold Ruble 3.0. The first gold standard was lobbied by the Rothschilds in the 19th century, which “gave them the opportunity to subordinate continental Europe to the British financial system through gold loans.” Golden Ruble 1.0, writes Glazyev, “provided the process of capitalist accumulation.”

Golden Ruble 2.0, after Bretton Woods, “ensured a rapid economic recovery after the war.” But then the “reformer Khrushchev canceled the peg of the ruble to gold, carrying out monetary reform in 1961 with the actual devaluation of the ruble by 2.5 times, forming conditions for the subsequent transformation of the country [Russia] into a “raw material appendage of the Western financial system.”

What Glazyev proposes now is for Russia to boost gold mining to as much as 3 percent of GDP: the basis for fast growth of the entire commodity sector (30 percent of Russian GDP). With the country becoming a world leader in gold production, it gets “a strong ruble, a strong budget and a strong economy.”

All Global South eggs in one basket

Meanwhile, at the heart of the EAEU discussions, Glazyev seems to be designing a new currency not only based on gold, but partly based on the oil and natural gas reserves of participating countries.

Pozsar seems to consider this potentially inflationary: it could be if it results in some excesses, considering the new currency would be linked to such a large base.

Off the record, New York banking sources admit the US dollar would be “wiped out, since it is a valueless fiat currency, should Sergey Glazyev link the new currency to gold. The reason is that the Bretton Woods system no longer has a gold base and has no intrinsic value, like the FTX crypto currency. Sergey’s plan also linking the currency to oil and natural gas seems to be a winner.”

So in fact Glazyev may be creating the whole currency structure for what Pozsar called, half in jest, the “G7 of the East”: the current 5 BRICS plus the next 2 which will be the first new members of BRICS+.

Both Glazyev and Pozsar know better than anyone that when Bretton Woods was created the US possessed most of Central Bank gold and controlled half the world’s GDP. This was the basis for the US to take over the whole global financial system.

Now vast swathes of the non-western world are paying close attention to Glazyev and the drive towards a new non-US dollar currency, complete with a new gold standard which would in time totally replace the US dollar.

Pozsar completely understood how Glazyev is pursuing a formula featuring a basket of currencies (as Lissovolik suggested). As much as he understood the groundbreaking drive towards the petroyuan. He describes the industrial ramifications thus:

“Since as we have just said Russia, Iran, and Venezuela account for about 40 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, and each of them are currently selling oil to China for renminbi at a steep discount, we find BASF’s decision to permanently downsize its operations at its main plant in Ludwigshafen and instead shift its chemical operations to China was motivated by the fact that China is securing energy at discounts, not markups like Europe.”

The race to replace the dollar

One key takeaway is that energy-intensive major industries are going to be moving to China. Beijing has become a big exporter of Russian liquified natural gas (LNG) to Europe, while India has become a big exporter of Russian oil and refined products such as diesel – also to Europe. Both China and India – BRICS members – buy below market price from fellow BRICS member Russia and resell to Europe with a hefty profit. Sanctions? What sanctions?

Meanwhile, the race to constitute the new currency basket for a new monetary unit is on. This long-distance dialogue between Glazyev and Pozsar will become even more fascinating, as Glazyev will be trying to find a solution to what Pozsar has stated: tapping of natural resources for the creation of the new currency could be inflationary if money supply is increased too quickly.

All that is happening as Ukraine – a huge chasm at a critical junction of the New Silk Road blocking off Europe from Russia/China – slowly but surely disappears into a black void. The Empire may have gobbled up Europe for now, but what really matters geoeconomically, is how the absolute majority of the Global South is deciding to commit to the Russia/China-led block.

Economic dominance of BRICS+ may be no more than 7 years away – whatever toxicities may be concocted by that large, dysfunctional nuclear rogue state on the other side of the Atlantic. But first, let’s get that new currency going.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Is Andrei Martyanov right in his criticism of US ruling “elites”?

January 20, 2023

Those of you who, like myself, try not to miss any videos or articles by Andrei Martyanov know that one of his “favorite” topics is the utter incompetence of western elites in general and US ruling elites specifically.  I am sure that his criticisms appear to be over the top to many people and that is normal.  It is completely counter-intuitive to assume that the ruling class (because that is what we are dealing with) of a nuclear superpower and, arguably, the most powerful country on the planet, could be ruled by clueless, ignorant, dishonest imbeciles.

So, is he right or not?  Does he speak because he is “anti-US” or a “Russian propagandist”?

I decided to chime in, because I know from the inside what Martyanov describes from the outside, so I want to share with you my own observations on this topic.

I studied in the USA for five years, from 1986 to 1991 and I got two degrees in this time period: one BA in International Relations from the School of International Service (SIS) at the American University and a MA in Strategic Studies from the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at the Johns Hopkins University. During these same years I also worked for several (very conservative) think tanks.  The following is a summary of observations I made during this time period and after.

First, and I think that this is crucial, I would argue that a generational change took place in the late 80s, but it all truly began with Ronald Reagan’s Presidency.  Let me explain.

It is an undeniable fact that, in the past, US colleges had a very good reputation worldwide.  Just the number of foreign students coming from all over the world is a good indicator of this reality.  And you cannot have a solid university/college/academy without solid, knowledgeable teachers.  During my 5 years in Washington DC, I had the chance to have teachers with very diverse and interesting backgrounds including people with the following backgrounds: (just a few examples I remember best)

  • UN Naval Intelligence
  • Office of Net Assessment
  • DoD (all branches except Marines)
  • White House
  • CIA
  • Northrop/McDonnell Douglas Corporation (YF-23 division)
  • PMCs (Israeli)
  • GAO

Most of our adjunct teachers, as opposed to tenured academics, had teaching as an “evening job” (literally) while during the day they would work on their “normal/real” jobs.  Even during the Gulf War, we had teachers who were planning strikes in Iraqi targets during the day and came teach classes in the evenings.

I would describe many of them as the “Colonel Macgregor types”  as he is very much of that old, Cold War, generation who had no use for the “crazies in the basement” and whose expertise was indisputable, even when their politics were not.

And yes, we also had the option of taking classes by folks form the CIA and the DoS.  But those are a special category, and here is why: most, but not all, of the folks which came from the agencies I listed above did not have early in their careers strong views about the USSR, Russia or the Russian people.  Instead, they would follow a rather “technical” career path first and then, over time, they would develop views about the Soviet Union and Russians.  Say a guy skilled with radar systems would end up studying Soviet radars and gradually develop a natural interest towards the people operating these Soviet radars.  In most cases, I would sum the views of this generation of people as follows: a strong dislike for Marxism, Communism and even Socialism (which, frankly, most of them were totally ignorant of) but  without any idealization of US tubocapitalism or imperialism which they viewed quite cynically as “we do it because we can” combined with “we take orders”.  They also had a very healthy respect for the professionalism of their Soviet counterparts and, quite often, a real fondness (no, I am not kidding) for the Russian people and culture.  One of my absolute best teachers was a former USN intelligence officer who spoke pretty good Russian and who was of Polish (!) origin.  We became good friends and I can absolutely attest to the fact that this man was a true russophile.  Now, I would not say that all our teachers were necessarily pro-Russian, but most of them saw the Marxist USSR as the ideological enemy and not the Russian people or culture as such.

There was no #cancelRussia in their minds.

Things were quite different with the folks from the CIA or the State Department.  I believe that most (but probably not all) of their members INITIALLY  chose “anti-Soviet” careers because they were motivated by a hatred of Communism/USSR/Russia and so they made their careers by being “hardliners”, i.e. folks who would parrot any kind of cliches about the Soviet Union, no matter how silly.

I should add that the former generation was mostly found in departments like international relations, security studies, strategic studies and the like while the latter typically taught in departments like political science or government studies.  At SIS/SAIS we called them “political science freaks” and they did not interact much with them.  And yes, those with STEM brains would typically come from STEM fields to an appreciation of Russian people and culture, while there were very few STEM types amongst the “political science freaks” (hence their choice of more ideological courses over more technical ones).

But then, as I mentioned above, Ronald Reagan happened, and that had a huge impact on the US political scene.

Before Reagan, you had paleo-liberals and paleo-conservatives, the former would be inclined to get degrees in stuff like “peace studies” while the latter would study get more “geostrategic” degrees or even military academies.  Then Jimmy Carter became president and his many failures and weaknesses secured the triumphant election of Reagan.  At that time, there already was a small and nasty group of ideologues which, over time, became known as the Neocons.  These Neocons, while not bright by any measure, were clever enough to understand that the Democratic Party was crushed by Reagan and that the power now was with the GOP.  So here is what they did:

The (proto-)Neocons began financing (paleo-)conservative think tanks like, say, the Heritage Foundation.  Then, as major sponsors of the many think tanks around DC, they would get their own people elected to the board of directors of these think tanks.  Pretty soon, the typically (paleo-)conservative Presidents/Chairmen/CEOs of these think tanks would be replaced by real, hardcore, Neocons.  After that, it was RIP for any form of real, traditional, US conservatism.

Needless to say, the “old guard” (mostly Anglos) only had disgust and contempt for these ideological freaks, if only because the latter were amazingly ignorant.  But money talks, and over the years, expertise was replaced with “hardliner loyalty” and a very strong ideological alignment on the worst of the worst of what used to be called “the crazies in the basement” (which referred to both the Pentagon’s basement and the White House basement).

Now it is crucial to understand how much the Neocons hate Russia, which is rather difficult and very counter-intuitive for normal people.  The Neocon level of hatred for Russia very much qualifies as crass racism of the worst kind.

[Sidebar: I have been warning about that since at least 2008, see here: “How a medieval concept of ethnicity makes NATO commit yet another a dangerous blunder“.  And now, FIFTEEN years later, I am quite horrified that my predictions are now coming true before our eyes.  I really, sincerely, wish I had been wrong…]

That kind of rabid mindset is something which might have existed amongst some paleo-conservatives, but I personally never met such people (at least in the USA; in the UK the entire British ruling class has been viscerally racist and russophobic for centuries!).  It is thus not surprising at all that in lieu of competence, these Neocons would instead “compete” on “who could be the most anti-Russian” and to achieve this status ANY argument – no matter how self evidently stupid – was uncritically considered as valid and legitimate.

You might wonder why the “old guard” did nothing to stop that infections rot.  And, in fact, some tried, I personally know of two think tank directors who tried, but they were betrayed by the Reagan Administration which seemed quite happen to have rabid russophobic racists even in very high positions.  Finally, this is the US of A, the “best democracy money can buy” and where the dollar is king.  Simply put, the Neocons had A LOT of financial resources, much more than the paleo-conservatives, and they simply “bought their way in” into the US ruling elites.

Then the inevitable happened: when the professionally competent paleo-conservatives saw their institutions and organizations overrun with incompetent ideological freaks, they either kept a low profile and waited to retire or simply resigned.

This triggered a precipitous decline in the competence of the US ruling class.

In the meantime, the liberals began to realize that the Neocons were ridiculing them as “weak on defense” and, basically, as losers.  So they tried to show that they too could be as “hardline” as the next guy.  This is something which affected liberals not only in the USA, but also in all of Zone A (including all of Europe).  Simply put: the liberals did not have the courage, fortitude and honor to fight for their values, so they simply caved in to the trend set by the Neocons and the ugly phenomenon known as “Neolib” increasingly completely replaced old style liberals.

This is why today we see the ugly sight of pseudo-liberals trying to out-Neocon the Neocons.

And, again, just like their paleo-conservative counterparts, the paleo-liberals either kept a low profile and waited for their retirement or resigned.

Some, like the late Professor Stephen Cohen did resist and refused to go with the flow, but he was vilified, ostracized and, eventually, completely ignored.  Yet, to his last breath, Professor Cohen remained a world-class historian and analyst, true to his ideals, and a sincere friend of Russia.

But in the public discourse, the few “Stephen Cohens” were replaced by the many “Eliot Cohens”.

After that, is was all downhill for the US polity.

George H.W. Bush was probably the last “old style” President, then one freak replaced another.  Clinton was a total puppet of the Neocons.  As was Dubya.  Obama, apparently, did not come out of the Neocon camp, but he was so quickly co-opted that it made zero difference.  And, as we all know, while Trump promised to “drain the swamp”, the Neocons got him to heel in less than 1 month (when they made him betray Gen Flynn and got the latter’s head “served on a platter” to them by Trump and Pence).  As for Biden, his administration is pure, genuine, 100% certified Neocons with Neolibs and assorted woke freaks thrown in for “diversity” purposes.

Why does that matter?  Because he who controls the White House controls the money flows which, in the reality of US politics, is the one thing that matters most.

By the way, 9/11 played a crucial role here.

It is quite obvious that 9/11 was a Neocon “inside job” and that is served as a pretext to start the GWOT.  However, it also had another very important role: it forced each public figure in the USA to chose one of two camps:

  • Be obedient and accept the (terminally idiotic) conspiracy theory of the White House or
  • Lose your job, position, reputation and means of income.

Most, unsurprisingly, caved in and 9/11 ended “binding up together” the entire US ruling class.  That type of bond is the type criminal accomplices have: if one goes down, everybody goes down, hence the omertà around the topic of 9/11 even though it was proven by a preponderance of evidence and even beyond reasonable doubt that 9/11 was, indeed, an inside job.  After 9/11, true dissent was completely removed from the US political discourse.

By the way, something similar happened to Europe, except that the categories were somewhat different.  In Europe (I am talking about the real Europe, not the “enlarged” EU with eastern Europe included) there were real patriots in most countries.  Yes, the USA was the senior partner, but there were enough political leaders which were capable of saying “no” to the US and care for their national interests first (I think of Mitterrand and even Chirac here).  That generation of politicians and decision-makers gradually was replaced by a new generation of actors whose entire career plan was to unconditionally and fervently serve US interests, even at the expense of their own countries (Macron, Scholz).  And while I would not call EU politicians “Neocons”, I will say that they are the faithful, loyal, servants and slaves of the Neocons.

And, just as in the USA, the competent and patriotic decision-makers were replaced with ideological stooges who has zero expertise or honor, but whom the USA would support as “loyal servants”.  Opposition to US imperialism in Europe was relegated to a distant margins of public discourse.

I would argue that the 90s were the years of the absolute triumph of the Neocons who took total control of both the USA and the EU.

So what are Neocons really like?  First and foremost, they are extreme narcissists and, as is often the case with narcissists, their obnoxious self-worship, sense of entitlement and hatred of the “other” all come from a deep seated inferiority complex (believe me, they *knew* the contempt they were held in by the old generation of US decision makers, and they *knew* that they were seen as the “crazies in the basement”).  So besides being self-worshiping racist narcissists, they were also filled with resentment, a desire for revenge and a unbreakable “us vs them” mentality..

Also, and contrary to popular belief, they were not very smart (if only because being truly smart requires both humility and expertise, something the Neocons are totally devoid from).  In reality, the big competitive advantage of the Neocons over the “old guard” was not brains, but drive.  This is something we often observe in history: the folks who actually seize power are rarely the smartest ones, much more often you see folks with a tremendous ideological drive.  A perfect example?  The German Nazis.  Please name me one truly educated and smart Nazi!  Hitler?  Nope.  Himmler?  Nope.  Goering?  Nope. Speer, better, but he was not much of a Nazi to being with.  Hess?  Nope.  Karl Haushofer, Dietrich Eckart or Alfred Rosenberg?  Pheuleeze!  And I won’t even go into the true morons à la Streicher or Strasser.

Yet the Nazis not only took power in Germany, they managed to convert most of Europe (with shamefully little resistance!) to their idiotic ideology or their genocidal policies.  It is quite a testimony to the power of evil stupidity to see how eighty years later(!), the united West is now openly following the exact same policies as the Nazis did in their very short rule (the promised “thousand year Reich” turned out to last 12 years only!).

Finally, I have to mention one more thing: for the US Neocons the election of Trump was quite literally a slave revolt and a slap in the face.  While Trump proved to be sub-pathetic by any measure, the fact that a majority of US citizens were willing to prefer him to the “Neocon & Woke diva” Clinton was absolutely traumatic.  Having the total control of the three branches of government, AND the media, AND academia AND the financial sector gave the Neocons the illusion that they had finally “made it” and then suddenly, and pardon my French, the people of the USA send them a loud and heartfelt “f*ck you!” and voted for the one candidate which the Neocons had absolutely demonized.

This was perceived by the Neocons and their cohorts as a blasphemy, a sacrilege, an absolutely unacceptable “revolt of the serfs” and that is why the Neocons decided never EVER to allow such a thing to happen again (and we all know what they did next).

The bottom line is this: the USA faced a perfect storm:

  • A social model in which the Almighty Dollar decides of everything
  • The most formidable propaganda machine in history
  • A “old guard” ruling class too weak, cowardly, confused and (comparatively) poor to resist
  • A terminally corrupt Uniparty system which is easy to suborn
  • A society which does not instill the kind of demonic ideological fervor which Neocons are raised in, which makes non-Neocons easy prey for the Neocons.
  • A country and society in which the concepts “right” and “wrong” have become meaningless and have been fully replaced by “might makes right”, not just de facto, which already had been the case for centuries, but also de jure.

Add to this the (mistaken) notion that the US had won the Cold War and even the (even more mistaken) notion that the US had won WWII, and you have the narcissistic explosion we witnessed in the 90s.  And here is the irony: the flag-waving “patriots” which “support out troops” never realized that they were (and still are) being used by the Neocons which, in reality, are the *least* patriotic of any political force in the USA.

Again, 9/11 and the subsequent GWOT are a direct consequence of the pseudo-patriotic fervor which overcame the US society like a tsunami (the USA before 9/11 was a very, dramatically different, country form the post 9/11 USA).

This is all relevant to understand the current Neocon stance: while they have been successful in putting down the “revolt of the MAGA serfs”, Russia, which used to be run by arguably the most corrupt ruling class on the planet for decades (imho: from Krushchev on and including Eltsin) suddenly also revolted!

That was categorically unacceptable to the Neocons.

By the way, it is interesting to note that while now we have irrefutable evidence that Russia did not interfere with US electionsthe Neocons almost instinctively make a connection between the “revolting MAGA serfs” inside the USA and the “revolting Russian serfs” outside.  And, truth be told, I would argue that the people of the USA and the people of Russia have the exact same enemy.  The difference is that the US political system, a truly totalitarian system, cannot be subverted from the inside, but it can very much be defeated externally (if only because this system is BOTH non-viable – it is based on exploitation and imperialism – AND non-reformable – because it is absolutist in nature).

Fundamentally, the Neocon contempt, hatred and fear of Russia is no different than their contempt, hatred and fear of the “deporables”.  For those who view the world through an “us vs them” ideological prism all the “non-us” are dangerous “thems” which need crushing.

Conclusion: we have what we have

Andrei Martyanov is absolutely correct – the US is run by absolutely ignorant, incompetent and outright evil narcissists.  For such people, expertise is not at all a desirable trait, if anything, it is potentially very dangerous.  Loyalty, which in the Neocon context means “corruptibility”, is much more desirable.  One example to illustrate the point:

It was not enough for the Neocons to take control of US think tanks and academia.  Even RAND, AEI, CSIS & Co. was “too scary” for them, hence their own creation of the so-called “Institute for the Study of War” which is not an institute and which does not study anything, least of all, wars (Neocons have zero military expertise).  And now even Russian (!!!) sources refer to the “studies” of this “institute” as something credible.  Such is the power of the media.

Which is hardly surprising if we think of what kind of expertise modern does a journos have? At best, they are only actors.  At worst, clueless presstitutes.

Again, Martyanov is right, the overwhelming majority of the political commentators and talking heads out there get their “understanding” of war from Tom Clancy books, Hollywood propaganda movies and clever marketing by the US MIC and Pentagon.  At best, these journos can write summaries, find “angles”, including the obligatory “human interest” bull, and they have *access*.  But what  they don’t know, or even care, is that that access is granted only to the doublepluspoliticallycorrect journos.  Mostly, they have no morals at all and they don’t care.  They are in for the money, nothing else.  My only objection to the term “presstitute” is that is is very unfair to prostitutes (who, after all, usually DO deliver what they get paid for!).  Sadly, I can only agree with the French philosopher Alain Soral (who is being viciously persecuted for his views, but not “human rights” organization would ever dare to defend, if anything, they want him lynched!) who said that there are only two type of journos left: prostitutes and unemployed.

That is true of all of Zone A.

So no, as somebody who has seen all this from the inside (I had plenty of journalist friends, by the way, I know that world too), I can only fully confirm what Martyanov repeats over and over again: all of Zone A of 2023 is run by either the Neocons or their loyal servants, and the past 30 years or more have seen an absolutely epic, historical, cataclysmic brain drain form the western ruling classes.

One last thing: it gives me no joy to write the above.  Frankly, if it was just a purely internal US issue, I would not care very much (their country, their problem, their choice).  But that reality is the single biggest threat to our entire planet right now.  And it absolutely terrifies me when I see how few people out there understand and realize that Martyanov is quite correct.  And, for the record, there are plenty of topics in which Martyanov and I disagree, so I am not siding with him because I consider him a friend (which I do) or because he is my “maître à penser” (which I don’t).  No, I fully back him on this issue because for as long as the USA will be the proverbial “monkey with a (nuclear) hand grenade” the Neocons will continue to represent an existential threat to our planet.  And with the Neocons in total control of Zone A, that risk will remain with us until these crazies are sent back to some basement or they blow up the entire northern hemisphere.

Andrei

***

Okay, it still if Friday, so some music is in order (if only to lighten the mood!).  Today I want to share with you what I think was the best rock singer plus best rock guitarist in history, bar none.  I am talking about Ronnie James Dio and Richie Blackmore, of course, who both reached the peak of their creativity when the joined forces in the (alas short-lived) “Rainbow” group.  But, rather than post a few videos as usual, I will post three links:

The first two to their best best albums:

Rainbow Risinghttps://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6ogdCG3tAWjZkXZvDRPOfgOLgYU18MaC (playlist)

and

Rainbow On Stagehttps://youtu.be/O75GMtgl1l4 (single video)

And, finally, a rare but absolutely amazing concert of Rainbow in 1977https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYFAAfhX89-cwT7ejpxzy3AaTgoBS_8uR (playlist)

And, just as there can be no “Pink Floyd” without Roger Waters and there cannot be any “Deep Purple” without Richie Blackmore, there cannot be any real “Rainbow” without Ronnie James Dio.  It is too bad that Blackmore’s ego simply could not stand sharing the stage with a (actually small!) giant like Dio (who was also a very kind and gentle person, quite unlike Blackmore).  Their collaboration was short, but I do believe that it was the talented duo ever seen on a rock stage.  Enjoy!

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By the numbers: The de-dollarization of global trade

Data suggests that US dollar reserves in central banks are dwindling, as is the influence of the US on the world economy. This presents a unique opportunity for regional currencies and alternative payment systems to enter the vacuum.

January 13 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By F.M. Shakil

The imposition of US trade restrictions and sanctions against a number of nations, including Russia, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, and Syria have been politically ineffectual and have backfired against western economies. As a result, the US dollar has been losing its role as a major currency for the settlement of international business claims.

Because they do not adhere to the policies of the US and other western powers, over 24 countries have been the target of unilateral or partial trade sanctions. These limitations, nevertheless, have turned out to be detrimental to the economies of the Group of Seven (G7) nations and have begun to impact the US dollar’s hegemony in world trade.

In its space, a “new global commercial bloc” has risen to the fore, while alternatives to the western SWIFT banking messaging system for cross-border payments have also been created.

Geopolitical analyst Andrew Korybko tells The Cradle that the west’s extraordinary penalties and seizure of Russian assets abroad broke faith in the western-centric paradigm of globalization, which had been declining for years but had nonetheless managed to maintain the world standard.

“Rising multipolar countries sped up their plans for de-dollarization and diversification away from the western-centric model of globalization in favor of a more democratic, egalitarian, and just one – centered on non-western countries in response to these economic and financial disturbances,” he adds.

Dwindling dollar reserves  

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recorded a decline in central bank holdings of US dollar reserves during the fourth quarter of 2020—which went from 71 percent to 59 percent—reflecting the US dollar’s waning influence on the world economy.

And it continues to worsen: Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that the bank’s holdings of dollar claims have decreased from $7 trillion in 2021 to $6.4 trillion at the end of March 2022.

According to the Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER) report by the IMF, the percentage of US dollars in central bank reserves has decreased by 12 percent since 1999, while the percentage of other currencies, particularly the Chinese yuan, have shown an increasing trend with a 9 percent rise during this period.

The study contends that the role of the dollar is waning due to competition from other currencies held by the bankers’ banks for international transactions – including the introduction of the euro – and reveals that this will have an impact on both the currency and bond markets if dollar reserves continue to shrink.

Alternative currencies and trade routes

To boost global commerce and Indian exports, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) devised in July last year a rupee-settlement mechanism to fend off pressure on the Indian currency in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and US-EU sanctions.

India has recently concluded agreements for currency exchanges of $75.4 billion with the UAE, Japan, and various South Asian nations. New Delhi has also informed South Korea and Turkey of its non-dollar-mediated exchange rates for each country’s currency. Currently, Turkey conducts business utilizing the national currencies of China (yuan) and Russia (ruble).

Iran has also proposed to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) a euro-like SCO currency for trade among the Eurasian bloc to check the weaponization of the US dollar-dominated global financial system.

Mehdi Safari, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for economic diplomacy, informed the media earlier in June last year that the SCO received the proposal nearly two months ago.

“They must use multilateral institutions like BRICS and the SCO to this aim – and related ones, such as currency pools and potentially even the establishment of a new currency whose rate is based on a basket of their currencies, to mitigate the effects of trade-related restrictions,” Korybko remarked.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is being revived as a “sanctions-busting” project by Russia and Iran. The INSTC garnered renewed interest following the “sanctions from hell” imposed by the west on Moscow. Russia is now finalizing regulations that will allow Iranian ships free navigation along the Volga and Don rivers.

The INSTC was planned as a 7,200 km long multimodal transportation network including sea, road, and rail lines to carry freight between Russia, Central Asia, and the Caspian regions.

Ruble-Yuan Payment System

On 30 December, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held a video conference in which Putin reported that bilateral trade between the two countries had reached an all-time high with a 25 percent growth rate and that trade volumes were on track to reach $200 billion by next year, despite western sanctions and a hostile external environment.

Putin stated that there had been a “substantial growth in trade volumes” between January and November 2022, resulting in a 36 percent increase in trade to $6 billion. It is likely that the $200 billion bilateral trade target, if achieved by next year, will be conducted in Russian rubles and Chinese yuan, even though the details of the bilateral trade settlement were not specified in the video conference broadcast.

This is because Moscow and Beijing have already set up a cross-border interbank payment network similar to SWIFT, increased their gold purchases to give their currencies more stability, and signed agreements to swap national currencies in several regional and bilateral deals.

In addition, both Russia and China appear to have anticipated a potential US seizure of their financial assets, and in 2014 they collaborated on energy-centered treaties to strengthen their strategic trade links.

In 2017, the ruble-yuan “payment against payment” system was implemented along China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In 2019, the two countries signed an agreement to replace the dollar with national currencies in cross-border transactions and converted their $25 billion worth of trade to yuan (RMB) and rubles.

Independence from the dollar

This shift decreased their mutual reliance on the dollar, and currently, just over half of Russia’s exports are settled in US dollars, down from 80 percent in 2013. The bulk of trade between Russia and China is now conducted in local currencies.

Xinjiang in western China has also established itself as a key cross-border settlement center between China and Central Asia, making it a major financial hub in the region. Cumulative cross-border yuan settlement handled in Xinjiang exceeded 100 billion yuan ($14 billion) as early as 2013 and reached 260 billion yuan in 2018.

According to analyst Korybko, significant progress has been made in reducing reliance on the US dollar in international trade, but there is still much work to be done. He notes that the US is not likely to simply accept the challenges to its financial hegemony and is more likely to act to defend it.

“For this reason, it is expected that the US will try to enlist the support of key players by offering them preferential trade deals or the promise of such deals, while simultaneously stoking tensions between Russia, China, India, and Iran through information warfare and possibly threatening to tighten its secondary sanctions regime as ‘deterrence’.”

Eurasian Economic Union

Russia has been working to establish currency swap agreements with a number of trading partners, comprising the five-member Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), which includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

These agreements have enabled the Russian Federation to conduct over 70 percent of its trade in rubles and other regional currencies. With a population of 183 million and a GDP over $2.2 trillion, the EEU poses a formidable challenge to western hegemony over global financial transactions.

Iran and the EEU have recently concluded negotiations on the conditions of a free trade agreement covering over 7,500 categories of goods. When the next Iranian year begins on 21 March, 2023, a market with a potential size of 700 billion dollars will become available for Iranian goods and services.

BRICS is driving de-dollarization

The trend towards de-dollarization in international trade, particularly among the BRICS nations, has gained significant momentum in recent years – together they represent 41 percent of the world’s population, 24 percent of its GDP, and 16 percent of its commerce

In 2015, the BRICS New Development Bank, recommended the use of national currencies in trade. Four years later, the bank provided 25 percent of its $15 billion in financial assistance in local currencies, and plans to increase this to 50 percent in the coming years.

This shift towards de-dollarization is an important step for emerging economies as they seek to assert their role in the global economic system and reduce their reliance on the US dollar. While the adoption of de-dollarization may present some challenges and uncertainties, it is an important step towards a more diverse and balanced global economy.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

The 2023 War – ‘Setting the Theatre’

January 13, 2023

Source

Alastair Crooke

The China-Russia axis are lighting the fires of a structural insurrection against the West across much of the Rest of World. Its fires are aimed at ‘boiling the frog slowly’

A top US Marine General, James Bierman, in a recent interview with the Financial Times, explained in a moment of candour how the US is “setting the theatre” for possible war with China, whilst casually admitting as an aside, how US defence planners had been busy inside Ukraine years ago, “earnestly preparing” for war with Russia — even down to the “pre-positioning of supplies”, identifying sites from which the US might operate support, and sustain operations. Simply put, they were there,readying the battle space for years.

No surprise really, as such military responses flow directly from the core US strategic decision to actuate the 1992 ‘WolfowitzDoctrine’ that the US must plan and preemptively act, to disable any potential Great Power — well before it reaches the point at which it can rival or impair US hegemony.

NATO today has progressed to war with Russia in a battlespace, which in 2023, may or may not stay limited to Ukraine. Simply put the point is that the shift to ‘War’ (whether incremental or not) marks a fundamental transition from which there is no going back to ab initio — ‘war economies’ in essence, are structurally different to the ‘normal’ from which the West began, and to which it has grown accustomed over recent decades. A war society — even if only partly mobilised — thinks and acts structurally differently from peacetime society.

War is not about gentlemanly conduct… either. Empathy for others is its first casualty — the latter being a requirement for sustaining a fighting spirit.

Yet, the carefully curated fiction in Europe and the US continues that nothing really has, or will ‘change’: we are in a temporary ‘blip’. That’s all.

Zoltan Pozsar, the influential finance ‘oracle’ at Credit Suisse, has already made the point in his latest War and Peace essay (subscription only) that War is well underway – by simply listing the events of 2022:

  • The G7’s financial blockade of Russia (The West setting the battle space)
  • Russia’s energy blockade of the EU (Russia begins setting its theatre)
  • The U.S.’s technology blockade of China (America pre-positioning of sites to sustain operations)
  • China’s naval blockade of Taiwan, (China demonstrating preparedness)
  • The U.S.’s “blockade” of the EU’s EV sector with the Inflation Reduction Act. (The US defence planners preparing for future ‘supply-lines)
  • China’s “pincer movement” around all of OPEC+ with the growing trend of invoicing oil and gas sales in renminbi. (The Russia-China ‘Commodity Battlespace’).

This list amounts to one major geo-political ‘upset’ occurring, on average, every two months — moving the world decisively away from the so-called ‘normal’ (for which so many in the Consuming Class ardently yearn) to an intermediate state of War.

Pozsar’s list shows that the tectonic plates of geo-politics are seriously ‘on the move’ — shifts, which are accelerating and becoming ever more intertwined, yet that still remain far from arriving at any settled place. ‘War’ will likely be a major disruptor (at the very least), until some equilibrium is established. And that may take some years.

Ultimately, ‘War’ does make its impact on the conventional public mindset — albeit slowly. It seems to be fear of the impact on an unprepared mindset that is behind the decision to prolong Ukraine’s suffering, and thus trigger the War of 2023: An admission of failure in Ukraine is seen to risk spooking volatile western markets (i.e. higher interest rates for longer). And frank-talking represents a hard option for a western world — used to ‘easy decisions’, and ‘can kicking’ — to take.

Pozsar, being a finance guru, understandably is focussed in his essay on finance. But conceivably, the reference to Kindleberger’s Manias, Panics and Crashes is therefore not whimsical, but included as a hint to the possible ‘hit’ to the conventional psyche.

In any event, Pozsar leaves us four key economic takeaways (with brief comments added):

  1. War is history’s principle driver of inflation, and the bankruptcy for states. (Comment: war-driven inflation and Quantitative Tightening (QT) enacted to fight inflation, are policies working in radical opposition to each other. Central Banks’ role attenuates to supporting war needs — at the expense of other variables – in wartime.
  2. War implies an effective and expandable industrial capacity for producing weapons (rapidly), which, in itself, requires secure supply-lines to feed that capacity. (A quality which the West no longer possesses, and which is costly to recreate);
  3. Commodities which often serve as collateral to loans become scarce – and with that scarcity, show up as commodity ‘inflation’;
  4. And finally, War cuts new financial channels i.e. “the m-CBDC Bridge project” (see here).

The point needs underlining again: War creates different financial dynamics and shapes a different psyche. More importantly, ‘War’ is not a stable phenomenon. It can start with petty tit-for-tat strikes on a rival’s infrastructure and then — with every incremental ‘mission creep’ — slip along the curve towards full war. NATO is not just mission creeping in its war on Russia, it is mission jogging — fearing a Ukraine humiliation in the wake of the earlier Afghanistan débacle.

The EU hopes to halt that slide well short of full war. It is nonetheless a very slippery slope. The point of War is to inflict pain and attrit your enemy. To this extent it is open to mutation. Formal sanctions and caps on energy quickly metamorphose into the sabotage of pipelines or the seizure of tankers.

Russia and China however, are certainly not naïve, and have been busy setting their own theatre, ahead of a potential wider clash with NATO.

China and Russia can now claim to have built a strategic relationship, not only with OPEC+, but with Iran and key gas producers.

Russia, Iran, and Venezuela account for about 40% of the world’s proven oil reserves, and each of them are currently selling oil to China for renminbi at a steep discount. GCC countries account for another 40% of proven oil reserves — and are being courted by China to accept renminbi for their oil — in exchange for transformative investments.

This is a significant new battlespace being readied — ending Dollar hegemony through boiling the frog slowly.

The contesting party made the initial strike, sanctioning half of OPEC with those 40% of the world’s oil reserves. That thrust failed: the Russian economy survived — and unsurprisingly — the sanctions ‘lost’ those states to Europe, ‘handing them’ over instead to China.

China meanwhile is courting the other half of OPEC with an offer that is hard to refuse: “Over the next “three to five years”, China will not only pay for more oil in renminbi – but more significantly, ‘will pay’ with new investments in downstream petrochemical industries in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the GCC more broadly. It will, in other words, build out the successor generation economy” for these fossil fuel exporters whose energy sell-by date approaches.

The key point here is that in the future, much more ‘value-added’ (in the course of production) will be captured locally — at the expense of industries in the West. Pozsar cheekily calls this: “Our commodity, your problem… Our commodity, our emancipation”. Or, in other words, the China-Russia axis are lighting the fires of a structural insurrection against the West across much of the Rest of World.

Its fires are aimed at ‘boiling the frog slowly’ — not just that of the dollar hegemony, but also that of a now uncompetitive western economy.

Emancipation? Yes! Here is the crux: China is receiving Russian, Iranian and Venezuelan energy at a big 30% discount.Meanwhile, Europe still gets energy for its industry — but only at a big mark-up. In short, more, and occasionally all, product added-value will be captured by cheap-energy ‘friendly’ states, at the expense of the uncompetitive ‘unfriendlies’.

“China – the nemesis – paradoxically has been a big exporter of high mark-up Russian LNG to Europe, and India a big exporter of high mark-up Russian oil and refined products such as diesel – to Europe. We should expect more [of this in the future] across more products – and invoiced not just in euros and dollars, but also renminbi, dirhams, and rupees’ ‘, Poszar suggests.

It may not look so obvious, but it is a financial war. If the EU is content to take the ‘easy way’ out of its fall into uncompetitiveness (via subsidies to allow for high-mark-up imports), then as Napoleon once remarked when observing an enemy making a mistake: Observe silence!

For Europe, this means much less domestic production – and more inflation — as price inflating alternatives are imported from the East. The West taking the ‘easy decision’ (since its renewable strategy has not been well thought through), likely will find the arrangement to be at the expense of growth in the West — a course prefiguring a weaker West, in the near future.

The EU will be particularly hard-hit. It has elected to become dependent on US LNG, just at the moment that production from US shale fields has peaked, with what output there is likely ear-marked to the US domestic market.

Thus, as general Bierman outlined how the US prepared the battlespace in Ukraine, Russia and China and the BRICS planners have been busy setting their own ‘theater’.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be like it ‘is’: Europe’s stumble towards calamity reflects an embedded psychology of the Western ruling élite. There is no strategic reasoning, nor ‘hard-decisions’ being taken in the West at all. It is all narcissistic Merkelism (hard decisions postponed, and then ‘fudged’ through subsidy handouts). Merkelism is so called after Angela Merkel’s reign at the EU, where fundamental reform was invariably postponed.

There is no need for thinking-things-through, or for hard decisions, when leaders are held by the unshakable conviction that the West IS the centre of the Universe. It is sufficient to postpone, awaiting the inexorable to unfold itself.

The recent history of US-led forever-wars is further evidence of this western lacuna: These zombie wars drag on for years with no plausible justification, only to be unceremoniously dropped. The strategic dynamics were easier suppressed and forgotten however, when fighting insurgency wars — as opposed to fighting two well-armed, peer competitor-states.

The same dysfunctionality has been apparent in many slow-rolling western crises: Nevertheless, we persist… because protecting the fragile psychology of our leaders — and an influential sector of the public — takes precedence. The inability to countenance losing drives our élites to prefer sacrifice by their own people, rather than see their delusions exposed.

Hence, reality has to be abjured. So, we live a nebulous between-times — so much happening, but so little movement. Only when the outbreak of crisis can no longer be ignored — by even the MSM and Tech censors — might some real effort be made to address root causes.

This conundrum however, places a huge burden on the shoulders of Moscow and Beijing to manage the War escalation in a careful fashion — in face of a West for whom losing is intolerable.

De-dollarization: Slowly but surely

1 Jan 2023

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

What unites China and Russia in a trade/currency warfare against the US is the fact that they both oppose a unipolar world over a multipolar world.

It has been almost a year since the war in Ukraine began. Since then, talk of de-dollarization has picked up speed. Even prominent mainstream economists Galbraith (2022) and Eichengreen (2022) have joined the bandwagon, but they do not see an avalanche that could unseat the dollar yet, and rightly so, but as argued here, they do so for the wrong reasons.

Across the board, the mainstream peddles the point that the US financial market has depth that no other market has, and therefore, the dollar is irreplaceable. That is true for the moment. Where else can financial wealth be placed safely, traded and cashed in quickly other than the US market. I emphasized safely because such a market was not safe for confiscated Russian assets and it is proving to be unsafe for any would-be customer whose politics do not align with US imperial designs. Thus, the issue of depth and safety have subjective twists to them. Moreso, the occurrence of Russian asset seizure by Europe and the US begs the question: the financial market is deep for whom? 

Money, it ought to be remembered, is a social convention. It serves a function as a medium of exchange/reserve, as well as a savings medium. Money is also an idea (a form) with an aura whose very allure is to reproduce the social conditions for the creation of more money, through credit of course. Like all conventions, money also holds by some form of consensus. Any currency has to be recognized as value and it attains a status as a symbolic power by the knowledge people hold about it as both means of transaction and a social form. Of all the monies in circulation around the world, the dollar is unusual in the sense that it derives its legitimacy from the knowledge that the dollar is secure from many people of different nationalities around the globe.

The dollar and dollar instruments, like treasuries and bonds, are assumed risk-free. Pension funds for instance, which ensure against old age poverty, scramble to lodge in dollar assets that are set to grow and not lose but gain much value over time. People acknowledge that the dollar is a universal medium of exchange and savings, and such acknowledgment is the source of the power of the dollar. However, such common knowledge, which is the substance of dollar power, must also be constantly produced and reproduced. For that, there are theories that fit the bill.

For instance, instead of theorizing that money depends on real production capabilities, fiat money is said to depend on a capitalism of futurity and a tradability of debt. Although the US accounts for less than 20 percent of world output (production’s worth’, faith in the depth of its financial market and its credibility in the future as a state account for it covering the credit necessary for much of global transactions and savings.

Still, theories are pretty much ideological tools that show or hide some desired aspects of reality in order to serve the interests of different social groups. So, while it is true that the US nominally holds less than 20 percent of global output, much of global output depends on the US’ control of strategic resources and global chokepoints. These are delivered by the demonstrative power of its many military bases and capacity to destruct its foes.

As one can readily see, if the capacity to destruct and to infuse instability abroad are counted as production, then it is obvious that the US accounts for much more in production than the merely 20 percent it registers in its national accounts as GDP. Such a megalithic process is the true substance of the knowledge that upholds the dollar as the world reserve currency. It is this knowledge, reproduced on a global scale by the capacity to destruct, which is the real reason for the deep knowledge that props up the deep US financial market, as opposed to some hallucinatory moneyed economy whose debts are tradable, and it is the erosion of that capacity that is heralded by the rise of the multipolar world when Russia began its de-Nazification of Ukraine campaign. Changing that power structure behind the depth of US finance changes the acknowledgment that the US dollar is the sole undisputed universal currency on account of the universal power of the US. How so?

The resilience of Russia’s economy

When the Central Bank of Russia announced it pegged its national currency to gold, just a month after the conflict erupted, many saw the move as a blow to the dollar status quo – especially for the EU bloc, which heavily relied on Russia for supplies of cheap LNG. For them, it was out of the question to pay for oil in rubles. “We will not be blackmailed by Russia” to pay for gas in rubles, said Germany’s Finance Minister, Robert Habeck. In March 2022, US lawmakers introduced a bill to sanction Russian gold and then the EU followed suit. By June 2022, the Group of 7 agreed to implement a full-scale ban on the Russian gold market, completely sanctioning Moscow from exporting gold. By placing an embargo on Russia’s gold exports, freezing Russian assets and blocking Russian banks from using SWIFT, the West believed it could pressure Moscow. These sanctions against Russia threw Russia out of the dollar loop and were de-dollarizing Russia. The West was partially de-dollarizing the world by imposing more sanctions.  

Even though the sanctions did weaken the ruble at first, it did not take too long for the currency to rebound since many of the commodities Russia produces such as gas, wheat and fertilizers are priced in the ruble. In the span of ten months, the Ruble went from a volatile position in March to a stable currency by September. The ruble still stands stronger than pre-war levels, and as Russia keeps carrying out trade activities with third countries via new monetary channels, the situation of the ruble only serves to forecast that the crisis in Europe will exacerbate further and further. If anything, the fact that Russia still manages despite the sanctions proves that there is more to production estimated in dollar GDP to measure the real worth of an economy and its currency. It has become apparent that the commodity control-based standard of the dollar equally applies to the Ruble, which accounts for significant shares of wheat and oil. 

Furthermore, Russia’s new MIR payment system, which parallels SWIFT and MasterCard, said that by the end of September it issued more than 161 cards worldwide. By November, Russia decided to take a step further and called on all state members of the BRICS+ alliance to consider the possibility of establishing a single gold trade system. And just very recently, reports revealed that Russia was beginning to test international payments in digital currencies with companies. Unlike Iraq and Libya, and Venezuela, Russia is bigger and has proven resilient, especially with support from China. 

Getting ‘at’ China

Besides the vast amounts of money spent on financing Kiev, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself admitted that the war in Ukraine was a war ‘for’ the US. When he delivered an address at a joint session at the US Congress in December, he warned that if Russia were to win the war, the world order established by the US post-WWII would inevitably crumble – with it, the hegemony of the dollar. With China’s economy surpassing the US in real terms and commanding much of global production and trade, the possibility of an alternative financial system is around the corner – unless of course the balance of forces tilts in favor of the US as it defeats Russia in Ukraine and extends its hegemony to the Eurasian corridor.  

So what does the US really want with Russia? It wants Russia fragmented and China choked. China, Russia’s de facto ally, has been de-dollarizing its economy over the past decade. But that doesn’t necessarily imply both countries form ‘a bloc’ per se. Both Russia and China remain distinct governments with distinct policies and distinct ideologies. What really unites them in this trade/currency warfare is the fact that they both oppose a unipolar world over a multipolar world. They both want to develop at their own pace, their own way, without the interference of neoliberal or imperialist elements. In that sense, the conflict in Ukraine has a lot to do with China.

Even the most recent Pentagon defense strategy admits that Russia is not as threatening as China is, which it dubs as “the greatest security challenge for the US.” When that report was issued in October 2022, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that China “is the only competitor out there with both the intent to reshape the international order, and increasingly, the power to do so, while Russia on the other hand “can’t systematically challenge the US over the long term. But Russian aggression does pose an immediate and sharp threat to our interests and values.” Unlike the West, it took only seven decades for China to establish itself as a global superpower that has carried out the biggest poverty alleviation project in history.  It established such a record without enslaving or geocoding the planet and the environment.

Another important feature of the Chinese economy is the fact that it easily absorbs technologies from abroad and it’s good at meeting the standards of foreign markets. It’s a leading pioneer in a panoply of sectors which include space exploration, financial developments, medical advances, green technologies, urban construction, and military innovations. China’s economy is also relatively insulated from external shocks and capital flight by its non-convertible currency. It draws down on its massive currency reserves denominated in dollars – mainly US government debt – and invested in US treasury bonds, to protect against any short-term capital flow and to preserve the competitiveness of its own currency at times of crises. 

What really bothers the West is the fact that China was not only able to propel its entire population to higher standards of living, but it also assisted others in doing so. Through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China promoted infrastructural ventures in some of the world’s poorest economies in a way that complemented their productive assets in facilitating productivity, growth, and economic mobility. The Asian country has defied neoliberalism both as an ideology and as an economic policy by upholding its own brand of socialism based on “Chinese characteristics”.

As part of its commitment to the internationalism of Mao Zedong, China through the demonstration effect, exported that model based on an anti-imperialist and nationalist mode of development to countries of the Global South. Being the world’s largest trading country, the world’s largest exporter, and one of the world’s largest holders of US debt, China never forced anyone to borrow from it in order to financially enslave them and/or to finance its war effort. Adding all this to China’s defiance of abiding to western sanctions against Russia, and you will have Sino-Western relations hitting an all-time low – particularly in light of accusations that China helped Russia circumvent the effects of sanctions. 

Given the developmental trajectory of China’s growth, which is detached from militarism and built on a working-class-led resistance, it is rather an arithmetic certainty that China will never morph into a war-mongering nation. It simply does not depend on war to grow. Moreover, having itself been the target of imperialism for centuries is enough to suggest that China in no way intends to pursue such an agenda – but rather strives to resist it, as it always did. Its very existence as a powerful socialist nation is antithetical to the ideological, financial, and military dominance of the post-WW2 Western order.

This only adds to the reasons why the US has been recently waging a series of provocations against China, both economically and politically. On the economic front, the US constrained China from exporting semiconductors to western markets and suspended the transfer of chip technologies to China. It also plans to cut Huawei’s access to US banks over allegations that the company is engaged in “economic espionage” against the US. On the political front, there was the whole Taiwan fiasco which was short-lived after Tsai Ing-wen was humiliatingly defeated in Taiwan’s last election. 

China retaliates

At some point, it is only natural for China to retaliate. To strike back at the financial hegemon by decreasing the global demand for US dollars is one such measure of retaliation. China’s de-dollarization strategy can basically be summed up as follows: creating trade payment systems based on the national currencies of trading partners, dumping US treasuries, and breaking the petrodollar system while buying massive amounts of gold. 

It may be recalled that China stores a considerable portion of its surplus in US Bonds. The standard idea of weaponizing bonds is often reiterated in what pundits dub the ‘nuclear option’, a theory that supposes China could sell off all of its treasuries in an attempt to destabilize the American economy. But then again that seems like a mythical alternative, which is likely to harm everyone including China. The potential flooding of the global exchange market with billions of dollars of American debt may cause the price of US treasury bonds to decrease and reciprocally interest rates to increase. The interest rates on US treasury bonds are the benchmark for borrowing throughout the global economy. So, in case they are abruptly raised, this may precipitate another global slowdown. 

China, as well as others, seek a reasonable solution to the US debt problem and a transfer to a more representative multi-polar currency and world-saving medium. At some point in the past, China held $3 trillion in US debt. In October 2022, it recorded treasury holdings to a 12-year low below the $1 trillion mark. It has been slowly ridding itself of being indebted to the US in the US’s own currency.

Over fears that china will endure a fate similar to that of Russia, that it will lose all its assets and dollars in case tensions increase, China has resorted to converting its bonds into real assets and proceeded by investing them in the third world as a counter-hegemonical strategy. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is the gateway to transform US-denominated money capital into real capital. Whereas US imperialism is about the incapacitation and disempowerment of the developing world, the Chinese funded BRI, which turns Chinese saved US dollars into third world plans and equipment, turns US bonds into weapons against the US. 

Breaking the petrodollar system

While reducing transactions in dollars diminishes global demand for the dollar, China and others with trade surpluses need to save in US treasuries for lack of alternatives. Analytically, an alternative to the US savings instruments from a multi-currency saving bond is not difficult to envisage. In fact that is what John Maynard Keynes proposed at Bretton-wood in 1944, but the proposal was declined by the US. The alternative muti-national savings instrument would come as natural outcome of shifting balance of forces globally, especially as the principal strategic commodity, oil, becomes denominated in currencies other than dollars.

Xi’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia is one step towards provisioning an alternative oil payment system. The visit amounted to a diplomatic offensive and was hailed as a landmark event on the strengthening of Sino-Arab ties as on December 20, 2022, the Chinese head of state attended the first ever China-Arab state summit and delivered a key speech “underscoring the importance of carrying forward the spirit of China-Arab friendship featuring solidarity and mutual assistance, equality and mutual benefit, inclusiveness and mutual learning, and jointly building a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era.”

The move is clearly aimed at disrupting the petrodollar system, which has for the past 50 years upheld the US dollar as the sole currency to purchase oil. As is already known, the dollar-priced oil system is what redeemed the departure of the US from the gold standard in 1971. Being a source of energy upon which life depends, and a strategic commodity that accounts for about 20% of the global trade volume, having dollars is a prerequisite for an economy’s survival, and pricing the oil in dollars keeps the dollar high in demand. The more the US prints dollars to meet expanding trade demand, the more it could live off the rents of dollar seigniorage, or the ability to buy real assets from abroad with the credit it issues. No other empire in history enjoyed such privilege.

The modern imperial tributary system is that the US lends money in its own currency, and in return, it usurps the wealth produced by other nations. So when China says it wants to purchase oil using the Yuan and initiate separate deals, this means it is planning to lessen the global demand for the dollar, therefore lessen the capacity of the US to issue global credit, and hence, lessen its imperial rents.  

Gold is ok, but only partially

China has been hoarding much gold. It now has the highest gold reserves. For the first time since 2019, the central bank of China announced it increased its gold reserves with the purchase of 32 tons of gold in November, bringing the total up to 1980 tons amounting to $111.65 billion. Needless to say, the gold standard cannot supplant a fiat money system already based on commodities and production capabilities. However, having gold in addition to developing its own development bank and international lending institutions and payment system, China further securitizes its finance.  

Thus, gold demand in China is high because traders and investors consider the commodity as a buffer against extreme fluctuations and an effective store of value. The Chinese government monitors carefully the amount of gold that is brought in and out of the country. Being the biggest gold producer, China safeguards much of its gold production for itself. In addition, China intentionally uses the price arbitrage to get traders to purchase more gold from abroad. Most of that gold was purchased from the West, particularly the UK and the US, where gold is traded at a cheaper price. However, gold primacy alone is insufficient to create the acknowledgment of depth similar to that enjoyed by the US market.

Once more, that confidence in the dollar market is reproduced daily by the power of the US over strategic commodity channels around the world. The US is heir to the European colonial system and its control emerges from the transference between its physical and ideological powers. Therefore, gold alone is possibly only a gateway to dislodging a dollar system based on strategic commodity control.

The alternative to the US financial market is in the making

China has inked separate agreements, especially with Russia, with the aim of purchasing energy with a non-dollar currency. Though the de-dollarization of trade channels may achieve some results, one cannot deny the fact that the world still needs an alternative universal savings medium. On paper, designing a bond whose guarantors are the major powers is not a difficult task; however, such a task, if it were to materialize, undercuts the financial rents of US and US-associated elites.

A real de-dollarization requires a shift in the geopolitical context and an erosion of the consensus around the dollar. The war in Ukraine and the collapse of Europe augur the loss of the US and its dollar primacy. Unlike twentieth-century wars that caused the retreats of Europe to the benefit of the US, the current regression of Europe vis-à-vis Russia and China, also weakens the US. The case may be that the European working class, being more so a clone of capital than its antithesis, continues to self-harm at the behest of its bourgeoisie. It is then that the alternatives to the dollar and, more importantly, its bonds begin to take shape.

With 65 trillion dollars in off-balance sheet debts, and a CDO and Repo market rife with moral hazard, the chances of a major collapse are all too ominous. The transition will be gruesome given the fragile financial architecture. A smooth US debt workout is a must since the US is a huge net debtor in its own currency, which happens to be the world’s savings medium. Yet, the world must part with a system that pawns the future of man and nature by the power of the gun for the interests of so few. China and Russia have taken the bold decision to de-dollarize, to de-financialize wars and pollution and such must be the alternative for humanity.

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Michael Hudson gives an interview to a German magazine

December 16, 2022

Posted with the author’s permission

Boos German interview Dec 15 2022

Dear Prof Hudson,

Once again: Herzliche Grüße aus Berlin!

Last time we spoke for German print magazine “Four” in June. Right now I also work for MEGA Radio, a radio news station for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. We broadcast from Vienna and are located in Berlin, Bavaria and Austria.

Hereby I would like to invite you to another interview via ZOOM to record it for our radio program. It would be an update on our last interview. Maybe around 20-30 Minutes long.

See also our last talk: https://www.vierte.online/2022/06/03/ukraine-a-trojan-for-germanys-us-dependence/

I don’t know if that’s too short notice, but would you have time for such a conversation next week or the week after?

Otherwise, also at the beginning of January.

Here are my questions:

(1.) You made some predictions in our last interview for “Four” magazine which became true.

You talked about crisis for German companies in the production of fertilizer. This just hit the headlines weeks after our interview.

You also said: “What you characterize as “blocking Nord Stream 2” is really a Buy-American policy.” This now also became more than clear after the destroyed Nord Stream pipelines.

Could you comment that?

MH: U.S. foreign policy has long concentrated on control of the international oil trade. This trade is a leading contributor to the U.S. balance of payments, and its control gives U.S. diplomats the ability to impose a chokehold on other countries.

Oil is the key supplier of energy, and the rise in labor productivity and GDP for the leading economies tends to reflect the rise in energy use per worker. Oil and gas are not only for burning for energy, but are also a basic chemical input for fertilizers, and hence for agricultural productivity, as well as for much plastic and other chemical production.

So U.S. strategists recognize that cutting countries off from oil and its derivatives will stifle their industry and agriculture. The ability to impose such sanctions enables the U.S. to make countries dependent on compliance with U.S. policy so as not to be “excommunicated” from the oil trade.

U.S. diplomats have been telling Europe for many years not to rely on Russian oil and gas. The aim is twofold: to deprive Russia of its major trade surplus, and to capture the vast European market for U.S. oil producers. U.S. diplomats convinced German leaders not to approve the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and finally used the excuse of the NATO war with Russia in Ukraine to act unilaterally to arrange the destruction of both Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines.

(2.) For our audience, our listeners: In your new book “The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism, or Socialism”

You state that the world economy is now fracturing between two parts, the United States and Europe is the dollarized part.

And this Western neoliberal unit is driving Eurasia and most of the Global South into a separate group. You just stated this in an interview from November.

Could you explain this for our outlet?

MH: The split is not only geographic but above all reflects the conflict between Western neoliberalism and the traditional logic of industrial capitalism. The West has deindustrialized its economies by replacing industrial capitalism with finance capitalism, initially in an attempt to keep its wages down by moving abroad to employ foreign labor, and then to try and establish monopoly privileges and captive markets or arms (and now oil) and high-technology essentials, becoming rentier economies.

A century ago, industrial capitalism was expected to evolve into industrial socialism, with governments providing subsidized basic infrastructure services (such as health care, education, communication, research and development) to minimize their cost of living and doing business. That is how the United States, Germany and other countries built up their industrial power, and it also is how China and other Eurasian countries have done so more recently.

But the West’s choice to privatize and financialize its basic infrastructure, dismantling the role of government and shifting planning to Wall Street, London and other financial centers, has left it with little to offer other countries – except or the promise not to bomb them or treat them as enemies if they seek to keep their wealth in their own hands instead of transferring it to U.S. investors and corporations.

The result is that when China and other countries build up their economies in the same way that the United States did from the end of its Civil War to World War II, they are treated as enemies. It is as if U.S. diplomats see that the game is lost, and that their economy has become so debt-ridden, privatized and high-cost that it cannot compete, that it simply hopes to keep making other countries dependent tributaries for as long as it can until the game finally is over.

If the U.S. succeeds in imposing financial neoliberalism on the world, then other countries will end up with the same problems that the United States is experiencing.

(3.) Now the first terminals for LNG from the US are opened in Germany. How will this effect trade and interdependence / dependency between Germany and United States?

MH: The U.S. sanctions and destruction of Nord Stream 1 and 2 have made Europe dependent on U.S. supplies, at so high a cost of LNG gas (about six times what Americans and Asians have to pay) that Germany and other countries have lost their ability to compete in steel making, glass making, aluminum and many other sectors. This creates a vacuum which U.S. affiliates home to fill from their investments in other countries or even from the U.S. itself.

The expectation is that German and other European heavy industry, chemical and other manufacturing will have to move to the United States to obtain oil and other essentials that they are told not to buy from Russia, Iran or other alternatives. The assumption is that they can be blocked from relocating in Russia or Asia by imposing sanctions, fines and political meddling European politics by U.S. NGOs and National Endowment for Democracy satellites in, as has been the case since 1945. We can expect a new Operation Gladio to promote politicians willing to sustain this Global Fracture and the shift of European industry to the United States.

One question is whether Germany’s skilled labor will follow. That typically is what occurs in such situations. This kind of demographic shrinkage is what the Baltic states have experienced. It is a byproduct of neoliberal policies.

(4.) What is your view on the current military situation in the Russian/Ukrainian war?

MH: It looks like Russia will easily win in February or March. It probably will create a Demiliarized Zone to protect the Russian-speaking areas (probably incorporated into Russia) from the pro-NATO West in order to prevent sabotage and terrorism.

Europe will be told to continue to boycott Russia and its allies instead of seeking mutual gains by reciprocal trade and investment. The U.S. may urge Poland and other countries to “fight to the last Pole” or Lithuanian, emulating Ukraine. It will put pressure on Hungary. But most of all, it will insist that Europe spend an immense sum to re-arm, mainly with U.S. arms. This expense will crowd out social spending to help Europe cope with its spreading industrial depression or subsidies to revive its industry. So a militarized economy will become a rising overhead – while consumer and industrial debt increase, along with government debt.

As this occurs, Russia may demand that NATO roll back its borders to pre-1991 boundaries. That is the most likely flash point of conflict.

(5.) What is your view on the current financial situation in this war. The G7 and EU governments talk already about rebuilding and reconstruction of Ukraine after the war. What does this mean for Western businesses and finance capitalism?

MH: Ukraine hardly can be rebuilt. First of all, much of its population has left, and is unlikely to return, given the destruction of housing and infrastructure – and husbands.

Second, Ukraine is owned mainly by a narrow group of kleptocrats – who are trying to sell out to Western agricultural investors and other vultures. (I think you know who they are.)

Ukraine is already debt-ridden, and has become a fiefdom of the IMF (meaning in practice, of NATO). Europe will be asked to “contribute,” and the foreign reserves seized from Russia may be spent on hiring U.S. companies to make a financial killing rebuilding a pretense of an economy in Ukraine – leaving the country even more debt ridden.

A new Democratic Party secretary of state will echo Madeline Albright and say that the killing of Ukraine’s economy, children and soldiers “was all worth it” as the cost of spreading democracy U.S.-style.

(6.) I’ve read lots of background reports on the sanctions against Russia. It seems more and more the sanctions hit Russia hard, because they cannot produce all products, esp. technology, by themselves. On the other hand Russia have now more stable business and buyers with and in China, India.

What real effect do the sanctions have according to your analysis?

MH: The U.S. sanctions have turned out to be an unanticipated godsend for Russia. In agriculture, for instance, sanctions against Lithuanian and other Baltic dairy exports has led to a flowering of a domestic Russian cheese and dairy sector. Russia is now the world’s largest grain exporter, thanks to the Western sanctions that have had much the same effect as protective tariffs and import quotas of the sort that the United States used in the 1930s to modernize its agricultural sector.

If President Biden were a secret Russian agent, he hardly could have helped Russia more. Russia needed the economic isolation of protectionism, but was still too entranced by neoliberal free-trade policy to do this by itself. So the U.S. did it for it.

Sanctions oblige countries to become more self-reliant, at least in basic needs such as food and energy. This self-reliance is the best defense against U.S. economic destabilization to force regime change and similar compliance.

One effect is that Russia will need to buy much less from Europe even after the fighting in Ukraine ends. So there will be less need for Russia to export raw materials to Europe. It can work these up themselves. The industrial core that was Europe may end up more in Russia and its Asian allies than in the United States.

That is the ironic result of NATO’s new Iron Curtain.

(7.) How would you describe China, Russia and India: Do you see Industrial Capitalism or Socialism there?

MH: RIC was the original core of the BRICS, now greatly extended to include Iran and much of Central Asia and the roads involved with China’s Belt and Road initiative. The goal is for Eurasia no longer to have to rely on Europe or North America.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld often referred to “Old Europe” as a shrinking dead zone. It failed to follow its plans a century ago to evolve into an increasingly socialized economy with government subsidy of rising living standards and labor productivity, science and industry. Europe rejected not only Marxism but the basis of Marxist analysis in the classical economics of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and their contemporaries. That path has been followed in Eurasia, while the right-wing anti-government liberalism of the Austrian and Chicago Schools has destroyed the NATO economies from within.

As the locus of industrial and technological leadership moves eastward, European investment and labor probably will follow.

The Eurasian countries will still visit Europe as tourists, as Americans like to visit England as a kind of theme park of post-feudal gentry, the posting of the palace guards and other quaint memories of the days of knights and dragons. European countries will look more like that of Jamaica and the Caribbean, with hotels and hospitality becoming the main growth sectors, with Frenchmen and German waiters dressed in their quaint quasi-Hollywood costumes. Museums will do a thriving business as Europe itself turns into a kind of museum of post-industrialism.

(8.) Currently we saw the collapse and bankruptcy of the crypto exchange FXT. The management of this company seems to be highly criminal. How do you judge that?

MH: Crime is what made crypto a growth sector for the past few years. Investors bought crypto because it is a vehicle for the fortunes being made in international drug dealing, the arms trade, other crime and tax evasion. These are the great post-industrial growth sectors in Western economies.

Ponzi schemes often are good investment vehicles in their take-off stage – the pump-and-dump stage. It was inevitable that criminals would not only use crypto to transfer funds, but actually set up their own currencies “free of oppressive government regulation.” Criminals are the ultimate Chicago School free market libertarians.

Anyone can create their own currency, much as U.S. wild-west banks did in the mid-19th century, printing currency at will. When one went shopping in the early 20th century, the stores still had lists of the shifting valuations of various bank notes. The best designed ones tended to be the most successful.

(9.) Do you have any knowledge about business relations between FTX and Ukraine, the government in Kyiv? There were some rumours and press articles in the alternative media about it?

MH: The IMF and Congress have paid large amounts of money to the Ukraine government and its kleptocrats in charge. Newspapers report that much of this money has been turned over to FTX – which has become the second largest funder of the Democratic Party (behind George Soros, who also is said to be trying to buy up Ukrainian assets). So a circular flow seems to be at work: U.S. Congress votes for funding for Ukraine, which puts some of this money in FTX crypto to pay or the political campaign of pro-Ukrainian politicians.

(10.) Some months ago there were articles in the US press about plans by the FED: They are planning to establish a digital Dollar, a Central Bank Digitcal Currency (CBDC). Also in Europe ECB president Madame Lagarde and the German minister for finance, Lindner, talk about an introduction of the digital Euro.

Here in Germany some critical experts are warning this will only push the total surveillance of the population and customers.

What is your take on digital currencies?

MH: It’s not my department. All banking is electronic, so what does “digital” mean? To libertarians, it means no government oversight, but in government hands, the government will have a record of everything that anyone spends.

(11.) What is your view on the current weakness or strength of the US dollar, the Euro, the British Pound, Gold and Silver?

MH: The dollar will remain in demand, thanks to its success in making the Eurozone dependent on it. The British pound has little means of support, and little reason for foreigners to invest in it. The euro is a junior satellite currency to the dollar.

Without a dollar or other currency to hold their monetary reserves in, governments will continue to increase the proportion held in gold, because it doesn’t have government liabilities attached to it – so U.S. officials can’t simply grab it, as they did with Russia’s foreign reserves. Eurozone countries cannot be trusted not to follow U.S. orders to grab foreign countries’ reserves, so it will be shunned.

As the euro’s exchange rate declines against the dollar, foreign investment will decline, because investors will not want to invest in (1) a shrinking market, and (2) companies that earn domestic euros that are worth fewer and fewer dollars or other hard currency for head offices.

Of course, gold will have to be kept at home, so that it can’t simply be grabbed, as the Bank of England grabbed Venezuela’s gold and gave it to the right-wing U.S. proxy. Germany would be wise to accelerate its airlift of its own gold supply from the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank vaults in New York City.

(12.) What is your current analysis of the energy and financial crises in the world?

MH: No real crisis as much as a slow crash. Rising prices paid for what America exports: oil, food and IT monopoly goods, with living costs for consumers rising faster than wages. So there will be a tightening squeeze or most families. The middle class will discover that it really is the wage-earning class after all, and will go deeper into debt – especially if it tries to protect itself by taking out a mortgage to buy a home.

I’ve been studying the 11th and 12th centuries for my history of debt, and I came across a story that may have relevance to the questions that you’ve asked. NATO keeps claiming that it is a defensive alliance. But Russia has no desire to invade Europe. The reason is obvious: No army can invade a major country. More important, Russia does not even have a motive to destroy Europe as a U.S.-puppet adversary. Europe already is self-destructing.

I am reminded of the battle of Manzikert in 1071, when the Byzantine Empire lost to the Seljuk Turks (largely because its general on whom the emperor had depended, Andronikos Doukas, defected, and then overthrew the Emperor. Crusade of Kings, a game supplement, covers the battle extensively, and claims the following conversation took place between Alp Arslan and Romanos:[52]

Alp Arslan: “What would you do if I were brought before you as a prisoner?”

Romanos: “Perhaps I’d kill you, or exhibit you in the streets of Constantinople.”

Alp Arslan: “My punishment is far heavier. I forgive you, and set you free.”

That is the punishment that Europe will receive from Eurasia. Its leaders have made their choice: to be a U.S. satellite.

The Global South births a new game-changing payment system

November 30, 2022

by Pepe Escobar, first published at The Cradle and posted with the author’s permission

Challenging the western monetary system, the Eurasia Economic Union is leading the Global South toward a new common payment system to bypass the US Dollar.

The Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) is speeding up its design of a common payment system, which has been closely discussed for nearly a year with the Chinese under the stewardship of Sergei Glazyev, the EAEU’s minister in charge of Integration and Macro-economy.

Through its regulatory body, the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), the EAEU has just extended a very serious proposal to the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) which, crucially, are already on the way to turning into BRICS+: a sort of G20 of the Global South.

The system will include a single payment card – in direct competition with Visa and Mastercard – merging the already existing Russian MIR, China’s UnionPay, India’s RuPay, Brazil’s Elo, and others.

That will represent a direct challenge to the western-designed (and enforced) monetary system, head on. And it comes on the heels of BRICS members already transacting their bilateral trade in local currencies, and bypassing the US dollar.

This EAEU-BRICS union was long in the making – and will now also move toward prefiguring a further geoeconomic merger with the member nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The EAEU was established in 2015 as a customs union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, joined a year later by Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Vietnam is already an EAEU free trade partner, and recently enshrined SCO member Iran is also clinching a deal.

The EAEU is designed to implement free movement of goods, services, capital, and workers between member countries. Ukraine would have been an EAEU member if not for the Maidan coup in 2014 masterminded by the Barack Obama administration.

Vladimir Kovalyov, adviser to the chairman of the EEC, summed it all up to Russian newspaper Izvestia. The focus is to establish a joint financial market, and the priority is to develop a common “exchange space:” “We’ve made substantial progress and now the work is focused on such sectors as banking, insurance, and the stock market.”

A new regulatory body for the proposed joint EEU-BRICS financial system will soon be established.

Meanwhile, trade and economic cooperation between the EAEU and BRICS have increased 1.5 times in the first half of 2022 alone.

The BRICS share in the total external trade turnover of the EAEU has reached 30 percent, Kovalyov revealed at the BRICS International Business Forum this past Monday in Moscow:

“It is advisable to combine the potentials of the BRICS and EAEU macro-financial development institutions, in particular the BRICS New Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as well as national development institutions. This will make it possible to achieve a synergistic effect and ensure synchronous investments in sustainable infrastructure, innovative production, and renewable energy sources.”

Here we once again see the advancing convergence of not only BRICS and EAEU but also the financial institutions deeply involved in projects under the China-led New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Halting the Age of Plunder

As if all that was not game-changing enough, Russian President Vladimir Putin is raising the stakes by calling for a new international payment system based on blockchain and digital currencies.

The project for such a system was recently presented at the 1st Eurasian Economic Forum in Bishkek.

At the forum, the EAEU approved a draft agreement on cross-border placement and circulation of securities in member states, and amended technical regulations.

The next big step is to organize the agenda of a crucial meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council on 14 December in Moscow. Putin will be there – in person. And there’s nothing he would love more than to make a game-changing announcement.

All of these moves acquire even more importance as they connect to fast increasing, interlocking trade between Russia, China, India, and Iran: from Russia’s drive to build new pipelines serving its Chinese market – to Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan discussing a gas union for both domestic supplies and exports, especially to main client China.

Slowly but surely, what is emerging is the Big Picture of an irretrievably fractured world featuring a dual trade/circulation system: one will be revolving around the remnants of the dollar system, the other is being built centered on the association of BRICS, EAEU, and SCO.

Pushing further on down the road, the recent pathetic metaphor coined by a tawdry Eurocrat boss: the “jungle” is breaking away from the “garden” with a vengeance. May the fracture persist, as a new international payment system – and then a new currency – will aim to halt for good the western-centric Age of Plunder.

The Middle East and US global power: Fossil Fuel- Lifeblood of the American Empire

November 22, 2022

Source

by Phillyguy

Summary

Among all of the events shaping post-civil war US economic development, one of the most prominent was the establishment of Standard Oil by John D. Rockefeller in 1870. Working with other US industrialists, along with domestic and international financial and banking interests, including the Rothschild’s London banking cartel, Standard oil decedents have dominated the fossil fuel industry and shaped US economic and social development and foreign policy to the present day.

Introduction

The current world security architecture arose following WWII, which established the US as the dominant global power. Since that time, US global supremacy has rested on unrivaled military and economic power, control of world’s energy reserves (primarily in the Middle East), and maintaining the dollar as the world’s reserve currency [1]. There has been much current discussion about promoting ‘green’ policies, including sustainable development and increasing the use of renewable energy sources, clearly articulated during the UN Conference on Environment and Development (aka ‘Rio Conference’; ‘Earth Summit’), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Jun 3-14, 1992) [2], and Greta Thunberg’s speech to the UN on Sept 23, 2019 [3], where she accused world leaders of failing younger generations by not taking more aggressive actions to stop climate change. Despite this push for Green policies, fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) are still the dominant source of energy, currently supply over 80% of the world’s energy [4]. In addition, the dollar (aka ‘petrodollar’) is the primary reserve currency held by foreign central banks [5] and main currency used for commercial energy transactions [6] [7].

In 1863 John D. Rockefeller joined Maurice B. Clark and Samuel Andrews in an oil-refining business in Cleveland, Ohio, which was subsequently expanded and incorporated as Standard Oil of Ohio in 1870. Rockefeller was a shrewd and aggressive industrialist, acquiring additional refining capacity by “buying up and squeezing out of rivals by every device at hand—legal or illegal’ and as a result, Standard Oil would soon control over 90% of American oil refining capacity. Facing increasing resistance from the business community and the Ohio legislature, Rockefeller incorporated the Standard Oil Trust in New Jersey in 1982. This Trust consisted of seven subsidiaries- Standard Oil of Kentucky, Standard Oil of California, Standard Oil of New York, Standard Oil of New Jersey, Standard Oil of Indiana, The Standard Oil Co (Ohio) and The Ohio Oil Company. In Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States (1911), the US Supreme Court found the Standard Oil Trust guilty of engaging in anti-competitive practices, a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, breaking the company up into 34 separate entities, some of which the Rockefellers held major stakes [8] [9]. Ironically, decades after the Standard Oil Trust was ‘broken up’, these separate firms would subsequently merge into Chevron [10], ExxonMobil [11], British Petroleum (BP) [12] and Marathon [13], which are currently among the top 10 global energy companies [14]. The Rockefellers reach was vast- David Rockefeller, grandson of John D. Rockefeller, was Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations (1970-1985) and Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank (1969–1981) [15] [16].

The geographic location of the US, circa 8000 km (5000 miles) from major war theaters in Europe and 9700 km (6000 miles) in Japan shielded the US from the massive devastation that took place in Europe and Asia during WWII. As a result, many large US corporations were able to profit handsomely by supplying the War Department with fuel, aircraft, ships, motor vehicles, armaments and ammunition to equip American soldiers and allied forces. Some of these firms were working both sides of the conflict, supplying Nazi Germany with financial backing and war material; some of these firms include Alcoa, Brown Brothers Harriman, Coca-Cola, Dupont, Kodak, Chase Bank, Dow Chemical, Ford, IBM, General Electric, General Motors, Woolworth, Random House and Standard Oil [17]. Prescott Bush, father of George HW Bush (41st President) and grandfather of George W. Bush’s (43st President), was a partner of A. Harriman & Co Investment bank and later served as Senator from Connecticut (1952-1963). Prescott Bush was directly involved with companies that profited from their commercial involvement with Nazi Germany [18] [19]. It should be pointed out the WWII is the most expensive war in American history, costing taxpayers more than $4 trillion, adjusted for inflation [20].

To the victor go the spoils

The US emerged from WWII as the world’s foremost military and economic power, the dollar was anointed the status of world reserve currency at the Bretton Woods Conference (1944) and established as the primary currency used for energy transactions following the meeting between US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Saudi King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, aboard the USS Quincy, in the Suez Canal on Valentine’s Day, 1945 [21].

Post-WWII US economic development saw the continued rise of the American economy which translated into robust corporate profits and better living standards for many working people. In 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act (aka National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956) described as the ‘Greatest Public Works Project in History’, allocating $25 billion (circa $274 billion in inflation- adjusted dollars) from taxpayers to develop a 41,000-mile system of interstate highways that Eisenhower promised would eliminate unsafe roads, inefficient routes and all of the other things that got in the way of “speedy, safe transcontinental travel.” [22] [23]. The Highway act would enrich the ‘pro-highway coalition of energy companies, automobile manufactures, truckers, bus operators, tiremakers, insurance companies, auto clubs, etc. It directly led to increased use of private automobiles for transportation and the systematic dismantling of energy- efficient public transportation, creation of suburbs, shopping centers, ‘strip malls’, and proliferation of McDonald’s and other ‘fast-food’ outlets, which have led to the current health crisis in the US- increased obesity, type II diabetes and related health problems [24] [25]. In addition, some of these highways were literally built through urban neighborhoods and frequently minority communities [26] [27], such as the Cypress Freeway in Oakland, CA, I95 in Chester, PA and the Cross Bronx Expressway in NYC [28] [29].

As a result, the functioning of the American economy and society has become very dependent on fossil fuel consumption (for more detail see [30]).

1. Energy consumption & generation– the US has 4.25% of world’s population (339 million people) but consumes ~17% of the world’s energy and has the highest per capita energy consumption and is the largest total energy consumer. In 2021, approximately 60% of US electricity was generated from fossil fuels- coal, natural gas and oil [31].

2. Suburban development– as described above, passage of the Highway act of 1956 [22], accelerated the development of low-density housing suburbs, which were only accessible by automobiles using fossil fuel.

3. Transportation– The average American relies on energy-inefficient automobiles and jet airplanes for transportation. Most US cities lack a comprehensive, energy-efficient public transportation system. Indeed, the US does not have 1 mile of high-speed rail lines. By contrast, China has 40,000 km (24,855 mi), Spain has 3,100 km (1,926 mi) and Japan has 2,830 km (1758 mi) of high-speed rail.

4. American agriculture is very energy-intensive, requiring 15 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food. The average food commodity transits 1500 miles from production to consumption point- e.g., California-grown produce, shipped to the US east coast, usually via diesel fueled trucks.

5. Information technology– US society is heavily reliant on information flow. This system encompasses local computers, the internet and fiber optic cables serving as data pipelines, computer server farms and “cloud” storage facilities, all of which consume lots of electricity.

6. Military– The Pentagon is the largest single consumer of fossil fuel and polluter in the world. To give this some perspective, on average, the US military consumes 12,600,000 gallons (48,000,000 L) of fuel per day. One F-16 fighter jet consumes over 20K gallons of Kerosene per hour (333 gal/min) [32].

American capitalism is dependent on fossil fuel consumption to function and serves as the lubricant for American power projection around the world. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have approximately 57% and 41% of proven oil and natural gas reserves, respectively (see Table 1 and [33]). Thus, it is not surprising that the US ruling elite have a major interest in this region and the energy reserves therein [34]. US attempts to control oil in the MENA region has been carried out in several ways. This has involved setting up client regimes in countries with vast energy deposits, such as the Gulf monarchies in the Persian Gulf (Figure 1), attacking and/or invading countries who attempt to follow an independent energy policy, such as Iraq and Libya or issuing frequent verbal threats, seizing assets and imposing economic sanctions on countries that the US has been unable to achieve regime change or are capable of defending themselves, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran [35] and Venezuela.

As part of this effort, the US has set up military bases in multiple ME countries including Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Turkey (Türkiye), UAE and Syria (See Figure 1 and Table 2) [36]. Due to its geographic location, Israel is crucial to US foreign policy goals. The ‘state’ of Israel/Zionist project was the creation of British imperialism (Balfour Declaration, 1918) [37], was driven, at least in part, by the desire of the British ruling elite to establish a reliable (read non-Muslim) proxy force that would assist the UK in controlling the region and its abundant hydrocarbon reserves [38]. The US emerged from WWII as the world’s leading military and economic power and assumed the role of Israel’s benefactor, providing $152 billion since 1949; $3.8 billion in 2020 [39] [40]. While Israel does not host a formal US base, she is a de facto appendage of the Pentagon, is fully integrated into NATO and serves as a reliable and well-armed US proxy in the region [41] [42], ranking 18th in global military power [43]. Israel conducts regular attacks on Syria [44] and estimated to have a stockpile of circa 90 nuclear weapons (likely a low estimate).

This effort has become all the more urgent as: the Russia-China-Iran axis has attained economic and military parity with the West, Iran is now a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) [45], has applied for membership to the BRICS [46] and recently announced that it has developed a hypersonic missile, that is ‘capable of penetrating all defense systems’ [47]. One would infer that Iran received technical help developing this weapon system. As Iran’s ties with Russia and China continue solidifying, they are becoming increasingly ambivalent about rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA; aka Iran nuclear deal) [46], which was negotiated during the Obama Administration [48]. Trump unilaterally exited the JCPOA in 2018, stating ‘We cannot prevent an Iranian bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement’ [49].

We hear a lot about ‘Green’ energy, the ‘Green new deal’, reducing our ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘sustainable development’, policies which are being promoted by a wide range of extremely committed environmental and conservation groups such as the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Clean Air Council in the US and many international organizations and prominent politicians. ‘Green’ polices have been promoted by US Vice President Kamala Harris, encouraging Americans to purchase [expensive] electric cars and endorsed by the paper of record (NYT) and other corporate media outlets. Any policy that reduces the production of ‘greenhouse’ gasses, such as CO2, is certainly a noble and worthwhile objective, that should be supported. Unfortunately, most of these groups, at least in the US, where I live, are missing the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’. This includes:

1. The entire structure of American society has been built around fossil fuel consumption. This includes the use of automobiles and jet airplanes for transportation. The profits of very powerful corporate interests, including energy corporations, automobile manufactures and their suppliers, banks and insurance companies and law firms to name a few, are highly dependent on fossil fuel consumption and ‘greenhouse’ gas production. They are not about to give this up without a big fight, including going to war.

2. The military is a key pillar of a [declining] American empire, with the Pentagon serving as the ‘enforcer’ of US global power, but is also the largest of consumer of fossil fuels and largest polluter in the world [32]. The Pentagon is supported by all factions of the ruling elite, readily apparent from the near-unanimous bipartisan support for every military appropriation in Congress (appropriation for 2023 is $773 billion). Not surprisingly, most environmental groups, which are dependent on funding from corporate-backed foundations, such as the Ford Foundation, Home Depot Foundation, etc. [50] are not going to ‘bite the hand’ that feeds them. Likewise, US corporate media is controlled by 6 large corporations whose class interests reflect those of the petrochemical companies and other large corporations [51] [52] [53]. Any reporter who steps out of line- i.e., criticizes the functioning of the US empire, including fossil fuel consumption, is immediately reprimanded and/or fired. 1) Reporter Emily Wilder was fired from AP because she had posted pro-Palestinian material on social media [54]. 2) In 1996, investigative reporter Gary Webb published a series of articles entitled ‘Dark Alliance’ in the San Jose Mercury News, linking the crack cocaine trade in Los Angeles with the Nicaraguan Contra rebels and the CIA. Not surprisingly, Webb’s story was met with outrage by MSM outlets such as the LA Times and Washington Post. Webb committed suicide in 2004 [55].

Concluding remarks

The survival of the American Empire is highly dependent on fossil fuel consumption and control of global energy reserves. This dependency has created irresolvable problems and led to a chaotic and at times, contradictory foreign policy. While there has been a lot of ‘whining’ about energy prices in the US and EU, the oil industry is reaping record profits. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter levied a “windfall” profits tax on the American oil industry in response to increasing gas prices and corporate profits [56]. While these taxes have had mixed results, no doubt a result of aggressive industry lobbying, there has been little discussion of taxing high corporate profits at the present time. Indeed, petrochemical industry profits were barely addressed in the recent US ‘midterm’ elections, as many candidates receive campaign contributions from energy companies. Fossil fuels still dominate US foreign policy. This can be seen from the enduring presence of military bases throughout the ME and maintaining generous financial support for Israel and the ruling families of Gulf Monarchies [57]. At the same time, these ruling families have watched the US/UK/NATO ferment coups in Iran (1953) [58] [59] and steal resources, invade and/or destroy Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen; impose crippling economic sanctions and/or confiscate the assets of countries deemed a threat to US global power such as Iran, Venezuela and Russia and sabotage energy infrastructure (see below). Not surprisingly, KSA and other Gulf Monarchies have been reaching out to Russia and China; multiple reports indicate that KSA is ‘eager’ to join the BRICS Bloc [60]. No doubt, this was a motivation for President Biden’s trip to KSA in July of this year, meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) at Al-Salam Palace in the Red Sea port of Jeddah. On Nov 18, the State Department recommended that MBS be granted ‘legal immunity’ for the brutal assassination of Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on Oct 2, 2018 [62] [63]. It should be noted that while campaigning for President, then candidate Joe Biden stated: he would “cancel the blank check” the Trump administration had given Saudi Arabia during its war in Yemen and during a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) that “America’s priorities in the Middle East should be set in Washington, not Riyadh” and advocated making Saudi Arabia an international “pariah” for butchering Jamal Khashoggi [61]. Rhetoric notwithstanding, Biden’s polices towards the MENA region are largely a continuation of those of Trump and the ruling elite they represent. Biden has not rejoined the JCPOA and has continued Trump’s bellicose position towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. The US continues supporting Israel, the US Embassy in Israel remains in Jerusalem (Al-Quds in Arabic), which is not Israeli land and thus, a blatant violation of International law [64], US troops remain in Iraq and Syria while the Pentagon continues assisting KSA in their genocidal war on Yemen [65]. Trump continues his financial dealings with KSA, recently signing a $1.6 billion deal with a Saudi real estate developer [66]. It will be interesting to see how the US reacts when KSA joins BRICS [67].

On Sept 26, 2022, Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, carrying natural gas from Russia to Germany, under the Baltic Sea were blown up [68] [69]. Shortly after the explosions, erstwhile British Prime Minister Liz Truss allegedly sent a message to US Sec of State Anthony Blinken stating ‘it’s done’ [70]. While the actual perpetrators of this attack have not been identified, it is likely that the US at a very minimum was aware of this action, as pointed out by Professor Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University) during a Bloomberg interview [71]. The end result is that Germany and other countries in the EU will no longer have access to cheap and plentiful Russian energy, but will now be forced to purchase much more expensive liquified natural gas from the US or other countries. It should also be noted that nearly 8 decades following the conclusion of WWII, the Pentagon maintains circa 900 foreign military bases worldwide [72] [73]. Europe is still occupied by circa 100K troops [74], 35K in Germany alone [75]. Thus, Germany is not really a US ‘ally’ but rather a subordinate. This begs the question; will Germany and other countries in the EU continue serving as de facto US vassals or begin following a more independent foreign policy? One could argue their very survival as functional states depends on this.

Notes

1. US economic decline and global instability. The Saker Blog Jan 19, 2021; https://thesaker.is/us-economic-decline-and-global-instability/

2. UN Conference on Environment and Development (aka ‘Rio Conference’, ‘Earth Summit’), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Jun 3-14, 1992); https://www.un.org/en/conferences/environment/rio1992

3. Read climate activist Greta Thunberg’s speech to the UN By Gretchen Frazee PBS News Hour Sep 23, 2019; https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/read-climate-activist-greta-thunbergs-speech-to-the-un

4. World Energy Balances: Overview (2020); https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-balances-overview/world

5. The International Role of the U.S. Dollar by Carol Bertaut, Bastian von Beschwitz and Stephanie Curcuru US Fed Reserve Oct 6, 2021; https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/the-international-role-of-the-u-s-dollar-20211006.html

6. What Is the Petrodollar? Petrodollar Explained in Less Than 5 Minutes By Kimberly Amadeo. the balance June 4, 2022; https://www.thebalancemoney.com/what-is-a-petrodollar-3306358

7. US economic decline and global instability Part 3: Money printing, debt and increasing international isolation. The Saker Blog Oct 31, 2022; https://thesaker.is/us-economic-decline-and-global-instability-part-3-money-printing-debt-and-increasing-international-isolation/

8. How Rockefeller Built His Trillion Dollar Oil Empire. By Jeremy Dyck Oct 8, 2019;

9. John D. Rockefeller and the Oil Industry- John D. Rockefeller changed the oil industry forever with his company Standard Oil. but that was by no means the only interesting thing about him. By Burton W. Folsom Foundation for Economic Education Sat Oct 1, 1988; https://fee.org/articles/john-d-rockefeller-and-the-oil-industry/

10. Chevron; https://www.chevron.com

11. ExxonMobil; https://corporate.exxonmobil.com

12. British Petroleum (BP); https://www.bp.com

13. Marathon Oil; https://www.marathonoil.com

14. Top 20 Oil and Gas Companies in the World in 2021; https://www.visualcapitalist.com/ranked-the-largest-oil-and-gas-companies-in-the-world

15. David Rockefeller Sr., steward of family fortune and Chase Manhattan Bank, dies at 101 By Timothy R. Smith Washington Post Mar 20, 2017; https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/david-rockefeller-sr-steward-of-family-fortune-and-chase-manhattan-bank-dies-at-101/2017/03/20/f2385f8a-0d7c-11e7-ab07-07d9f521f6b5_story.html

16. JPMorgan Chase & Co: Who We Are/History Of Our Firm; https://www.jpmorganchase.com/about/our-history

17. Top 10 American Companies that Aided the Nazis. By Dustin Koski Feb 18, 2016; https://www.toptenz.net/top-10-american-companies-that-aided-the-nazis.php

18. How Bush’s grandfather helped Hitler’s rise to power- Rumors of a link between the US first family and the Nazi war machine have circulated for decades. Now the Guardian can reveal how repercussions of events that culminated in action under the Trading with the Enemy Act are still being felt by today’s president By Ben Aris and Duncan Campbell The Guardian Sat Sep 25, 2004; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar

19. The Holocaust and the Bush family fortune Bill Van Auken Dec 5, 2018; https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/12/05/intr-d05.html

20. The Cost of U.S. Wars then and now. By Norwich University Online Oct 20th, 2020; https://online.norwich.edu/academic-programs/resources/cost-us-wars-then-and-now

21. ORDER FROM CHAOS- 75 years after a historic meeting on the USS Quincy, US-Saudi relations are in need of a true re-think By Bruce Riedel Brookings Mon Feb 10, 2020; https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/02/10/75-years-after-a-historic-meeting-on-the-uss-quincy-us-saudi-relations-are-in-need-of-a-true-re-think/

22. History of the Interstate Highway System; https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/interstate/history.cfm

23. The Interstate Highway System History.Com Jum 7, 2019; https://www.history.com/topics/us-states/interstate-highway-system

24. Tabish SA. Is Diabetes Becoming the Biggest Epidemic of the Twenty-first Century? Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2007 Jul;1(2): V-VIII;

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068646/

25. Obesity? Diabetes? We’ve been set up By Alvin Powell Harvard Gazette Mar 7, 2012; https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/03/the-big-setup/

26. A Brief History of How Racism Shaped Interstate Highways By Noel King NPR Apr 7, 2021; https://www.npr.org/2021/04/07/984784455/a-brief-history-of-how-racism-shaped-interstate-highways

27. How Interstate Highways Gutted Communities—and Reinforced Segregation

America’s interstate highway system cut through the heart of dozens of urban neighborhoods. By Farrell Evans History.com Oct 20, 2021; https://www.history.com/news/interstate-highway-system-infrastructure-construction-segregation

28. Robert Moses’s Negative Impacts By SAFAA Feb 7, 2018 BY SAFAA; https://eportfolios.macaulay.cuny.edu/alonso2018/2018/02/07/robert-mosess-negative-impacts/

29. The Cross Bronx Expressway and the Ruination of the Bronx By lbennett Nov 10, 2019; https://pages.vassar.edu/realarchaeology/2019/11/10/the-cross-bronx-expressway-and-the-ruination-of-the-bronx/

30. War Essay- The consequences of nuclear war on US society The Saker Blog Jan 13, 2019; https://thesaker.is/war-essay-the-consequences-of-nuclear-war-on-us-society/

31. Electricity in the United States US Energy Information Administration;

https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/electricity/electricity-in-the-us.php

32. Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change and the Costs of War By Neta Crawford Watson Institute June 12, 2019; https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2019/Pentagon%20Fuel%20Use,%20Climate%20Change%20and%20the%20Costs%20of%20War%20Final.pdf

33. How Much Oil in the Middle East? By Rasoul Sorkhabi, Ph.D. GoExPro Vol. 11, No. 1 – 2014; https://www.geoexpro.com/articles/2014/02/how-much-oil-in-the-middle-east; iea; https://www.iea.org/regions/middle-east

34. Michael Hudson: A New Bipolar World. US finance capitalism vs. China’s mixed public/ private economy Nov 7, 2022; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_zY44YClCY

35. Missiles of Iran- Iran possesses the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the Middle East, with thousands of ballistic and cruise missiles, some capable of striking as far as Israel and southeast Europe. CSIS Aug 10, 2021; https://missilethreat.csis.org/country/iran/

36. US military bases and facilities in the Middle East. American Security Project https://www.americansecurityproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Ref-0213-US-Military-Bases-and-Facilities-Middle-East.pdf

37. Balfour Declaration History.Com Aug 21, 2018; https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/balfour-declaration

38. More than a century on: The Balfour Declaration explained. More than 100 years since Britain’s controversial pledge, here is everything you need to know about it. By Zena Al Tahhan Aljazeera Nov 2, 2018; https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2018/11/2/more-than-a-century-on-the-balfour-declaration-explained

39. Israel-Gaza: How much money does Israel get from the US? BBC May 24, 2021; https://www.bbc.com/news/57170576

40. U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel: Total Aid (1949 – Present) Jewish Virtual Library;

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/total-u-s-foreign-aid-to-israel-1949-present

41. Towards a World War III Scenario? The Role of Israel in Triggering an Attack on Iran? Part II The Military Road Map By Prof Michel Chossudovsky Global Research, July 30, 2018; http://www.globalresearch.ca/towards-a-world-war-iii-scenario-the-role-of-israel-in-triggering-an-attack-on-iran-2/20584

42. Understanding NATO- Ending War By Robert J. Burrowes Economy and Politics June 8, 2019; https://www.meer.com/en/54967-understanding-nato

43. 2022 Military Strength Ranking; https://www.globalfirepower.com/countries-listing.php

44. Israeli Attacks Continue to Kill Syrians, Iranians. Southfront Nov 16, 2022; https://southfront.org/israeli-attacks-continue-to-kill-syrians/

45. Iran signs memorandum to join Shanghai Cooperation Organization. As leaders meet in Uzbekistan, the eight-member regional body is poised to add Iran to its ranks. Aljazeera Sept 15, 2022; https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/9/15/iran-signs-memorandum-join-shanghai-cooperation-organisation

46. India, China, Iran: the Quad that really matters By Pepe Escobar Nov 15, 2022; https://thesaker.is/russia-india-china-iran-the-quad-that-really-matters/

47. Iran claims it has developed a hypersonic missile CBS News Nov 10, 2022;

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/iran-claims-it-has-developed-a-hypersonic-missile/

48. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at a Glance. Kelsey Davenport, Director of Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association Mar, 2022;

https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/JCPOA-at-a-glance

49. Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, explained. The Iran nuclear deal isn’t dead — yet. By Zack Beauchamp Vox May 8, 2018;

https://www.vox.com/world/2018/5/8/17328520/iran-nuclear-deal-trump-withdraw

50. Society for Nonprofits; https://www.snpo.org/publications/fundingalert_bycategory.php?cs=ENVI

51. The 6 Companies That Own (Almost) All Media [INFOGRAPHIC]; https://www.webfx.com/blog/internet/the-6-companies-that-own-almost-all-media-infographic/

52. These 6 corporations control 90% of the media outlets in America- The illusion of choice and objectivity. By Nickie Louise Tech Startups Sept 18, 2020;

https://techstartups.com/2020/09/18/6-corporations-control-90-media-america-illusion-choice-objectivity-2020/embed/#?secret=bL4ldPvDPR

53. Index of US Mainstream Media Ownership- The Future of Media Project, Harvard University; https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/futureofmedia/index-us-mainstream-media-ownership

54. The Real Problem with the AP’s Firing of Emily Wilder- When one young journalist was fired, the incident revealed a problem deeper than bad social media policies. By Janine Zacharia May 26, 2021; https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/05/26/emily-wilder-fired-ap-490892

55. How the CIA Watched Over the Destruction of Gary Webb- Freshly-released CIA documents show how the largest U.S. newspapers helped the agency contain a groundbreaking exposé. By Ryan Devereaux The Intercept Sept 25, 2014; https://theintercept.com/2014/09/25/managing-nightmare-cia-media-destruction-gary-webb/

56. Windfall profit taxes have benefits. But the devil is in the details. In times of crisis, the U.S. government has taxed excess profits — with mixed results Perspective by Ajay K. Mehrotra Washington Post Oct 24, 2022; https://www.washingtonpost.com/made-by-history/2022/10/24/windfall-profit-taxes/

57. List of current monarchs of the Arabian Peninsula; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_monarchs_of_the_Arabian_Peninsula

58. The Collapse Narrative: The United States, Mohammed Mossadegh, and the Coup Decision of 1953. By Gregory Brew Texas National Security Review. Vol 2, Issue 4 Nov 2019 | 38–59; https://tnsr.org/2019/11/the-collapse-narrative-the-united-states-mohammed-mossadegh-and-the-coup-decision-of-1953

Stable URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.26153/tsw/6666

59. The CIA in Iran- Key Events in the 1953 Coup; https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/041600iran-coup-timeline.html?scp=1&sq=mossadegh%252520coup&st=cse

60. BRICS to expand soon, Saudi Arabia keen to join. BRICS represents more than 40 percent of the global population and nearly a quarter of the world’s GDP and if it is expanded it will help in bolstering the BRICS bloc’s global influence. By Huma Siddiqui Oct 27, 2022; https://www.financialexpress.com/defence/brics-to-expand-soon-saudi-arabia-keen-to-join/2737102/

61. Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia is the right thing to do, even if it feels wrong

The U.S. president has rightly come to the conclusion that a strategy of isolating the crown prince isn’t feasible. By Daniel R. DePetris NBC News July 15, 2022;

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/joe-biden-visits-saudi-arabia-bow-reality-rcna38419

62. U.S. declares Saudi crown prince immune from Khashoggi killing lawsuit

Biden administration cites executive powers, international law in shielding Mohammed bin Salman from legal responsibility. By Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan Washington Post Nov 18, 2022; https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/11/18/saudi-crown-prince-immunity-khashoggi-murder/

63. WaPo slams Biden’s move to shield MBS in Khashoggi killing suit. By Rebecca Falconer and Shawna Chen Nov 18, 2022; https://www.axios.com/2022/11/18/biden-admin-saudi-prince-immunity-khashoggi-killing-lawsuit

64. The Status of Jerusalem United Nations 1997; https://www.un.org/unispal/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/The-Status-of-Jerusalem-Engish-199708.pdf

65. Strategic Importance of the Indian Ocean, Yemen and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait Saker Blog Aug 5, 2020; https://thesaker.is/strategic-importance-of-the-indian-ocean-yemen-and-bab-el-mandeb-strait/

66. Trump family signs $1.6bn branding deal with Saudi real estate developer. Wed, Nov 16, 2022; https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2022/11/16/692846/US-Donald-Trump-Saudi-Arabia-Dar-Al-Arkan-deal-Oman-MbS-Biden-

67. The Roundtable #34 The Kherson Withdrawal with Gonzalo Lira, Brian Berletic and Andrei Martyanov Thurs, Nov 10, 2022; https://smoothiex12.blogspot.com/2022/11/roundtable.html

68. Who Attacked Nord Stream 2? Maybe it was Russia, though that doesn’t make much sense. There are better candidates. By Doug Bandow Cato Institute Oct 14,

2022; https://www.cato.org/commentary/who-attacked-nord-stream-2

69. A journey to the site of the Nord Stream explosions- Prosecutors in Sweden say explosions on a gas pipeline between Russia and Europe were the result of sabotage. The explosions in the Baltic Sea targeted pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Europe. Russia denies any involvement. Before the announcement, Katya Adler travelled to the site, and was separately told by Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg that the west could go to war if Russia attacked infrastructure providing critical energy supplies. By Katya Adler BBC News Nov 18, 2022; https://www.bbc.com/news/world-63636181

70. ‘It’s done’: Putin fumes after Liz Truss ‘message’ to Blinken over Nord Stream attack ‘revealed’ Hindustan Times Nov 4, 2022; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxzBqghRs5k

71. Jeffrey Sachs: Rest of the World Thinks the U.S. Probably Sabotaged the Nord Stream Pipeline, But it Doesn’t Show up in our Media By Tim Hains Real Clear Politics Oct 3, 2022; https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2022/10/03/jeffrey_sachs_most_of_the_world_doesnt_view_the_ukraine_war_the_way_the_us_media_does.html

72. A List of All 900 U.S. Foreign Military Bases. By Eric Zuesse Nov 18, 2022; https://theduran.com/a-list-of-all-900-u-s-foreign-military-bases/

73. USA’s Military Empire: A Visual Database. World Beyond War;

https://worldbeyondwar.org/no-bases/

74. US likely to keep 100,000 troops in Europe for foreseeable future in face of Russian threat, US officials say By Ellie Kaufman and Barbara Starr, CNN Fri May 20, 2022; https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/20/politics/us-troops-in-europe/index.html

75. Where 100,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Europe. By Zachary Basu Axios Mar 22, 2022; https://www.axios.com/2022/03/23/where-100000-us-troops-are-stationed-europe

Figure 1. Map of the Middle East

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Maps_of_the_Middle_East#/media/File:%22Political_Middle_East%22_CIA_World_Factbook.jpg

Table 1. Middle East Energy Reserves by Country

(TJ, tera joules; 1 TJ= 163 barrels of oil)

Source: iea; https://www.iea.org/regions/middle-east

CountryOil (TJ)Natural Gas (TJ)
Iran3,497,3477,738,423
KSA5,624,3503,357,725
Iraq1,626,278626,792
UAE190,4002,302,508
Qatar131,2591,599,572
Kuwait705,461846,450
Oman23,864957,632
Bahrain81,132563,867
Total12,477,03318,260,133

Table 2. US Military Bases and Facilities in Middle East [36]

*Numbers in parenthesis, estimated total number of US troops (thousands) deployed in each country; ** Estimated number of US troops (thousands)

Country*BaseTroops**
Bahrain (9K)US Naval Forces Central Command/ US 5th Fleet4.7
Shaikh Isa Air Base
Muharraq Air Base (Navy)
Iraq (2.5K)Al Asad Air Base
IsraelDimona Radar Facility
Mashabim Air Base / Bisl’a Aerial Defense School
JordanMuwaffaq Salti Air Base (Azraq)
Kuwait (13.5)Ali Al Salem Air Base1.5
Camp Arifjan9
Camp Spearhead Army Base
Camp Buehring
Camp Patriot3
Oman (<1K)RAFO Masirah
Muscat International Airport
RAFO Thumrait
Al-Musannah Air Base
Port of Duqm
Port of Salalah
Qatar (10K)Al Udeid Air Base- Special Operations Command Central10
Camp As Sayliyah
KSA (3K)Eskan Village
Turkey (5K)Incirlik Air Base5
Izmir Air Station
UAE (2K)Al Dhafra Air Base2
Port of Jebel Ali
Fujairah Naval Base
Syria (<0.2K)Al-Tanf garrison (ATG)

The collective West might be losing the war with Eurasia

November 10, 2022

Source

by Francis Lee

‘’You can’t always get what you want.’’
Courtesy of the Rolling Stones

This aptly sums up the Eurozone/East-Asian/US relationship: In short US hegemony. Suffice it to say that – of all people, Leon Trotsky writing in, (War – In the International 1933) – opined … ‘’That prior to WW2 the US was Europe’s debtor but now Europe was relegated to the background. The United States is the principal factory, the principal depot and the Central Bank of the world.’’

US Ascendency in the 20th Century.

This much was self-evident, and true enough, but in any case, America’s hegemony over Europe long pre-dated WW2 and actually later grew larger with the addition of ex Eastern European states which had been formerly part of the Soviet sphere of influence. Western Europe had willy-nilly long since been subordinated to the USA. A while later (1946) the Americans gave the British short shrift reminding them that they would have to adjust to the post-war realities and take the medicine – the American loan, as Michael Hudson explains.

‘’In effect the Sterling Area was to be absorbed into the Dollar Area, which would be extended throughout the world. Britain was to remain in a weak position in which it found itself at the end of WW2, with barely any free monetary reserves and dependent on dollar borrowings to meet its current obligations. The United States would gain access to Britain’s pre-war markets in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Far East. This first loan on the post-war agenda – which President Truman announced in forwarding it to Congress would set the course of American and British economic relations for many years to come. Truman was well aware of the change of fortunes for the UK, for the Anglo-American Loan Agreement spelled the end of Britain as a great power.’’(1)

Sometime later and under the changed geopolitical and economic conditions President Richard Nixon and his economist acolytes placed their chief diplomat, Henry Kissinger, in charge of arrangements to put in place a policy to keep the Europeans subordinate and while they were at it to simultaneously endeavor to put a limit on Japanese expansion.

Then came the big game-changer: Gold was officially delinked from the US$ in August 1971. Nixon’s currency reforms – were designed among various other decisions and also generally aimed at European and Japanese interests. It should be noted that Japan did not play any political role at all but simply followed in America’s wake, as she invariably did in economic and even political matters since.

This unilateral decision by the Americans to deprive paper money from convertibility into gold was enough to tip the Europeans into disorder and turbulence. For all their protestations of loyalty in Europe, the leaders of each country feverishly groped for an outcome that answered their own interests. However still licking their wounds, and for all their weakness, the Europeans still constituted a new and serious – although declining – rival for God’s own People, American capitalism-imperialism, which says a lot about how far the former had slid down the slippery-slope.

Nixon conferred the job of curbing his ‘partners’ newly aroused appetites and steering them towards their own backyard to his man (and enforcer) Henry Kissinger. Kissinger was to read the riot act and inform these uppity Euro-elites that it was the US which was taking centre stage whilst the Europeans were just the supporting artists. Kissinger didn’t mince words with his global minions.

‘’The US has global interests and global responsibilities ‘’ the enforcer-strategist declared, ‘’Our allies have regional interests’’. Having thus put the Europeans in their place, Kissinger acknowledged that the US interests diverged ‘’with the new weight and strength of our allies …’’ But he firmly advised these allies: ‘’ That the gradual accumulation of sometimes petty, sometimes major economic disputes must be ended … A new equilibrium must be achieved in trade and monetary relations.’ Then he called upon the leaders of both Europe and Japan to subordinate their economic interests to these political considerations, organized and directed, of course, by the USA. Under the pressure of these scarcely veiled American threats, the Europeans were meant not just to bury the hatchet over a potential trade-war, but were in addition, and above all, expected to share the ballooning costs of global hegemony.’’ (2) In the popular vernacular of the time, Kissinger ‘socked it’ to the Europeans.

Suffice it to say the Europeans and, a fortiori, both the Japanese and South Koreans had since become thoroughly Americanized and house-trained. Most pathetically in the case of Japan’s geographical position which successfully made it into a long-term prisoner of the United States. The success of Japan’s industrial development and export drive so impressive at the time of comparison with competition with Europe and the United States, did not in any way guarantee that it would move into a hegemonic position. Investment in Japan’s trade surplus in the US always struck the reader as being rather overvalued and in a somewhat geopolitical weak position. Japan, economic giant, political pigmy.

Certainly, the East Asian producers and to a lesser degree the EU are still in a position of American dominance, both politically and strategically, to the United States. And most everyone knows this. In point of fact:

‘’The US economy lives like a parasite on its ‘partners’ in the global system, with virtually no national savings of its own. The World produces whilst North America consumes. The advantage of the United States is that of a predator whose deficit is covered by what others agree or are forced to contribute. Washington uses various means to make up for its deficiencies: for example, repeated violations of the principles of liberalism, arms exports, and the hunting down of oil super-profits (which involves the periodic felling of the producers: one of the real motives of the real war in Central Asia and Iraq). But the fact is that the bulk of the American deficit is covered by capital inputs from Europe and Japan, (and even) China and the global South including rich oil-producing countries and comprador classes from all regions, including the poorest, in the Third World – to which should be added the debt-service levy that is imposed on nearly every country in the periphery of the global system. The American super-power depends from day to day on the flow of capital which sustains the parasitism of its economy and society. The vulnerability of the US therefore represents a serious danger to the American project. (3)

It should be understood that the American possession of the US$ can enable them to simply finance their imports by issuing US paper dollars, or US Treasuries – not gold. That job goes to the man at the gold window of the Fed, who will simply give you more ‘paper assets’ -Treasuries and dollar bills – when you trade in your surplus dollars or gold. A neat trick, and very successful. This ‘exorbitant privilege’ as was articulated by the French politician Valery Giscard D’Estaing was a rent-free arrangement between the US and its ‘allies’ (sic).

This ‘long century’ has been a period of a long-term geo-political dominance by the Atlanticist bloc led by the United States and its global institutions – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) which has been a fait accompli. These two institutions were initially set up during the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, principally by the US but with the UK in tow. These two world economic pillars were to serve as vehicles to open up trade and financial markets to US exporters, and to enable US investors to buy control of natural resources and industry. This set the rules for Europe and other regions to subsequently join these two institutions, leaving no practical alternative means of organizing world trade and investment. The World Bank’s policies included opposing land reform and organizing loans mainly to create infrastructure linked largely to exports, not to create self-sufficiency. The aim was to lock in foreign dependency on US farm exports and other essentials.

The role of the IMF has been to all intents and purposes a financial vehicle – which due to its organizational structure and an inbuilt voting system which guarantees a majority on every occasion – has been a stranglehold of voting power over its allies and also is able to withhold credits from recalcitrant countries. Dollar credit is used as a lever to indebt foreign countries and force them to adopt ‘’free market’’ deregulation and tax policies which serve US interests.

‘’The broadest step in this strategy of underdevelopment is to use IMF pressure to turn public infrastructure into privatized monopolies by forcing their sell-off to raise money to settle trade and balance of payments deficits. (4) This was broadly in step with the classical phase of imperialism (1800-1950) based upon the division between industrialized cores and non-industrialized peripheries and a related tendency to reduce the latter to a colonial or semi-colonial status, and (5) the post-war phase (1950-1980) involved the victory of national liberation movements – China, Vietnam – in south east Asia and the middle-east – still ongoing – enabled the peripheries to impose a revision of the old asymmetrical terms of the global system and to enter into the industrial age. This period of negotiated globalization was exceptional, and it is interesting to note that the world then experienced growth that was the strongest known in history as well as the least uneven in terms of the distribution of what was produced and distributed

But whisper it softly there has occurred a slow geopolitical burn which is now not easily snuffed out and which goes from strength to strength. This emerging bloc of independent Eurasian states led in the main by Russia and China and organized in the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-China-India-SouthAfrica) and Shanghai Corporation Organization (SCO) represent an alternative system to the glaring global level of inequality and stands out like a beacon of light against the parasitism and orthodoxies of laissez-faire extractive capitalism/imperialism.

In more general terms Michael Hudson lays out a precis of a choice between the two alternatives. As follows:

‘’Finance capitalism is de-industrializing the US economy and that of its allied NATO satellites. The Destiny of Civilization explains that the resulting international diplomacy is not a competition for markets (as the Western Economies are already deindustrializing as a byproduct of financialization and capital’s war against wage labour), nor a conflict between democratic freedom and authoritarianism, but rather a conflict of economic systems juxtaposing the rentier economics of debt-deflation and austerity to socialist state-subsidized growth protecting the 99% by keeping the 1% in check.’’ (6)

APPENDIX

I would go further into the work of Freidrich Engels in his description of ‘Condition of the Working Class in England 1844’. Where he writes his journey particularly in Manchester in the north of England as well as other cities.

‘’A horde of ragged women and children swarm about here, as filthy as the swine, they thrive upon the garbage heaps and in the puddles. In short, the whole rookery (slum housing) furnishes such a hateful and repulsive spectacle as can hardly be equaled in the worst court of the Irk. The sub-human race that lives in these ruinous cottages, behind broken windows, mended with oilskin, sprung doors, and rotten door posts, or in the dark, wet, cellars, in measureless filth and stench, in this atmosphere penned in as if with a purpose, this race must have nearly reached the lowest stage of humanity … But what must one think when he hears in at each of these pens, containing at most 2 rooms, a garret and perhaps a cellar, where on the average twenty human beings live; that in the whole region for which 120 persons one usually inaccessible privy (toilet); and that in spite of all the preaching’s of the physicians, and also in spite of the wretched conditions into which the cholera epidemic which plunged the sanitary police …

Engels goes on and on until it becomes virtually impossible and painful to read further. Yet this is the condition of those poor wretches in today’s third world who live among the conditions in Bangladesh or the Cameroons or Bolivia or Liberia, or Senegal! Or wherever. The World has a long way to go.

(1) Super-Imperialism – Michael Hudson – Quoted in Gardner Ibid. p.208

(2) The text of Kissinger’s speech on US relations in Europe was published in the New York Times – 24/04/1973

(3) Beyond US Hegemony – 2006 – Samir Amin – p.12

(4) The Destiny of Civilization 2022– Michael Hudson – p.53

(5) Ibid. – Samir Amin 2006 – p.12

(6) The Destiny of Civilization – Michael Hudson – p.283.

The Real Progressive interview of Michael Hudson (with transcript!)

November 08, 2022

RP Live with Michael Hudson: The Destiny of Civilization

Real Progressive webinar Sept 2022

Graphical user interface, text Description automatically generated

Intro

[00:00:06] Luke Parcher: All right. For those who might not know me, I’m Luke Parcher, I’m a student and activist. I volunteer with Real Progressives. I’m on our leadership team and I also do a show on Sundays covering politics and current events, and I do some interviews throughout the week and things which you guys can find on Real Progress in Action.

I want to quickly talk about Real Progressives. If you’re interested in learning more about us, you can go to realprogressives.org. We have articles, content, podcasts, all sorts of things. And if you’re interested in helping us out, we are a nonprofit. You can go to realprogressives.org/donate. I also want to plug our founder and CEO, Steve Grumbine’s shows. He does the Rogue Scholar on YouTube on Real Progress in Action. He also does the Macro N Cheese podcast, where you can find our guest today, Michael Hudson, as one of many fantastic guests on that podcast.

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce our guest today. Michael is an economist, a professor of economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He’s also a researcher at the Levy Institute at Bard College. He’s a former Wall Street analyst, political consultant, and commentator and author. Michael, thank you so much for taking the time.

[00:01:06] Michael Hudson: Well, thanks for inviting me.

Question | Luke Parcher

[00:01:08] Luke Parcher: I wanted to kick things off for the first question. The title of your book is The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism, or Socialism.

Can you just explain how you came to such an all-encompassing title?

[00:01:20] Michael Hudson: Well, the world economy is now fracturing between two parts, the United States and Europe is the dollarized part. And this Western neoliberal unit is driving Eurasia and most of the Global South into a separate group. The conflict really is between finance capitalism in the United States and Europe against other countries – China, Russia, Iran, India – that are following the more traditional ethic and strategy of industrial capitalism.

The question is: how are countries going to be economically planned? Because every economy is planned by somebody. In the United States, the central planning has been taken out of the hands of government and put in Wall Street. In the City of London. A very rightwing philosophy. In other countries, there is a mixed economy – China and the rest of Eurasia – and their objective of planning and money creation and credit is to create industrial capital to create the means of production.

Obviously, also environmental cleanup now, not merely the means of production but an overall economic system, not simply to make fictitious capital, finance capital, without any reference to the industrial capital base, the earning of labor and industry together.

So there are two economic philosophies and I began the book by contrasting the dynamics of industrial capitalism with finance capitalism. And industrial capitalism in the United States, Germany, England, and every country where it took off, was to promote a public investment in basic infrastructure monopolies in transportation, communication, education, healthcare.

The idea is that if the government would provide these basic services and basic human rights at subsidized rates – or freely, as in the case of education and healthcare – then employers would not have to pay labor a high enough basic wage to make labor pay for healthcare – as in the United States where 18% of GDP is for healthcare – or to pay for education, the 1.7 trillion that goes for student debt in the United States, not mentioning the education that is not debt-financed.

Finance capitalism basically sought to break away all of the public infrastructure. Most financial fortunes and financial fortunes in history were made just in the way that Zola had described, by prying thefts from the public domain.

But the financial capitalism doesn’t say… You don’t have to steal it; you actually make it your policy, giving away the financial domain in the way that President Yeltsin gave away all of Russia’s natural resources, public utilities, electric companies, anything that yields an economic rent that can be just easy income without any investment. And you financialize it.

You’ve had, for the last – really since the 1980s, but even since World War 1 – this movement to prevent industrial economies from being low cost. But the objective of finance capitalism, contrary to what’s taught in the textbooks, is to make economies high cost, to raise the cost every year.

That actually is the explicit policy of the Federal Reserve in the United States. Turn over the central planning to the banking system to essentially inflate the price of housing, with government guaranteed mortgages, up to the point where buying a home is federally guaranteed up to absorbing 43% of the borrower’s income.

Well, you take that 43%, you take the wage withholding for social security and healthcare, you take the taxes; the domestic market shrinks and shrinks. And the finance capital strategy is exactly what it is in the United States today, in Europe. Shift all of the money away from the profits of industrial capital that are reinvested in making new means of production. To expand capital into a shrinking economy where the financial sector intrudes more and more into the economy of production and consumption and shrinks the economy.

The rest of the book all spells out how this transformation from industrial capitalism to finance capitalism occurred and how the fight between the United States and Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, and India – it’s really a conflict of economic systems. There’s no rivalry because they’re not trying to do the same thing. The objectives of the U.S. and Europe are completely different from the economic objectives of Eurasia. It’s a war of economic systems. And that’s why the United States is trying to prevent other countries from following the same path to industrial prosperity that made the United States, Germany and other countries originally rich.

So you have on the one hand a high productivity, high standard of living economy that used to be in the West and is now in Eurasia, as opposed to an economy of austerity planned by the IMF and central banks, as you’re finding in Europe.

Question | Virginia Cotts

[00:06:38] Luke Parcher: Fantastic. Thank you for that. First here we have Virginia Cotts, one of the people helping us backstage, has a question – if Virginia wants to come on screen and ask.

[00:06:47] Virginia Cotts: Michael, I’m not an economist. Can you explain debt deflation – but also how debt siphons money away from the real economy.

I once heard you say that the finance sector is the overhead of the real economy. I think these questions are related? If you could explain that.

[00:07:09] Michael Hudson: Well, the classic discussion of debt deflation was in Volume 3 of Capital, by Marx. And Marx said that debts tend to grow by compound interest.

He gave a citation of everybody from Martin Luther onwards about how any interest rate is a doubling time, it doubles in a given number of years. And it grows exponentially in an up-curve, like X equals Y squared. But the economy grows in the shape of an S-curve; it tapers off.

And one of the reasons that it tapers off in the business cycle is that as the cycle gains momentum, people go further and further into debt. And if you have to pay debt to a banker, if you have to pay student loans, if you have to pay credit card debt, if you have to pay mortgages on rising house prices, then the money you pay to the banker is not available to be spent on goods and services.

So as you have the debt ratio growing in every economy, that crowds out the ability to spend your income on goods and services. So right now many graduate students – you graduate from school, you have a student debt, and you have to live at home with your parents because you can’t get a mortgage to buy a house because the banks say, “Well, you’re already paying so much of your income for student debt that you don’t have any money left over to buy a mortgage, so you can’t buy a mortgage.”

Right now, you’re having the debt-ridden American economy being squeezed. More and more money is paid, not only for debt, but also for other overhead, like healthcare and various monopoly services that are not available to buy goods and services.

Debt deflation is when the growth of debt exceeds the rate of growth of the economy. And that’s true of every economy. The most sophisticated mathematical models that I’ve seen were the ones that were taught to every student in Babylon in 1750 BC.

We have the models that they were told. They say, how fast does a debt at the going rate of interest, at 20%, double? Well, it’s five years. How long does it take to redouble? Well, that’s 10 years. How long to quadruple? Well, that’s 15 years. You see how fast it is. They also would have students calculate the growth of a herd of sheep for instance, and it would all taper off. And when Assyriologists began to translate these cuneiform tablets, they thought, well, this must be an actual report of how the herd actually grew.

But then they found out that the Sumerians already in the third millennium had quadratic equations and very sophisticated mathematics. The mathematics that they used 5,000 years ago were far in advance of what the National Bureau of Economic Research uses.

The National Bureau here is officially in charge of explaining when there’s a recession, when there’s a boom, and explaining the business cycle. The basic theory was outlined and traced by Joseph Schumpeter. It’s a sign curve going up and down regularly, up and down. And the whole philosophy of the National Bureau is a right wing anti-government philosophy saying the economy has automatic stabilizers.

It can never get out of balance because the free market is always going to prevent any kind of chronic downturn. If you have a boom, well, prices will rise and that will cut into profits and that’ll slow investment. And that’ll means that wages will fall until it’s more profitable to begin employing labor again. And you’ll have a recovery, and things go on and on and on, like a sign curve, at a given frequency, forever and ever.

Well, what this deliberately leaves out of account, deliberately expurgates, is the fact that every recovery in the United States and every other Western economy since 1945, has occurred with a rising level of debt. And as debt grows each time, each recovery has been slower. And the reason it’s slower is because as the volume of debt rises, this leaves less and less income available to spend on goods and services. And so, the so-called recovery is weaker until finally it grinds to a halt.

Well, Ricardo anticipated something like that in 1817 in his Principles of Political Economy. He said: well, look at what’s going to happen to land rent. If we don’t prevent the landlords from being the planners of the economy, then the more and more population increases, the price of food will rise, the rents to the landlords will rise more and more until the entire economic surplus is paid for rent and there won’t be any opportunities available to industrial employers. And Marx said, well, this was the Armageddon of capitalism.

In Ricardo’s day, people didn’t borrow to buy housing. It was still hereditary landlords. If your ancestors conquered England and killed enough Englishmen to become aristocrats, you’d inherit it and you didn’t have to borrow. But now that real estate has been democratized in the United States, England and Europe, you have to go into debt in order to buy a house.

And the largest amount of debt in every economy is for real estate, which accounts for 80% of bank loans in the United States and England. Essentially, if you want to buy a house you go to a bank they’ll calculate — well, here’s the rental value of that house. The winner, if you’re trying to bid for a house or an apartment against somebody else, the winner is the buyer who promises to pay the most for the property by taking out a bank loan that absorbs most of the rent as interest. So today, the rent that Ricardo said was going to drive industrial capitalism to a halt, is turned into interest. So it’s the rise in interest that is the Armageddon of industrial capitalism driving the economy to a halt.

I chart most of these in my book Killing the Host, where I give a history of compound interest. But basically the Western economies are all subject to debt deflation today.

And that’s why they’re shrinking. And living standards here are not rising and the economy is not growing, in contrast to China, Russia, Iran, India, and the other countries that don’t have this kind of financial sector doing their planning.

Question | Luke Parcher

[00:13:47] Luke Parcher: I was hoping you could expand on a point you actually mentioned just before we went live, distinguishing between different kinds of debt and which kinds of debt are parasitic and need to be rid of and which ones do not. Can you just quickly distinguish between different types of debt?

[00:14:00] Michael Hudson: Well, in textbooks that students read, corporations will borrow from a bank and they will use this borrowing to build a factory, and to buy machinery, and to produce something.

And the profits will be paid – shared 50/50 or so – with the creditor. So a productive debt is debt which, actually, enables the creditor to repay the loan with the interest and still keep something for himself. Banks don’t lend money to build factories. The stock market does that. The money the banks lend is unproductive debt.

Unproductive debt is when the debt doesn’t enable you to earn more money to pay the creditor. In an unproductive debt, you have to earn the money elsewhere and take money that you may earn as wages or profits and pay the bank. And it’s your loss. It’s a zero sum game, not a positive sum game.

Now this distinction between productive and unproductive debt was built into Sumerian and Babylonian laws. Only unproductive debts were canceled under the Jubilee year the rulers announced. Their word was, andurarum and, the Hebrew, cognate was deror and that was the word used for the Jubilee year.

It meant the rural debts – that when there was a crop failure, and the borrower could not pay the advance of the land rent and the other means of production. Obviously, if the borrower couldn’t repay because there was a crop failure, or a drought, or a disease, or a flood, then the debts were wiped out because that debt did not enable anyone to repay.

And if you didn’t cancel the debt, then the poor cultivator would be forced into a debt bondage to the creditor. And if he did that, then his labor would belong to the creditor and he couldn’t serve in the army. He couldn’t go to work on building public infrastructure. The business debts were all left in place. Debt denominated in silver were left in place and not canceled. The debts denominated in grain were canceled.

Well, in the 12th and 13th century, crusades flooded Europe with money. The Christian Church saw that commerce was reviving. You needed credit. The church theorists said, okay, there’s a productive debt. You’ll make loans to a merchant to trade. He’ll have the money to repay you, that’s productive. But, a debt to a consumer who can’t, is usury. And so ancient languages had no words to distinguish interest from usury.

But the churchmen said, okay, usury is unproductive debt. Interest is a productive debt. Those two words, those were the original meanings of the distinction between interest and usury. That’s been eradicated today when everything is considered productive and part of the free market. And, if it makes the billionaire class rich, it’s productive. That’s basically the thing today.

And the only debts that are supposed to be canceled are debts that the financial sector owns. The banks don’t have to pay the billionaires. Only people with less than a billion dollars have to pay debt. The poorer you are, the more debt you have to pay. They’ve reversed the whole last thousand years of Christian morality as the church has become privatized and financialized.

Question | L Lewis

[00:17:21] Luke Parcher: Fantastic. We have a question here in the chat. This is from L Lewis. It says China has opted for industrialization and the U.S. corporate class clearly has not. Why is the U.S. so belligerent if it doesn’t even want an industrial system?

[00:17:35] Michael Hudson: Because it doesn’t want any other country to have an industrial system. Just like the West fought against communism threatening a new social system after the 1917 revolution, America’s terrified that if China can succeed by following the exact same policy that the United States got rich on in the late 19th century, then they might try to make America rich. And, oh my God, if they do that then there’s no more free lunch for the billionaires.

This is life and death for the billionaires. They make their money by exploiting the economy without producing. The Chinese billionaires make their money by producing and exploiting the economy. But they also produce a lot. And then they have to give up much of what they exploit. So the United States doesn’t want there to be any success in any country achieving prosperity in a way that doesn’t siphon off all of the income to the 1%.

Question | Andy Kennedy

[00:18:28] Luke Parcher: And we have a question here from Andy Kennedy.

[00:18:32] Andy Kennedy: Michael, I believe that you coined the phrase monetary hegemony. I believe it was in Super Imperialism, a book that you wrote a while back. But I think that’s something that a lot of people really have a hard time grasping what that even means. Can you talk a little bit about how the U.S. dollar hegemony has been a large part of why the U.S. became de-industrialized.

[00:19:01] Michael Hudson: Well, that is what my book, Super Imperialism, was all about, that I published in 1972. Dollar hegemony really began in 1972. Hegemony is a word that I can never really work into conversation very easily. It was actually Henry Liu that emphasized that term. He’s a friend of mine and we were colleagues for many years. The dollar hegemony means the United States can issue dollar bonds, IOUs, and it never has to repay them. If we run a balance of payments deficit in the United States, the dollars end up in the foreign central banks. Most of the U.S. balance of payments deficits since the Korean war have been for military spending.

While America is spending money on creating military bases all over the world, these countries will end up with the dollars that we spend to build the bases and buy off client oligarchies. And these dollars are turned over to the local central bank for domestic currency. And the central bank is going to say, “What do we do with the dollars?” Well, they will tend to hold the dollars in the form of buying a U.S. Treasury bond because central banks aren’t supposed to take risks.

So they will essentially buy the Treasury bonds and the United States has no intention of ever paying the Treasury bonds. How is it going to pay? It was paying in gold until 1971. So when the United States would spend money in Vietnam, the dollars that were spent in Southeast Asia, in Japan, in other countries, would be sent from Vietnam to their head office in Paris.

And General de Gaulle would say, “Well, here are these dollars. Now give us gold.” And the U.S. gold stock was going down and down and down. The American strategists worried that this was going to really hurt the country’s ability to dominate the world. So when they went off gold in 1971, everybody thought that this was going to end American financial leadership.

Instead, it was a great increase. It created dollar hegemony because there was nothing for foreign central banks to hold their reserves in except U.S. Treasury bills, Treasury bonds. In other words, Treasury IOUs. So the more money that America would spend abroad in a balance of payments deficit, this money would end up being recycled to the United States in the form of Treasury securities. And so it was actually the balance of payments deficit by military spending that helped finance the U.S. domestic budget deficit. Other countries really didn’t have an alternative. And so when the United States took the lead in creating the Eurozone, it made sure that the Eurozone would never make the Euro an alternative currency to the U.S. dollar because it limited the Eurozone’s ability to run a budget deficit to just 3% of GDP.

Well, what that means is that when Europe goes into a recession and needs to increase government spending like the United States does when it’s in a recession, or like the United States is doing today, running a budget deficit way in excess of 3% of the GDP, Europe is not. So there are not enough Euro bonds by the central bank to ever become a rival for the United States dollar.

Well, all of this is now being changed by Russia and China that they have discussed for the last few years. “In order to stop U.S. hegemony, we have to avoid financing our own military encirclement by lending to the U.S. Treasury that turns it over to the military industrial complex and Pentagon to build bases here.So we’re going to have an alternative to the U.S. dollar.”

Well, they were talking about it – Russia, China, other countries – really for five years. And amazingly enough, the end of dollar hegemony occurred last year when the United States itself said if any country pursues a policy that we don’t like, we can grab all of the dollar reserves that they hold in the United States.

We can grab all of the Treasury bonds they hold. We can just take them. All the bank deposits they have, we can grab. They grabbed that of Venezuela first. They grabbed that of Iran. They grabbed that of Afghanistan. And then they grabbed the $300 billion of Russia. So now the United States has told any country, if you do anything that we don’t like, if you do not let our companies buy control of your economy, or if you try to sue one of our oil companies that pollutes your land, we will grab all of your money and you’ll be isolated.

Well, this ends other countries’ ability to finance the American empire anymore. Other countries are terrified now. If they’re all saying “Let’s not denominate our trade in dollars. Let’s not use the dollars. Let’s use each other’s currencies. We will finance other governments’ treasuries.”

And these treasuries that they’re financing – between China, Russia, Iran, India, and their neighboring countries – are loans to help their treasuries build infrastructure and internal improvements to actually increase the economy growing. Well, the United States itself has brought this about by all the sanctions that it’s imposing. It’s an example of the self-defeating character of the U.S. strategists.

Fortunately, none of them understand how an economy actually works anymore than they understand how military strategy really works. So we’re having armchair amateurs essentially ending a whole system that was giving America a free lunch for the last 50 years.

Question | Jordan S

[00:24:54] Luke Parcher: So we have one here in the chat from Jordan Soreff. He asks, how do you see the interaction between major shareholders of large financial institutions and major shareholders of industrial enterprises? Do you see a lot of common ownership between these kinds of institutions? And if so, wouldn’t they collaborate in order to avoid starving industrial enterprises of access to credit and guarantee some basic form of growth, not only for financial institutions, but also for industrial enterprises.

[00:25:20] Michael Hudson: Not at all. They’re collaborating in destroying the industrial sector. They collaborate in turning industrial corporations into financial firms. and when you turn the management of a corporation away from the engineers and turn it over to the chief financial officer, the chief financial officer says, “Our job is not to increase our industrial production. Our job is to increase the stock’s price. And we can maximize the stock’s price by, instead of spending on research and development that’ll take years to pay off, we can spend our income on buying the shares.”

92% of the profits of the Fortune 500 are spent on share buybacks and dividend payouts, not on new investment. Once you financialize an industrial corporation, you’re trying to make money by financial engineering, not industrial engineering. And you do this by essentially using your income to buy up the share price. This is short term – and finance lives in the short term. The reason finance has no interest in building up industrial power is that that takes years and years to actually plan a factory, plan the production. You have to develop a whole marketing system.

How are we going to sell the product once we produce it? How are we going to distribute it? It takes a lot of planning. It’s beyond the ability of the financiers. You don’t need brains to be a financier. All you need is greed. And you really don’t need a business school. All you need is greed.

And greed is short term. I want it now. Greed is not long term planning. And so, you have a completely different mentality of a financial corporate leader, as opposed to an industrial leader. Someone like, let’s say, Henry Ford, or like the old type of industrial leaders that would try to increase the overall profits to expand production more and more. Today the objective is to shrink production more and more.

Question | Jonathan Kadmon

[00:27:18] Luke Parcher: And we have a question here from Jonathan.

[00:27:21] Jonathan Kadmon: There’s a concept you mentioned in the book that’s also very near and dear to my heart. The commodification of essential goods and services, and extortionist incentives that come when you…

[00:27:32] Michael Hudson: Is that the title of a book?

[00:27:33] Jonathan Kadmon: No, it’s definitely a theme you touch on a bunch of times in your book.

[00:27:37] Michael Hudson: Oh, okay.

[00:27:37] Jonathan Kadmon: And I was hoping you could talk a little bit about how the hostage situation created by commodifying things like housing, healthcare, food, transportation, fuel, things like that – that people need rather than want – is used to extract rents and siphon wealth out of the productive economy to service the wealth demand of the FIRE sector [Finance, Insurance, Real Estate]

[00:28:00] Michael Hudson: Well, the free trade ideology that backs monopolies says that all markets are a function of choice. But the way to control a market is not to give the consumers a choice. And when you say hostage, what that means is people don’t have a choice between whether to eat or to pay a bank.

If they have to buy food or if they have to buy medical care, they have to pay whatever the going price is. Anatole France said that the rich person was as free as the poor person to sleep under the bridge when he didn’t have a house. So the objective of rent seeking is to essentially create a situation where people have no alternative but to buy the service or the good that you’re producing.

If they have no alternative, then you can charge whatever you want. This is the case with most public infrastructure. If you want to mail a letter, you have to pay whatever the going postage is, or whatever parcel service costs. Well, this is why, for about a thousand years leading up to the late 20th century, all governments kept basic services in the public domain – the post office, education, healthcare. You don’t want to privatize them and leave them to the market because if you leave them to the market, then it really isn’t a matter of choice at all.

It’s a matter of letting a monopolist take something that everybody needs, no matter what the price, and charge as much as the market will bear. And that’s a rent-seeking monopoly. That basically is the philosophy that Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and the free marketers developed since the 1980s, when you had a privatization of basic needs, especially in housing. And the most important utility that’s been privatized of course has been money and credit creation – the banking system. What has enabled China to avoid the financialization that’s occurred in the United States is because the Central Bank of China is run by the government, not by a financial oligarchy of bankers that get together to run the credit system for their own benefit. But if the government treats money as a public utility, everybody needs money, everybody needs credit, and the government will provide the credit as needed for the economy to grow.

And if the economy has a slowdown, or if a company runs into a financial problem, if you’re the government as a creditor, you can write down the debt. In the United States, if you’ve made loans to a company like General Electric and all of a sudden it can’t pay, the company either goes bankrupt or begins to sell off its assets piece by piece to other people and you have industry being turned into gentrified luxury housing.

So the same thing with healthcare. If you privatize healthcare, everybody needs to go to the hospital. Everybody needs doctor care. If you privatize it then in the United States, 18% of your GDP is going to go to healthcare. The objective is to make healthcare as inefficient and cheap as possible to maximize the profits of the health insurance companies. And the sicker you get, the more money they make.

Also, by the way, the sicker you get, the more GDP goes up. GDP goes up because you have to spend more money healing yourself. So, that’s, a growing part of the American GDP – along with rent and debt service and interest. Well, if you keep healthcare in the public sector, the public sector is going to try to actually keep people healthy instead of sick. And they’re trying to minimize the expense of getting sick so that you leave more money in the hands of households to spend on the real economy of production and consumption, not on giving money to the monopolies.

But in the United States the main utility beside money that’s been privatized is government. Under the Citizens United ruling, the government is now really up for sale and auctioned off to the highest campaign contributors. In the Democratic Party, for instance, every Democratic representative has to raise a given amount of money from campaign contributors to give to the Democrat National Committee.

So whoever can raise the most money gets to be the committee heads. Well, you’ll have the pharmaceuticals industry giving a lot of money to some representative they want to be head of the health committee. You’ll have the bankers giving money to whoever they want to be the head of the banking committee and so on. So, the function of government itself once it’s privatized is to make money for the donor class, which basically is the financial class and the monopoly class that finance creates. Banks have always been the mother of monopolies and the financial sector’s largest business market is in creating monopolies. So, you have basically the privatization of monopolies.

And the monopoly rent of these monopolies is used for paying interest to the banks that finance the corporate raiders, or whoever wants to take over and buy these monopoly privileges.

Question | Luke Parcher

[00:33:14] Luke Parcher: We have a question here from Paul Birtwell. Paul, go ahead.

[00:33:18] Paul B: Hi, Dr. Hudson. Could you briefly touch on the concept of economic rent and unearned income as well as how the establishment became established by conquering Europe, privatizing the commons all the way up through colonialism, and how they use all these little privileges through copyrights, patents, formula, and it’s not really through effort or innovation, but it’s through rake off.

I remember you in an interview, I’m paraphrasing, saying something like: For the crime of being conquered, the 99% and all of the descendants are obligated to take care of the 1% and all of their descendants into perpetuity.

But it would be great if you could touch on those historical elements because most folks think, “Hey, these folks that are really rich are smarter, they worked harder.” And as we know, it’s not based on effort or individual contribution but rather just milking society.

[00:34:16] Michael Hudson: Well, it’s very hard to answer that question very briefly in a question and answer. I’ve written two chapters of the Destiny of Civilization describing exactly what you’ve asked: economic rent. All classical economics – from Adam Smith through Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Marx, Alfred Marshall – was all about value and price theory in order to segregate how much of the price is not reflected by a real cost of production. Economic rent is unnecessary income.

Economic rent is what you’re able to charge more than just the cost of producing goods and service with a profit. It’s “What is a free lunch?” And the free marketers say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” That’s what Milton Friedman said. But a rentier economy is all about a free lunch. The concept of economic rent in the 19th century was aimed at landlords because they inherited the land. The land does not have a cost of production. And yet, if you have an ownership right to the land, a privilege of legal ownership of the land, you have a legal boundary and you can charge rent without any effort of your own.

John Stuart Mill said economic rent is what landlords make in their sleep. They don’t have to make a productive effort. Well, actually a theory of rent went way back to the churchmen in the 13th century describing what is a fair return to bankers. The economy needs credit, all economies work on credit, traders need credit. They need the money exchange from one currency to another. The value of banking services is the cost of living, the cost of doing business, the cost to have a certain lifestyle that’s becoming of a banker.

But everything that’s over and above normal living prosperity and costs is called usury. That’s not a valid cost. And so that was deemed illegal already in the 13th century. Well, Ricardo in the 19th century used the landlords as the main rent recipients of the hereditary landed aristocracy. Rent is what a landlord would get just for the ownership privilege of having a land. And so if you go out and buy a house today and the price of land goes up because the city will increase bus service or a transportation service. For instance, in New York City, a few years ago, they extended and built the Second Avenue subway that went uptown, along Second Avenue. Real estate prices all soared for real estate on Second Avenue. That was a free lunch.

The landlords didn’t do anything at all to increase the real estate rents that they were charging. Rents went way up. If you lived on Second Avenue or First Avenue, even Third Avenue, you had to pay much higher rent because you no longer had to walk half a mile to get to the Lexington subway that was very overcrowded. You could have the nice uncrowded, Second Avenue subway.

And yet, this rent increased not by the expenditure of any cost. It was rent without value. It was the price of housing without cost value. So rent is the unnecessary element of price over and above what it actually costs to produce something. And rentier income is the income that is unnecessary.

To actually pay a industrialist for building a factory… industrialists would be happy with making the normal rate of profit. But if you have a special technology monopoly like the drug companies, then you can make super-profits. So rents are super-profits, basically. That’s the difference. Anyway, that’s to your question.

Question | Roxanne D

[00:37:58] Luke Parcher: Right on. We have, a question here from Roxanne Devereaux. She says, if you’ve answered this, maybe just elaborate on your answer, but in a perfect world where government actually served the people, what would a debt jubilee look like and how could it reverberate through society?

Most examples I’m familiar with happened before the industrial revolution.

[00:38:14] Michael Hudson: Well, the best example is the German financial miracle of 1947, 1948, the allied monetary reform. All internal debts were canceled except for people’s bank accounts up to a given amount and except for the money that employers owed their employees.

And the reason is that most of the wealth, most of the bank deposits, most of the creditors’ claims, were by the Nazis. And the American occupation said, well, we don’t want the Nazis to get rich. So the good thing about canceling debts is you cancel the savings of bad guys. In 1947 it was the Nazis; today it’s the 1%.

If you cancel the debts that I’ve said should be canceled – the sort of bad debts that are not necessarily production – then you cancel all of this vast accumulation of savings by the 1%. For instance, if you cancel student debts, that would free income for spending on democracy.

If you cancel all the debts that US banks owe to the offshore banking centers in the Caribbean, Panama, Liberia. All of this is flight capital. This is criminal capital. Cancel out all the debt of criminal capital and fraud. When Greece was running into its financial crisis seven years ago, Greece owed 50 billion euros of debt that it was trying to write down.

And the IMF produced a list called the Lagarde List that had deposits of Greek crooks and tax evaders in Switzerland were $50 billion. That 50 billion could have been wiped out. One of the first debt cancellations that went wrong was in Sparta in the third century, BC, under Agis and Cleomenes. When they canceled the debts, the people who wanted to cancel the debts were people who’d bought land on credit and they wanted their debt.

They wanted to own the land free and clear and cancel the mortgages. So some debts you don’t want to write down. If you were to write down mortgage debts, Donald Trump and real estate speculators would be the richest people in the country. So you don’t want to write down their debts.

Their debts will remain on the books. But if they were written down, well, first of all then, their debts are the banking systems assets. So Citibank would be even more insolvent than it is already and the banks would go under. They would be taken over by the public sector because if you have the mortgage debt wiped out, there’s still economic rent. Because people are willing to pay more money for a well-situated property that would, uh, in place of the banks getting the rental value as mortgage debt, the government would get the same rental value in the form of a land tax. That was what classical economics was all about. That was Adam Smith. That was John Stuart Mill. That was the whole reform movement of the late 19th century. So you want to cancel the bad debts, but you don’t want to make debtors who are just speculators rich in the process.

You want to make sure that you only cancel the bad debts and you don’t create a new rentier class. The idea is to look at the economy as a system and see what should the government receive as economic rent. And it can decide what is it going to receive for healthcare. The government… if the government took over the healthcare industry, it probably would not charge the prices that healthcare charges today. It would charge less. Same thing for housing. If housing were run like England ran its council housing before Margaret Thatcher, it would be very low. In Germany, Germany pays only 10% of its average family income for rent, not 30 or 40% as in the case of the United States.

That’s what used to make Germany, until last month, so competitive an economy. So, you’d restructure the economy so that it would only have debts that were socially necessary to keep the economy operating. Debts will begin to grow all over again.

Debts will always begin to grow over and over again. If you don’t ban interest, you permit debts to grow, but when they get so problematic that they threaten economic growth, then you have to write them down to a level where they will no longer prevent economic growth from occurring as they’re doing today.

Question | Doug G

[00:42:45] Luke Parcher: So we have one from Doug Greer here. He says many people seem to confuse the lessons of MMT with the super imperialism of the US dollar being the reserve currency of the world. Is the ability to create dollars to finance domestic needs of the US, like healthcare and infrastructure, dependent on the US dollar being the reserve currency?

Can you clarify?

[00:43:05] Michael Hudson: They’re completely separate. Any country can use its credit creation, either by the central bank or by commercial banks, to create credit. It doesn’t have to be linked to the balance of payments, except that if a country’s running a balance of payments deficit its currency will fall, unless it can balance the payments somehow.

So they are different questions.

Question | Fabiano D

[00:43:30] Luke Parcher: We have one from Fabiano D. Being that politicians, therefore government, are in the pockets of the rentier class, how do you think we could get rid of such rentier influence in order to implement socially oriented policies?

[00:43:43] Michael Hudson: That has never happened without a revolution. That’s the problem. How do you get rid of them? Well, I don’t see any way for the United States to get rid of them. It took a revolution in China. It took a revolution in Russia. That’s the problem right there.

You did have the beginning of a peaceful revolution in England in the 19th century and, leading to a constitutional crisis in 1909 and 1910, when the House of Commons actually passed the land tax and the House of Lords, being the landed aristocracy, canceled it. That caused a crisis.

And the upshot was the House of Lords was never, again, going to be able to negate a revenue act passed by the House of Commons. So that was actually a peaceful resolution of a constitutional crisis. Then World War I came and changed everything. But today I don’t see that kind of a peaceful resolution occurring in the United States.

They’re not going to repeal the Citizens United act, and, from what it looks like to me, the economy is going to get more and more highly squeezed and more polarized between the 1% and the 99%. I would say it’s a class war except finance isn’t really a class because everybody is a creditor as well as a debtor in some sense or another. So it’s really a financial dynamic against the rest of the economy. One of the points that Marx made in Volume 3 of Capital was that finance grows by purely mathematical laws of its own, having no relation to the growth of the economy. It’s an autonomous economic system.

And I think that autonomous economic system is independent of the government here and yet, unless you have a study of economics as an economic system – understanding what’s causing the polarization and the poverty in the United States – you’re not going to be able to have a reform movement to change the system.

The role of economics departments is to dumb down the understanding of the economy. You’re not going to have any kind of a peaceful reform movement here.

Question | Cristina

[00:45:47] Luke Parcher: We have a question here from Cristina who asks, what are the steps we can take to fix the housing crisis? Kind of a broad question, but if you have any policy prescriptions there, that would be great.

[00:45:57] Michael Hudson: There’s very little that individuals can do. The 19th century dealt with this question increasingly. And their solution was if you have a calculation of the land rent, as opposed to what it costs to build a building – we all know that if you build a building the contractor and the builder or developer have to make a profit, but if the government will tax the land rent, then it will not be available to the banks to charge as interest.

So, if you tax the land rent, then the land rent is not going to be capitalized into a bank loan, and housing prices will be kept down to the actual cost of construction plus normal profits. And as housing becomes more desirable, or as the economy becomes more profitable, or as cities build more Second Avenue subways and the rental value goes up, the taxes will go up. That will prevent this increased rent from taking a financial form and will simply be the source of a government revenue. It requires a tax system to tax away the economic rent, so that housing does not reflect the speculation and the economic rent that is caused by the privatization that’s been occurring. Especially since 2008.

Question | Tim

[00:47:11] Luke Parcher: So this one is from Tim. Tim says one argument against de-dollarization is the liquidity and stability of the US dollar. For example, oil is based in dollars and many OPEC countries have their currencies pegged to the dollar, such that they benefit from a strong dollar. At this age, the transition into trade in local currency pairs against these advantages of dollar as reserve currency.

[00:47:32] Michael Hudson: Well, that’s exactly what this last weekend’s Shanghai cooperation meetings were all about. Any country that holds its central bank reserves in dollars has a stake and in wanting to lose the money. China has the largest dollar holdings of any government and its currency has gone down and down and down.

China’s willing to take a loss on this by moving out of the dollars. The solution is, as both President Xi and President Putin pointed out, we’re going to move out of the dollar so we don’t have a stake in the dollar. It can go up or down. It is not going to bother us. They’re not buying or selling to us anymore.

Anyway, they’re sanctioning us. So let’s go with what president Biden wants. He says, you go your way, we’ll go our way. Fine. Let’s go our own ways and use each other’s currency, and that way, it won’t matter. So, it won’t matter to them. If moving out of the dollar means that there’s less demand for the dollars and it goes down, what they’re gaining is freedom.

So, this is the price of their economic liberty from dollar diplomacy.

[00:48:34] Luke Parcher: We have another question here from Virginia Cotts.

Question | Virginia Cotts

[00:48:36] Virginia Cotts: Michael, I feel like we have… some people have a lot of nostalgia for the post World War II social democracies of Europe. I can’t remember if it was in your book or in an interview you described Thatcher’s process of privatizing in England. Could you talk about that? Because I didn’t know a lot of that.

[00:49:00] Michael Hudson: Well, Margaret Thatcher said that her greatest contribution was Tony Blair. And Tony Blair was an opportunist who got enough support from the United States to move the British Labour party to the right of the Conservative Party and do what Margaret Thatcher never could have done. By even privatizing the railroads, by being more viciously anti-labor, the social democratic parties in every country have been so pushed by what the CIA called “the mighty Wurlitzer of public opinion” – meaning bribes to the politicians – that they’ve financed the campaigns of neoliberals to pretend to be pro-labor, to pretend to be socialist, while actually they’re the far right wing of the political spectrum. I won’t call them fascist. But let’s just say there’s nothing the fascists would not like in the social democratic parties. So, here you have the most right wing parties in Europe are the social democratic parties. Way to the right.

I guess the most right wing neofascist party is, of course, the Greens in Germany that are the pro-war party. And anti-labor. But basically, there is no longer a real labor party representing the interests of labor. They’ve all been co-opted by demagogues. The social democratic parties in a way have been like the peace parties.

The first thing that every peace party does when there’s a war is they’re at the head of the pro-war patriotism parade. That was what Trotsky noted about World War One. The peace parties jumped on the bandwagon in Germany, Austria, England, America. Social democratic parties have done the same thing when there’s a neoliberal right wing corporatist financialization. They’ve all been persuaded to do it.

The equivalent was like what the Clintons did to the United States since the 1990s. In the United States, the Democratic Party is the far right wing party now. And I guess when I answered the question about what can Americans do to help the housing crisis… You cannot solve the housing crisis until you end the Democratic Party. You cannot solve the labor problem without ending the Democratic Party. Because that is the party of Wall Street. That is the party of the 1%. Its function is to make sure that there cannot be any left wing opposition to block the Republican Party’s program.

What Bill Clinton did, the Republicans never could have done. Backing Alan Greenspan and the right wingers in getting rid of the acts preventing banks from owning insurance companies and brokerage houses. Getting rid of the Glass Steagall Act. And no Republican could have done anything as viciously anti-black and anti-Hispanic as President Obama, whose policies are basically identical with those of the Ku Klux Klan.

Obama’s role was essentially to reverse the attempt by blacks and hispanics to become homeowners. His objective was to replace black home ownership and hispanic home ownership with ownership by private capital companies. His role in 2009 was to bail out the banks – the fraudulent banks that had written the junk mortgages – and to keep the junk mortgages on the hook to evict almost 10 million American families. And not fine the banks, not throw a single crooked banker in jail. This ended the hopes of the low income Americans – and especially the minorities – to have housing.

If you say, what can we do about housing? Well, if you’re black or Hispanic, you must avoid the Democratic Party like the plague. And you must come to terms with the fact that it was Obama that was the most anti-black president of the 20th century, except of course for Woodrow Wilson. The damage that he’s done has not been widely recognized here.

And, he has put in place a Democratic Party leadership that is so anti-labor, so white racist. and so pro-Wall Street that I don’t think it is reformable.

Question | Luke Parcher

[00:53:18] Luke Parcher: And just to build on what you were just talking about there, Michael, I’m kind of stunned by the extent to which people buy into the partisan false dichotomy in this country and seem to think there are all these massive differences between the parties.

And that obviously is an issue-by-issue thing, but I’m curious where you think that buy-in comes from and how we might be able to cut into it. The fear mongering about Trump is I think overstating the differences between Trump and Biden on these issues. Can you talk a little bit about that?

[00:53:43] Michael Hudson: Yes. The Republican Party’s role is to say to Wall Street, “Yes, please.” And the Democratic Party’s policy is to say “Yes, thank you.” But that’s basically it. You’ll notice, like in Ohio, the Democratic National Committee is backing a right-winger who is going to play the role of West Virginia Senator Manchin or Arizona’s Sinema. The Democrats want to make sure that it has enough Republicans running as Democrats, that if there’s ever a danger of promoting a bill that is good for the working class or the racial minorities or ethnic minorities, that you’ll have the Republicans running as Democrat to cancel it, to play the role.

There’ll always be many senators right behind Manchin and Sinema in the wings to prevent the Democrats from doing anything that does not serve the short-term immediate interests of their Wall Street bankers… Backers.

Question | Bruce W

[00:54:39] Luke Parcher: Rotating villain is a very real concept for sure. We have a question here from Bruce Wall who asks, which of the public banking and monetary reform movements do you support, if any? I have in mind Public Banking Institute, American Monetary Institute, the Alliance of Just Money, Christine Desan’s Just Money. What about figures like Robert Hockett?

[00:54:58] Michael Hudson: Well, I’m on the board of directors of the Public Banking Institute. Steve Zarlenga was a good friend of mine.

I was at all of his early conferences. So they both have very good ideas. And… I’m blocking out the name. Who’s the head of the public banking?

[00:55:15] Virginia Cotts: That’s not Ellen Brown, is it?

[00:55:17] Michael Hudson: Yeah. Ellen Brown. Ellen would be all in favor of many of the things I’ve talked about, but she doesn’t think that a debt cancellation is politically feasible right now. And of course, she’s right. So she’s said that, well, public banks can provide the model for what could be. The result of what happens if Obama would have let Citibank go bankrupt.

The Republican head of the FDIC [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation] urged that Citibank, being run by crooks… but, Obama put an even bigger crook in charge. Geithner, who was working for his banker Robert Rubin, basically did not let Citibank go bankrupt because that would’ve wiped out the stockholders.

And as Sheila Bair, the head of FDIC, said, well, it was all about the bond holders. And Sheila said, if Citigroup would’ve gone under, then that meant the government would’ve had the biggest bank in the country, and it could actually run a commercial bank along making good loans instead of making loans to corporate raiders. Instead of making crooked mortgage loans and fake loans, it could actually make loans to help the economy grow. Well, she’s quite right. That would’ve been a good idea.

So she’s concentrated.on public banks for what they can do. And she said, at least by having a public bank, you’ll keep the deposits of the public sector – the government, the state agencies, and hopefully the local city agencies – in the public domain, out of the hands of, the commercial bankers and Wall Street, so that you can use the money for a good purpose.

So, I’m all in favor of what she’s doing. Steve Zarlenga at American monetary Institute was for the hundred percent reserve plan that was proposed in the 1930s. And that is, commercial banks would actually be reduced to the status of savings banks.

A hundred percent reserves. Could not create credit. They could only make loans from deposits. Of course, if they had a productive loan made, the government, the Treasury, would act as the depositor – simply increase the deposits in the bank to enable them to make productive loans.

And that also, in principle, is a very good idea. That’s why I supported that. And of course that was the program that was introduced by Dennis Kusinich in his presidential run. I was Kusinich’s economic advisor. So those are the two groups that I’m most familiar with and the most in favor of.

Question | Rasha 

[00:57:41] Luke Parcher: We have a question here from Rasha. What role does defining money play in shaping the economy? How do you define money? Is it a record of value transferred between economic actors or is it a commodity? If you agree that money is a record of value transferred between two or more economic actors, isn’t it possible to create money on demand by any two or more economic actors in a decentralized manner, as opposed to central private banks providing there is a scientific formula by which value of goods and services is assigned.

[00:58:10] Michael Hudson: Oh, my God. I can’t even begin to answer that. The jargon is so misleading. Money has nothing to do with value. Money is debt. That’s the opposite of value. It’s a transfer of debt among people, it’s not a transfer of value. You’re using a very right wing, quite frankly, a fascist economic terminology, maybe without meaning to. But it’s not value, it’s debt created out of thin air. It’s credit.

When you go into a bank and you take out a loan the bank doesn’t say let me see how much money I have on deposit to lend you. They will just write you a loan. They’ll create a bank deposit and in exchange you’ll give them an IOU. It’s debt, loans, that create deposits, not the other way around. Anyone who talks about money and value, you want to stop talking to them immediately. Because you know that it’s just going to be patter talk for propaganda.

Question | Tom

[00:59:03] Luke Parcher: So we have one here from Tom. Tom asks: all prices of all things for sale are not rising. Therefore, the term inflation is not what we are experiencing. For example, the market is working. Money is moving from those without oil to those with oil.

Why does no trained economist understand and label this a normal market redistribution period or some term listed in textbooks for reference? And why is the concept called inflation, which scares unknowing economists and today’s consumers who needlessly suffer from money famine, so poorly taught and so poorly understood?

[00:59:33] Michael Hudson: The question is so bizarre, I cannot answer it. It’s just how do you, how do you answer a swamp and straighten out what they’re saying to give them an answer? It’s a swamp. I can’t answer that.

[00:59:42] Luke Parcher: I suppose in general, what would you prescribe the price increases that we’ve seen today to?

[00:59:47] Michael Hudson: Very largely monopoly positions. The reason oil prices are going up is not because there’s an oil shortage. It’s because the oil companies find an excuse to use the newspaper reports that there will be an oil shortage at some point to raise the prices right now. Adam Tooze wrote a good article a few days ago, comparing the inflation in Europe to the inflation in the United States. In Europe, the price inflation is almost exclusively for energy and for oil and gas derivatives. In the United States, the inflation is much broader – it’s over the whole course.

Again, you want to look at the economy as a system. You don’t want to reduce everything to one-dimensional “here’s the price level”. You want to look at the multi-layered economy. What are the cost prices? What are the economic rents? What are the monopoly prices? What’s the tax system? You have to look at the economy as a system, not in a one-dimensional way. So, I can’t untangle all of the jumble any clearer than that.

Question | Paul B

[01:00:55] Luke Parcher: We have one here from Paul Birtwell again. Could Dr. Hudson touch on and acknowledge the validity of MMT? What do you think is the importance of MMT and how does it apply to this discussion?

[01:01:04] Michael Hudson: Well, I was on the faculty of the UMKC, which is MMT center for many years. I’m all in favor of MMT. The point of MMT is that just as banks create endogenous credit on their own computers, the government can create credit. The government doesn’t have to borrow money from the 1% or from bond holders in order to spend it; the government can simply print it as it did under the greenbacks.

The government can create its own credit. And there’s nothing wrong with running a budget deficit because a budget deficit does not have to be paid by taxpayers paying taxes. A government deficit can be funded by simply creating the money on your own computer – not by taxes. That’s the point that Stephanie Kelton has been making again and again in what she writes.

And that really is the essence of MMT. But of course the leading exponent of MMT was Donald.Trump, when he said deficits don’t matter, we can just create whatever we want. And I think, Vice President Cheney also said we can spend whatever we want. It doesn’t matter. George Bush said, you know, it’s all really fictitious anyway; we can do it.

The difference between Donald Trump and the Republicans and the MMTers is, we want the government to run deficits to actually spend into the economy. We do not want deficits to be run for $9 trillion to subsidize quantitative easing for the 1% to promote real estate prices and stock and bond prices.

We want them to actually employ workers and to promote full employment. So the difference is that the MMTers are basically in favor of tangible economic growth, not creating money bad MMT of Cheney and Donald Trump style.

Question | Luke Parcher

[01:02:51] Luke Parcher: Can you talk a little bit about how the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and financialization have contributed to what’s going on right now in Ukraine? I know that’s a little bit broad, but if you could tie in what we’ve been talking about here to the situation in Ukraine.

[01:03:02] Michael Hudson: The IMF’s job is to make sure that the economy is impoverished and that all the money that it gives is to support the currency – to enable the kleptocrats, Kolomoyskyi and others, to take the Ukrainian currency they have and transfer it into dollars and pound sterling at a high exchange rate.

So they will lend Ukraine the dollars – essentially to support the hryvnia, however you pronounce its currency – and enable the kleptocrats to make money and then pull the rug out from under them if any alternatives to the Nazis take power. They want.to make sure that, once the kleptocrats have emptied out the economy, they can let the economy collapse.

They’re of course backing the new labor law president Zelensky has pushed, abolishing labor unions, abolishing the rights of labor to negotiate, and making basically the most fascist labor law in any country’s history. So the role of the IMF is to support client oligarchy, to get their money out of a country before there is a possibility of a leftwing government coming in, and then to deny all credit and organize a currency raid on the leftwing government, to say, “You see, socialism doesn’t work”.

The IMF is one of the institutions that is the arm of American hegemony, preventing economic growth occurring outside of the United States. Essentially the IMF is a… it’s a small office in the basement of the Pentagon, run by the neocons, to make sure that other countries cannot have any policy that would not let American firms come in and buy their raw materials and their natural resources and their monopolies.

So, think of the IMF as a tool of the military, but much more right wing than any general would dare to be.

[01:04:55] Luke Parcher: Thank you so much, Michael. We really appreciate you taking the time today.

I also, once again, want to remind people to please go to realprogressives.org to learn more about us, or find our podcasts and articles, including again, Michael, as a guest on Macro N Cheese. With that, we will go ahead and call it a discussion here. Virginia, did you have anything you wanted to add?

[01:05:12] Virginia Cotts: Yes. I wanted to ask Michael where people can find his work.

[01:05:17] Michael Hudson: Well, Amazon, I guess, is the easiest place to go. It’s all available there.

On my website, michael-hudson.com. And you can go to that and join me on Patreon. I do have a Patreon group, and if you’re a contributor at a given level, then you get to talk to me directly every few months.

[01:05:36] Virginia Cotts: Well, we can all use support. Real Progressives also has a Patreon. So, support us all, please.

I just want to say, Michael, you wrote an article with the greatest title I’ve ever seen, which was something like the US Defeats Germany for the Third Time in a Century. I just thought that was such a perfect title. I think you wrote it right when the Ukraine war was beginning.

[01:06:02] Michael Hudson: Right. It was apparent what was going to happen at the very beginning. And I’m amazed that nobody else was writing about that. I’m not very good on military analysis. I can follow what Andrei Raevsky at the Saker says, and Moon of Alabama, and Andrei Martyanov. The one thing I can tell about military operations is the balance of payments aspects and how it all is spelled out.

[01:06:24] Virginia Cotts: Well… and you talked about how the three main sectors benefited.

[01:06:30] Michael Hudson: Yes. Oil is the key to American diplomacy. And I guess if we’re talking about American hegemony, it comes from America’s control of the oil trade. That was one of the reasons that America wanted to isolate first Venezuela, and then Russia, because if the only source of oil are companies controlled by the American oil majors, then…

Every economy needs energy to grow. And in every economy since the beginning of the industrial revolution, there’s a connection between the growth of GDP and energy use per capita. So I talk about the monopoly rent and the victim economy. If you can control oil then you can control, basically, the world economy.

That has been a key to the American policy. The Americans realized that if Europe cannot buy Russian oil anymore, or Venezuelan oil, then it’ll have to spend 10 times as much buying American liquified natural gas. This means the sanctions against Russia have ended German industrial supremacy. It has ended the German steel industry. It has ended German heavy industry.

They’re now going to be dependent thoroughly on the United States. And the euro is going to become a weakening satellite currency of the US dollar as a result of killing off the German economic and industrial leadership of the European economy, along with that of Italy and France.

[01:07:53] Virginia Cotts: Oh, thank you. I hope we didn’t abuse your generosity with your time.

[01:07:59] Michael Hudson: No. I assume if I said anything controversial, you’ll just take it out.

[01:08:03] Virginia Cotts: Oh, no, we like it. We will actually clip it and plaster it all over the internet.

[01:08:12] Luke Parcher: Oh… [laughs]

[01:08:13] Virginia Cotts: Michael Hudson isn’t controversial, is he?

[01:08:18] Luke Parcher: Well, you certainly don’t mince words, and we very much appreciate that about you. Michael, thanks again for giving us so much time today. And I want to give a brief shout out to Jonathan Kadmon, Andy Kennedy, and Virginia Cotts, who’ve been helping behind the scenes today to make this happen.

Thanks to all involved. Great.

[01:08:31] Michael Hudson: Thanks for having me. I liked the discussion.

How bright are EUropeans ?

November 05, 2022

Source

by Jorge Vilches

no contract

Several indications lead to the conclusion that EUropeans at large — exceptions aside — should not be very bright. Or at least not brighter than anyone else as they claim to be. The fact is that – despite their undeniably copious amounts of individual and collective achievements – they have not yet been able to articulate a peacefull co-existence strategy amongst themselves and with third parties. Having failed at that implies that EUropeans are not really that bright, how could they be ? True enough, EUrope´s macro-economic and consumer society development has been ´successful´… but still under a highly unstable political co-existence. IMNSHO the main reason for such disqualifying historical flaw is that – contrary to their own self-image frequently preached sanctimoniously onto others – in political EUrope a “deal” is never a dealIt´s rather an expression of possible temporary abidance always subject to their own interpretation and circumstances yet un-defined. Basically, there is no valid contract, social or political or otherwise in EUrope. Humpty Dumptyness at its best. And the EU governance experiment made things worse with all the key decisions imposed by un-elected officials very clearly in the case of Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Poland, and Hungary. The argument could possibly be made that other societies today also struggle along equivalent lines, but then again this would swiftly confirm that EUropeans cannot be considered to be brighter than others… as they bloody insist they are.

EUropean ´superiority´ (not)

Dr. Josep Borrell is the EU´s topmost senior diplomat as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Recently joined by another un-elected official namely the EU Commission President Ursula von den Leyen both now roughly insist that EUrope´s problems stem from its addictiveness to excellent and cheap Russian energy and resources, to China´s humongous export markets and high productivity dependency, and to the military ´security´ that the US today supposedly renders to them. So, accordingly their solution for EUrope would be to (a) get itself up in arms yet again and (b) to double-down on the ‘battle of narratives´ which should be interpreted to be just some more effective EU propaganda. So from this perspective rather than being bright EUropeans would just appear to be aggressive, manipulative, and conceited… and not superior to anyone else. So why be so proud about it all ?.

the EU thorny garden

Objectively searching into the EUropean political soul it´s easy to find EUrope´s self-EUthanization vis-á-vis its sheer lack of any ´affectio societatis´. This makes EUrope an un-viable business associate to and for anyone, even amongst themselves in view of the current widespread infighting. But JB´s ´brightness´ does not stop there, now proclaiming that “the world needs Europe” and that EUrope is a “garden” and the rest a mere ”jungle” ready to encroach upon it… So at this rate it would be wise to copernically acknowledge that EUrope is not any “global super-power” and that God Almighty has not appointed the un-elected European Commission as the rule-maker for the rest of the world to follow. Furthermore, the “international community”(sic) is not headquartered at Davos or Brussels and 85% of planet Earth does not even wake up in the West every morning. Making that clear would focus EU politics better than complaining about “too many abstentions” in the UN votes regarding this conflict which EU officials fail to understand and accept.

Ref #1 https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/foreign-affairs-council-remarks-high-representative-josep-borrell-upon-arrival-1_en

Ref #2 http://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2022/10/19/josep-borrell-apologises-for-controversial-garden-vs-jungle-metaphor-but-stands-his-ground

Ref #3 https://news.cgtn.com/news/2022-10-12/Josep-Borrell-looks-backwards-on-China-Russia-and-U-S–1e3XRtUKOJy/index.html

Ref #4 https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/european-diplomatic-academy-opening-remarks-high-representative-josep-borrell-inauguration_en

7 historical catastrophes 7

During the past one hundred years (approx.) aided or not by its supposed “superiority” collective Europe fostered 7 major historical vintage TM® failures, namely (1) enthusiastically fostered World War I – the Great War – “the war to end all wars” amongst themselves + (2) cradled and fully developed Nazism + (3) instigated and deployed World War II + (4) allowed for the firm establishment of ruinous “King Dollar” by calmly and willingly accepting the 1971 US unilateral default on the Bretton Woods Agreement thus perpetuating until today a highly detrimental “exhorbitant privilege” for a thus fiat US dollar + (5) established the currently ticking Euro currency time bomb + (6) fully accepted and even participated with impunity in many dozens of US military unsolicited interventions worldwide as the sole un-elected “world cop” thru its 800+ military bases in 80 countries (7) in 2022 unilaterally provoked an unnecessary and stupid self-harming divorce from Russia which has led the world closer than ever to a nuclear war. Readers may have different opinion regarding the individual interpretation of related events but still all of the above are categorically accepted historical facts. And a society that lies so much – onto itself and third parties — cannot be too bright, can it ?

Ref #5 http://www.theepochtimes.com/on-the-path-to-hyperinflation_4782143.html

Ref #6 http://www.zerohedge.com/markets/path-hyperinflation

C:\Users\Jorge Vilches\Desktop\index 6.jpg

no ´Greater Europe´

Forget any and all dreams about forging a Greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Russia tried it, worked very hard at it, and invested tons in such century-milestone project, to no avail. Fact #1: Russia focused on Greater Europe for 30 years. Fact #2: Russia failed miserably in such endeavor. Under deep ´political hypnosis´ — for want of a better term — EUropean leaders supported by complicit constituents ended up deploying their self-harming strategy. For starters, no Referendum on the NATO-imposed, suicidal “let´s divorce Russia” initiative was ever proposed even though many dozens referenda have been held in the EU´s recent past. It´s simple: there is no valid contract in the EU

Russophia was also firmly established as a national cross-border regional sport of sorts spear-headed by complicit Western MSM and loudly outspoken and highly payed for EU officials. Of course, if challenged, Russians have the advantage of becoming quite stubborn when circumstances so require it, so they insisted in the Greater Europe project success and strictly followed the required EUropean Market & Financial Rules. But, yet again, there was no contract compliance. So led by the G-7 leadership, the collective West just plain took effective advantage of Russia in every way it possibly could provoke … and so the Minsk Accords were conveniently extended, postponed… and duly forgotten despite being squarely – and deceitfully — brokered by both Germany and France. The EU´s supposed Ostpolitik was betrayed with every trace of ´affectio societatis´ absent thus DE-stabilising the area and using third parties as pawns. Because, of course, EUropean flagrant unilateralism dictates that there is no room for anything close to having willingness and interest to engage and relate constructively with high-quality business partners beyond the EU´s – and NATO´s — full control. So Russia finally got fed up sick and tired of the West´s lack of “agreement capability” and will thus fully pivot to thriving Eurasia. Meanwhile Europe will immolate itself thru its NATO-induced suicide with shamefull colonialistic sins hovering its soul for the last 500 years until today. Is any of this “bright” ?

C:\Users\Jorge Vilches\Desktop\index 5.jpg

NATO´s ´hypnotic´ spell

British Gral. Hastings Ismay — the first Secretary General of NATO — defined that the purpose of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was “to keep Russians out, Americans in, and Germans down” which has since become the common way to describe its dynamics and goals. Ismay also proposed that NATO “must grow until the whole free world gets under one umbrella.” So EUrope today and per its own fault, in more than one way and through not-publicized non-sanctum mechanisms, is actually ruled and governed directly by the US. Accordingly, the inclusion of Russia in the Greater Europe project was to be boycotted to death – most specially its association with Germany — and it certainly was. The European leadership thus offered and deployed highly pro-active support to provoke the Ukraine conflict, be it “militarily, financially or politically” thus confirming yet again its direct and unequivocal commitment and participation. During 8 years the Ukraine Armed Forces were trained by NATO to meet NATO combat standards while the Eastern Russian-speaking areas were systematically intimidated and bombed . NATO members proudly admitted to constantly supply the UAF with heavy modern weapons, military advisers and intel.

Ref #7 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hastings_Ismay,_1st_Baron_Ismay

Ref #8 https://www.azerbaycan24.com/en/eu-again-urged-to-open-wallet-for-kiev/

The Lord Ismay.jpg

To weaken Germany and simultaneously strengthen the US required pitting Russia against Germany in a mutually destructive conflict so that the two countries could not re-establish normal relations for decades to come. The collapse of the EUropean economy would come about by denying cheap Russian energy to Germany. Thus, trillions of dollars of European resources would supposedly relocate to the US jointly with their best and brightest. According to the Rand Report, the main obstacle to Europe´s plundering on a scale which rivaled the Jewish looting of Russia in the 1990s was “the growing independence of Germany” which followed Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) which gave “Germany greater independence and decreased the US influence upon European governments.”

the EU ´bright´ new oil & gas markets

No matter how diced or sliced, under the planned nat-gas EU ´capped-price´ purchase policy Western markets would be missing access to some 50% (approx.) of the 2021 effectively traded and consumed natural gas volumes. Besides, serious doubts remain on (a) the technical quality of such new possible “capped” price nat-gas (b) its delivery terms and conditions and (c) the reliability of such type of possible nat-gas suppliers. But at any rate when EUrope soon necessarily runs out of all possible nat-gas vendors willing to comply with its new capped-price policy — which would never fulfill its physical needs — then Russia and others will be able to charge whatever they want for the remaining nat-gas which EUrope will require in order to function ASWKI. Unless, of course, the deliberate ruinous EUropean plan were exactly THAT …which is an ever larger possibility. High quality nat-gas is high quality nat-gas, markets are markets, and business is business. An equivalent “absurd” sourcing conundrum would also be triggered by the soon-coming EU ban on Russian sea-borne oil with serious refinability problems (diesel !!!) vis-á-vis the different quality and quantity of the replacements yet to be found and the un-vetted reliability of the yet non-existent suppliers. Tom Kloza, Global Head of Energy Analysis says “Without new inventory, by the end of November the wolf will be at the door. And it will look like a big ugly wolf if it’s a cold winter” Ref #9 http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/11/the-u-s-diesel-shortage-is-worsening.html

not-so-bright useful green idiots ?

The reference below describes the green parties in Europe “as being particularly easy to manipulate into running the errands of American imperialism. The prerequisite for Germany to fall into this trap is the dominant role of Green Parties and European ideologies. The German environmental movement is a highly dogmatic, if not fanatical, movement, which makes it quite easy to get them to ignore economic argument.”

Ref #10 https://fair.org/home/us-medias-intellectual-no-fly-zone-on-us-culpability-in-nord-stream-attack/

Ref #11 https://www.veteranstoday.com/2022/10/08/the-attack-on-the-pipeline-and-the-resurrection-of-the-morgenthau-plan-as-the-long-arm-of-jewish-vengeance/ Ref #12 https://nyadagbladet.se/utrikes/shocking-document-how-the-us-planned-the-war-and-energy-crisis-in-europe/

Eurasian pivot

On their part, the Russians — many still astonished by suicidal EUrope – seem to basically be thinking (approx.) …

EUropeans, you didn´t have to love us or even be friends you know… but why hate us ? Always, systematically, by default. Why are you Russophobic ? We only wanted to continue being your vetted trade partners as repeatedly proven with flying colors for 30 years. So just what is wrong with you ? Why do you allow your leaders to lie to you, cheat and mislead you so much ? If you actually wished to scare us away consider it done, good job and good bye EUrope. Now, despite your fully un-necessary EUthanization of our relationship, we still welcome you to set up your investments as our business associates here in Russia. Just consider that your only gateway to the world´s next all-time winner anyway you dice it or slice it — namely Mackinder´s Eurasia — is by relocating to Russia with all our known advantages. Otherwise – per WEF logic — you will not have any worthwhile fuels or natural resources left ( just hyperinflation…and no markets ) and you will not be happy”. So the remaining bright Germans – and other bright minds still in EUrope — would finally understand that 85% of the world´s population is not Western let alone part of today´s non-sensical NATO, fully “brain dead” per French President Emmanuel Macron. And once that the NS1 & NS2 sabotage perpetrators are proven and known, EUropean public opinion – most specially Germans – will see things very differently from today understanding how they have been mis-led into an entirely un-justified Russophobia.

EUropean RE-location

Development requires cheap and excellent all-around energy and natural resources which Germany and others do not have and that Russia has plenty of. It also requires markets with which to trade. So the alternatives are (a) “NATO out” which does not seem feasible right now, meaning “to revolt en masse against the NATO-imposed trade/financial sanctions against Russia, and force Berlin to repair NS1 and commission Nord Stream 2”…or… (b) relocate to the US, meaning total vassalization of the EUropean industrial burgeoisie a-la Werner von Braun…or… (c) relocate to Russia and be part of Eurasia´s new bright future, jointly with China & BRICS & SCO & Global South. Of course, sooner or later some of (b) will surely take place but chances are that (c) — per the assumed Russian offering proposed — will at least be the German predominant choice. Obviously, this would probably mean the sudden demise of the EUro and, soon after, of the US dollar ASWKI. The smarter part of the remaining EUrope would also follow the relocation of bright Germans to Russia. Unexpectedly, along these lines events may pick up unusual speed and EUrope as we know it today would cease to exist. And this would be the final evidence proving that EUropeans at large are not as bright as they think they are. They would all act differently if they were, with no room for cannibalism.

the Overton window

Bright Europeans do exist, but in EUropean politics they are very few and far between. So most today focus on (1) ruining Russia per NATO mandate to supposedly uphold ´democracy everywhere´ even corrupt kleptocracies… and while they are at it…(2) also saving planet Earth. Still, a handfull are finally understanding that this is too high a price to pay as EUropeans would not be willing to accept the MAGNITUDE and DEPTH of the hardships soon to come in what up until today was a flourishing consumer society with an enviable standard of living. Hypothetically, what some few political leaders were waiting and jockeying for was an Overton window large enough to get their heads in, their bets made, and their feet wet. The Overton window defines what is politically possible per the existing public opinion at a given point in time. So it is a very convenient tool to apply in view of the EU Commissariat Master Plan.

Ref #13 https://thesaker.is/natos-green-masochistic-euthanasia/

Ref #14 https://thesaker.is/europe-hypnotized-into-war-economy/

Ref #15 https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Europes-Energy-Crisis-Will-Not-Be-A-One-Winter-Story.html

the German oath

All members of the elected government of the German Federal Republic have necessarily taken an oath of office details of which are explicit below. That is the basis for the social and political contract between German leadership and their constituents. But apparently many / all have decided to conveniently dismiss such sworn obligations until the Overton window – Main Street´s hidden weapon — forces them to act accordingly, not before.

“ I swear that I will devote my energies to the well-being of the German people, increase their benefit, protect them from harm, uphold and defend the Basic Law and the laws of the Federation, perform my duties conscientiously and do justice to everyone. So help me God.” Not a single word is ever mentioned relating directly or indirectly to the EU, its governance impact, its interests and/or its goals.

the “most stupid” government in EUrope

Recently Sahra Wagenknecht has defined Germany’s government as the “most stupid” in EUrope for managing to embroil itself in a full-blown economic war with its top – and thus un-replaceable — energy supplier, namely Russia. Speaking at the Bundestag, the former co-chair of the party Die Linke (“The Left”) urged for an immediate end to the anti-Russian sanctions and also for the resignation of German Vice Chancellor and Minister of the Economy, the now infamous ´Herr Green´ Robert Habeck. While still describing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine as a “crime” Wagenknecht insisted that the anti-Russian sanctions are “fatal” for Germany itself. She told her fellow Bundestag leaders in-their-face that “The biggest problem is your grandiose idea of launching an unprecedented economic war against our most important energy supplier. The idea that we are punishing Putin by impoverishing millions of families in Germany and destroying our industry while Gazprom is making record profits – how stupid is that?” she wondered out loud. So, an important German at an important German venue publically told many other important Germans how stupid they were. Not me, she did. “The promise of NATO membership did not help any. Militarily, this war cannot be won”. Of course, this has meant that some Left Party members now demand the expulsion of Sahra Wagenknecht for good.

Ref #16 https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2022/09/19/qunz-s19.html

Ref #17 https://www.rt.com/business/563382-high-energy-costs-eu-companies/

Ref #18 https://www.rt.com/business/563490-thousands-firms-italy-closure/

Ref #19 https://www.reuters.com/article/ukraine-crisis-eu-energy-smes-idAFL8N30E4WV

Ref #20 https://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/Europe-Faces-An-Exodus-Of-Energy-Intensive-Industries.html

´the grandiose idea´ …

Firms in the metal and chemical industries, among others, are trying to relocate to the US, The Wall Street Journal reports: “High energy costs drive companies away from EU”. This means obvious consequences only fools would not foresee: DEpression & UN-employment. German producers warn of food shortages. Die Welt now reports that “There are significant supply gaps in the daily food supply for people in Germany. The situation is “more than serious” an open letter from the industry said. “Companies now fear that production lines will soon come to a standstill and that refrigerated logistics centers for food distribution will be closed. Some are even preparing for possible insolvency.”

Manufacturers of both frozen and fresh products say they cannot cope with soaring energy costs. “The food industry is currently experiencing the worst crisis since the end of the Second World War… It’s a minute to twelve. Act now – otherwise the refrigerators and freezers of the German population will soon be empty” the letter urges. Germany, along with the broader EU, is facing a sharp rise in energy prices and a record inflation surge amid the intensifying anti-Russian sanctions and a policy of abandoning all possible Russian fuels. The situation could also soon lead to energy rationing and shortages, also meaning NO energy, NO fuels at ANY price, period. And forget LNG from whomever or wherever. Too little, too late, too cumbersome, too risky, way dirtier, and way too expensive. Germany needs Russian pipelined nat-gas for many good reasons that they cannot ignore and will necessarily live by soon.

The frozen food industry is particularly susceptible to energy supply problems, due to its strong reliance on electricity for freezers. The EU risks a ‘Wild West’ scenario says IEA head Fatih Birol warning that member states could possibly abandon solidarity to secure their own gas supplies. Many dozens of thousands of small and medium-size businesses (SMEs) in Italy can’t cope with soaring energy bills, ´Corriere della Sera´ reports. Italy is badly dependant on Russian pipelined nat-gas, no substitutes are possible in practice. Supposed “stored” reserves cannot be extracted from sub-surface unless Russian pipelines are also flowing thus allowing to add-on such stored reserves to the main flow. By themselves, underground nat-gas reserves can hardly be produced on surface and still with lots of negative impact.

Ref #21 https://thesaker.is/germanys-failing-stored-nat-gas-lng-experiment/

Larger companies will also add to the un-employed. According to a recent survey, over 70% of Italians are having difficulty or are simply unable to pay their energy bills. SMEs represent 99% of all businesses in the 27-nation EU. SMEs employ around 100 million people, or two thirds of all employed and account for 53% of Europe’s GDP.

Nearly one in six people over 65 in Germany is at risk of poverty, meaning they have less than 60% of the median income at their disposal according to the Federal Statistical Office and published by the German media group Funke. Europe maybe could have articulated a far better and softer transition and slower pathway into “some” renewables under excellent quality and already available + pipeline delivered, cheap Russian nat-gas. But they chose otherwise and now Europe must pay the piper. And with only a fraction of the EU imploding generalized chaos will prevail.

True enough, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán led the pack weeks ago by saying “the approach has clearly failed — sanctions have backfired — and our car now has 4 four flat tires”. Just as a reminder, vehicles carry only one spare tire (maybe two) but never four and more to come… Now, also Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotaki proposes to lift sanctions on Russia by December at the latest. But the questions remains: beyond some optics, the audio and the visual… just where precisely is the ACTION ? Are these two Heads of State bright enough per the circumstances ? Or are they just better sounding than the overwhelming EUropean political mediocrity ? Oh, you say they aren´t allowed to do any more than that ? If that´s the established system then EUropeans were not very bright…

Ref #22 https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/orban-urges-new-eu-strategy-on-ukraine-says-sanctions-have-failed/

Michael Kretschmer

Germany needs Russian gas” – says Michael Kretschmer, Saxony’s Minister-President. Okay, that´s a good starting point to acknowledge don´t you think ? A valid diagnosis is necessarily behind any reasonable therapy and at least in this case – besides being bloody obvious – it´s still reconforting to see that a spanking new “common denominator” is being put together by some in Germany. Herr Kretschmer added that the current exorbitant prices for the fuel are “ruining Germany’s industry”. Okay, sorry to hear that. So that means that Russian energy matters lots, correct ?

Russian gas supplies are critical for Germany, and will remain so in the foreseeable future”. In an interview with Germany’s Funke Mediengruppe Michael Kretschmer also added: “We are already witnessing that we can’t do without Russian gas.” Hmmm….. But then Kretschmer went on to say that now Berlin should try to make sure that it keeps receiving Russian gas after the armed conflict is over. But would that be soon, please tell us ? Because saying that implies ignoring that the end of the armed conflict will most probably not be decided in the battlefield and just come about by a NATO-EU surrender. Why so you may ask ? Well precisely because NATO & the EU leadership provoked and sustained Russian gas to be cut off, so that can be reverted only by them, not the other way around. So whatever happens militarily in the battlefield does not actually matter that much any more unless it were 101% decisive. But many months have elapsed and it does not seem to be anywhere close to that, does it ? So finally EU politicians on their own will have to end this unnecessary war that they started simply because the Overton window for European public opinion will not stand it and they will have to admit they were dead wrong and plain go home, if not to jail.

Ref #23 https://www.rt.com/news/563458-saxony-governor-germany-needs-russian-gas/

Clare Daly (Irish MEP)

Clare Daly is a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and from the very beginning in March 2022 she has voted against its Resolutions on this matter basically considering them to be “a recipe for prolonging war with escalation”. She believes that “ignoring the role played by the US and NATO in destabilising the area for the past decade,using Ukraine as a pawn in its battles with Russia, only serves to prevent an understanding of the measures necessary to secure peace”. Per Clare Daly, the EP Resolutions “accelerate the provision of military equipment and weapons to Ukraine, strengthen NATO’s forward presence, increase defence spending…and strengthen the European pillar within NATO” while also ”opportunistically call for opening the European energy market to fracked American liquefied natural gas (LNG)…which is far more polluting and terribly far more expensive”. Clare Daly believes that ”there is no military solution to this crisis as the policy of flooding Ukraine with weapons will, at worst, lead to a permanent condition of conflict, as has happened in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, at best, a greater loss of life and destruction in Ukraine”. Furthermore, Clare Daly believes that the EP Resolutions on this topic do not sufficiently “take into account the impact of the war on workers,their working conditions, and the recognition of the hardship that this entails”.

Ref #24 https://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/197731/CLARE_DALY/other-activities/written-explanations

Ref #25 https://rmx.news/article/shock-eu-commission-president-threatens-italy-on-eve-of-election-says-brussels-has-tools-if-wrong-parties-win/ Ref #26 https://tomluongo.me/2022/09/23/as-democracy-dies-eu-its-sins-are-revealed/

Ref #27 https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/London-Banks-Prepare-For-Possible-Blackouts.html

Saint Greta of Thunberg

Days ago Greta Thunberg at the London’s Royal Festival Hall left on record that there is no going “back to normal” as it would mean returning to the Global North climate crisis “system” i.e. “colonialism, imperialism, oppression, genocide and racist, oppressive extractionism”. So only the overthrow of “the whole capitalistic system” will suffice, says Greta. No explanation was given — or even a mild attempt made — to describe how the required transition could possibly be made to get from our current evil point A to future greatly-improved point B. Apparently, there’s no GDP growth — especially of the capitalist sort — without increasing carbon emissions. Supposedly the only solution to this state of emergency is “for rich countries to immediately abandon economic expansion as a social goal.” Full interview credit to Nicholas Harris at Ref #28 https://unherd.com/thepost/greta-thunberg-throws-her-lot-in-with-the-anti-capitalist-left/

C:\Users\Jorge Vilches\Desktop\index.jpg

entitlements & cakeism vs. the chicken and the egg DE-globalization economics: FIRE vs real STUFF

If really interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions mankind worldwide would need to drastically change its way of life in many important ways already very firmly considered by the collective mind-set as genuinely valid entitlements So, politically speaking such proposal is a non-starter waaaay outside any current Overton window we may come up with. In turn, we also can´t have our own cake and eat it too. So which will it be ? On top of it, let´s add that “All service industries (– including FIRE finances –) remain completely dependent on the raw materials and manufactured goods sectors to function… So DE-globalization will increasingly favor those who produce and control the STUFF which underpins everything else…(of course necessarily) leading to devastating closures of (almost all ?) energy and/or resource-intensive industrial operations in Europe due to high energy prices that make their products uncompetitive.” Ref #29 https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/East-vs-West-Stuff-vs-Finance.html . Full credit to Kurt Cobb via OilPrice.com.

American Diplomacy as a Tragic Drama

July 29, 2022

By Michael Hudson and posted with the author’s permission

As in a Greek tragedy whose protagonist brings about precisely the fate that he has sought to avoid, the US/NATO confrontation with Russia in Ukraine is achieving just the opposite of America’s aim of preventing China, Russia and their allies from acting independently of U.S. control over their trade and investment policy. Naming China as America’s main long-term adversary, the Biden Administration’s plan was to split Russia away from China and then cripple China’s own military and economic viability. But the effect of American diplomacy has been to drive Russia and China together, joining with Iran, India and other allies. For the first time since the Bandung Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in 1955, a critical mass is able to be mutually self-sufficient to start the process of achieving independence from Dollar Diplomacy.

Confronted with China’s industrial prosperity based on self-financed public investment in socialized markets, U.S. officials acknowledge that resolving this fight will take a number of decades to play out. Arming a proxy Ukrainian regime is merely an opening move in turning Cold War 2 (and potentially/or indeed World War III) into a fight to divide the world into allies and enemies with regard to whether governments or the financial sector will plan the world economy and society.

What is euphemized as U.S.-style democracy is a financial oligarchy privatizing basic infrastructure, health and education. The alternative is what President Biden calls autocracy, a hostile label for governments strong enough to block a global rent-seeking oligarchy from taking control. China is deemed autocratic for providing basic needs at subsidized prices instead of charging whatever the market can bear. Making its mixed economy lower-cost is called “market manipulation,” as if that is a bad thing that was not done by the United States, Germany and every other industrial nation during their economic takeoff in the 19th and early 20th century.

Clausewitz popularized the axiom that war is an extension of national interests – mainly economic. The United States views its economic interest to lie in seeking to spread its neoliberal ideology globally. The evangelistic aim is to financialize and privatize economies by shifting planning away from national governments to a cosmopolitan financial sector. There would be little need for politics in such a world. Economic planning would shift from political capitals to financial centers, from Washington to Wall Street, with satellites in the City of London, the Paris Bourse, Frankfurt and Tokyo. Board meetings for the new oligarchy would be held at Davos’s World Economic Forum. Hitherto public infrastructure services would be privatized and priced high enough to include profits (and indeed, monopoly rents), debt financing and management fees rather than being publicly subsidized. Debt service and rent would become the major overhead costs for families, industry and governments.

The U.S. drive to retain its unipolar power to impose “America First” financial, trade and military policies on the world involves an inherent hostility toward all countries seeking to follow their own national interests. Having less and less to offer in the form of mutual economic gains, U.S. policy makes threats of sanctions and covert meddling in foreign politics. The U.S. dream envisions a Chinese version of Boris Yeltsin replacing the nation’s Communist Party leadership and selling off its public domain to the highest bidder – presumably after a monetary crisis wipes out domestic purchasing power much as occurred in post-Soviet Russia, leaving the international financial community as buyers.

Russia and President Putin cannot be forgiven for having fought back against the Harvard Boys’ “reforms.” That is why U.S. officials planned how to create Russian economic disruption to (they hope) orchestrate a “color revolution” to recapture Russia for the world’s neoliberal camp. That is the character of the “democracy” and “free markets” being juxtaposed to the “autocracy” of state-subsidized growth. As Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov explained in a press conference on July 20, 2022 regarding Ukraine’s violent coup in 2014, U.S. and other Western officials define military coups as democratic if they are sponsored by the United States in the hope of promoting neoliberal policies.

Do you remember how events developed after the coup? The putschists spat in the face of Germany, France and Poland that were the guarantors of the agreement with Viktor Yanukovych. It was trampled underfoot the next morning. These European countries didn’t make a peep – they reconciled themselves to this. A couple of years ago I asked the Germans and French what they thought about the coup. What was it all about if they didn’t demand that the putschists fulfil the agreements? They replied: “This is the cost of the democratic process.” I am not kidding. Amazing – these were adults holding the post of foreign ministers.[1]

This Doublethink vocabulary reflects how far mainstream ideology has evolved from Rosa Luxemburg’s description a century ago of the civilizational choice being posed: barbarism or socialism.

The contradictory U.S. and European interests and burdens of the war in Ukraine

To return to Clausewitz’s view of war as an extension of national policy, U.S. national interests are diverging sharply from those of its NATO satellites. America’s military-industrial complex, oil and agriculture sectors are benefiting, while European industrial interests are suffering. That is especially the case in Germany and Italy as a result of their governments blocking North Stream 2 gas imports and other Russian raw materials.

The interruption of world energy, food and minerals supply chains and the resulting price inflation (providing an umbrella for monopoly rents by non-Russian suppliers) has imposed enormous economic strains on U.S. allies in Europe and the Global South. Yet the U.S. economy is benefiting from this, or at least specific sectors of the U.S. economy are benefiting. As Sergey Lavrov, pointed out in his above-cited press conference: “The European economy is impacted more than anything else. The stats show that 40 percent of the damage caused by sanctions is borne by the EU whereas the damage to the United States is less than 1 percent.” The dollar’s exchange rate has soared against the euro, which has plunged to parity with the dollar and looks set to fall further down toward the $0.80 that it was a generation ago. U.S. dominance over Europe is further strengthened by the trade sanctions against Russian oil and gas. The U.S. is an LNG exporter, U.S. companies control the world oil trade, and U.S. firms are the world’s major grain marketers and exporters now that Russia is excluded from many foreign markets.

A revival of European military spending – for offense, not defense

U.S. arms-makers are looking forward to making profits off arms sales to Western Europe, which has almost literally disarmed itself by sending its tanks and howitzers, ammunition and missiles to Ukraine. U.S. politicians support a bellicose foreign policy to promote arms factories that employ labor in their voting districts. And the neocons who dominate the State Department and CIA see the war as a means of asserting American dominance over the world economy, starting with its own NATO partners.

The problem with this view is that although America’s military-industrial, oil and agricultural monopolies are benefitting, the rest of the U.S. economy is being squeezed by the inflationary pressures resulting from boycotting Russian gas, grain and other raw-materials exports, and the enormous rise in the military budget will be used as an excuse to cut back social spending programs. That also is a problem for Eurozone members. They have promised NATO to raise their military spending to the stipulated 2 percent of their GDP, and the Americans are urging much higher levels to upgrade to the most recent array of weaponry. All but forgotten is the Peace Dividend that was promised in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved the Warsaw Pact alliance, expecting that NATO likewise would have little reason to exist.

Russia has no discernable economic interest in mounting a new occupation of Central Europe. That would offer no gain to Russia, as its leaders realized when they dissolved the old Soviet Union. In fact, no industrial country in today’s world can afford to field an infantry to occupy an enemy. All that NATO can do is bomb from a distance. It can destroy, but not occupy. The United States found that out in Serbia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. And just as the assassination Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo (now Bosnia-Herzegovina) triggered World War I in 1914, NATO’s bombing of adjoining Serbia may be viewed as throwing down the gauntlet to turn Cold War 2 into a veritable World War III. That marked the point at which NATO became an offensive alliance, not a defensive one.

How does this reflect European interests? Why should Europe re-arm, if the only effect is to make it a target of retaliation in the event of further attacks on Russia? What does Europe have to gain in becoming a larger customer for America’s military-industrial complex? Diverting spending to rebuild an offensive army – that can never be used without triggering an atomic response that would wipe out Europe – will limit the social spending needed to cope with today’s Covid problems and economic recession.

The only lasting leverage a nation can offer in today’s world is trade and technology transfer. Europe has more of this to offer than the United States. Yet the only opposition to renewed military spending is coming from right-wing parties and the German Linke party. Europe’s Social Democratic, Socialist and Labour parties share American neoliberal ideology.

Sanctions against Russian gas makes coal “the fuel of the future”

The carbon footprint of bombing, arms manufacturing and military bases is strikingly absent from today’s discussion about global warming and the need to cut back on carbon emissions. The German party that calls itself Green is leading the campaign for sanctions against importing Russian oil and gas, which electric utilities are replacing with Polish coal and even German lignite. Coal is becoming the “fuel of the future.” Its price also is soaring in the United States, benefitting American coal companies.

In contrast to the Paris Club agreements to reduce carbon emissions, the United States has neither the political capability nor the intention to join the conservation effort. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Executive Branch has no authority to issue nation-wide energy rules; only individual states can do that, unless Congress passes a national law to cut back on fossil fuels.

That seems unlikely in view of the fact that becoming head of a Democratic Senate and Congressional committee requires being a leader in raising campaign contributions for the party. Joe Manchin, a coal-company billionaire, leads all senators in campaign support from the oil and coal industries, enabling him to win his party’s auction for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee chairmanship and block any seriously restrictive environmental legislation.

Next to oil, agriculture is a major contributor to the U.S. balance of payments. Blocking Russian grain and fertilizer shipping threatens to create a Global South food crisis as well as a European crisis as gas is unavailable to make domestic fertilizer. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of grain and also of fertilizer, and its exports of these products have been exempted from NATO sanctions. But Russian shipping was blocked by Ukraine placing mines in the sea lanes through the Black Sea to close off access to Odessa’s harbor, hoping that the world would blame the world’s imminent grain and energy crisis on Russia instead of the US/NATO trade sanctions imposed on Russia.[2] At his July 20, 2022 press conference Sergey Lavrov showed the hypocrisy of the public relations attempt to distort matters:

For many months, they told us that Russia was to blame for the food crisis because the sanctions don’t cover food and fertiliser. Therefore, Russia doesn’t need to find ways to avoid the sanctions and so it should trade because nobody stands in its way. It took us a lot of time to explain to them that, although food and fertiliser are not subject to sanctions, the first and second packages of Western restrictions affected freight costs, insurance premiums, permissions for Russian ships carrying these goods to dock at foreign ports and those for foreign ships taking on the same consignments at Russian harbours. They are openly lying to us that this is not true, and that it is up to Russia alone. This is foul play.

Black Sea grain transport has begun to resume, but NATO countries have blocked payments to Russia in dollars, euros or currencies of other countries in the U.S. orbit. Food-deficit countries that cannot afford to pay distress-level food prices face drastic shortages, which will be exacerbated when they are compelled to pay their foreign debts denominated in the appreciating U.S. dollar. The looming fuel and food crisis promises to drive a new wave of immigrants to Europe seeking survival. Europe already has been flooded with refugees from NATO’s bombing and backing of jihadist attacks on Libya and Near Eastern oil-producing countries. This year’s proxy war in Ukraine and imposition of anti-Russian sanctions is a perfect illustration of Henry Kissinger’s quip: “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.”

Blowback from the US/NATO miscalculations

America’s international diplomacy aims to dictate financial, trade and military policies that will lock other countries into dollar debt and trade dependency by preventing them from developing alternatives. If this fails, America seeks to isolate the recalcitrants from the U.S.-centered Western sphere.

America’s foreign diplomacy no longer is based on offering mutual gain. Such could be claimed in the aftermath of World War II when the United States was in a position to offer loans, foreign-aid and military protection against occupation – as well as manufactures to rebuild war-torn economies – to governments in exchange for their accepting trade and monetary policies favorable to American exporters and investors. But today there is only the belligerent diplomacy of threatening to hurt nations whose socialist governments reject America’s neoliberal drive to privatize and sell off their natural resources and public infrastructure.

The first aim is to prevent Russia and China from helping each other. This is the old imperial divide-and-conquer strategy. Minimizing Russia’s ability to support China would pave the way for the United States and NATO Europe to impose new trade sanctions on China, and to send jihadists to its western Xinjiang Uighur region. The aim is to bleed Russia’s armaments inventory, kill enough of its soldiers, and create enough Russian shortages and suffering to not only weaken its ability to help China, but to spur its population to support a regime change, an American-sponsored “color revolution.” The dream is to promote a Yeltsin-like leader friendly to the neoliberal “therapy” that dismantled Russia’s economy in the 1990s.

Amazing as it may seem, U.S. strategists did not anticipate the obvious response by countries finding themselves together in the crosshairs of US/NATO military and economic threats. On July 19, 2022, the presidents of Russia and Iran met to announce their cooperation in the face of the sanctions war against them. That followed Russia’s earlier meeting with India’s Prime Minister Modi. In what has been characterized as “shooting itself in its own foot,” U.S. diplomacy is driving Russia, China, India and Iran together, and indeed to reach out to Argentina and other countries to join the BRICS-plus bank to protect themselves.

The U.S. itself is ending the Dollar Standard of international finance

The Trump Administration took a major step to drive countries out of the dollar orbit in November 2018, by confiscating nearly $2 billion of Venezuela’s official gold stock held in London. The Bank of England put these reserves at the disposal of Juan Guaidó, the marginal right-wing politician selected by the United States to replace Venezuela’s elected president as head of state. This was defined as being democratic, because the regime change promised to introduce the neoliberal “free market” that is deemed to be the essence of America’s definition of democracy for today’s world.

This gold theft actually was not the first such confiscation. On November 14, 1979, the Carter Administration paralyzed Iran’s bank deposits in New York after the Shah was overthrown. This act blocked Iran from paying its scheduled foreign debt service, forcing it into default. That was viewed as an exceptional one-time action as far as all other financial markets were concerned. But now that the United States is the self-proclaimed “exceptional nation,” such confiscations are becoming a new norm in U.S. diplomacy. Nobody yet knows what happened to Libya’s gold reserves that Muammar Gadafi had intended to be used to back an African alternative to the dollar. And Afghanistan’s gold and other reserves were simply taken by Washington as payment for the cost of “freeing” that country from Russian control by backing the Taliban. But when the Biden Administration and its NATO allies made a much larger asset grab of some $300 billion of Russia’s foreign bank reserves and currency holdings in March 2022, it made official a radical new epoch in Dollar Diplomacy. Any nation that follows policies not deemed to be in the interests of the U.S. Government runs the risk of U.S. authorities confiscating its holdings of foreign reserves in U.S. banks or securities.

This was a red flag leading countries to fear denominating their trade, savings and foreign debt in dollars, and to avoid using dollar or euro bank deposits and securities as a means of payment. By prompting other countries to think about how to free themselves from the U.S.-centered world trade and monetary system that was established in 1945 with the IMF, World Bank and subsequently the World Trade Organization, the U.S. confiscations have accelerated the end of the U.S. Treasury-bill standard that has governed world finance since the United States went off gold in 1971.[3]

Since dollar convertibility into gold ended in August 1971, dollarization of the world’s trade and investment has created a need for other countries to hold most of their new international monetary reserves in U.S. Treasury securities and bank deposits. As already noted, that enables the United States to seize foreign bank deposits and bonds denominated in U.S. dollars.

Most important, the United States can create and spend dollar IOUs into the world economy at will, without limit. It doesn’t have to earn international spending power by running a trade surplus, as other countries have to do. The U.S. Treasury can simply print dollars electronically to finance its foreign military spending and purchases of foreign resources and companies. And being the “exceptional country,” it doesn’t have to pay these debts – which are recognized as being far too large to be paid. Foreign dollar holdings are free U.S. credit to the Unites States, not requiring repayment any more than the paper dollars in our wallets are expected to be paid off (by retiring them from circulation). What seems to be so self-destructive about America’s economic sanctions and confiscations of Russian and other foreign reserves is that they are accelerating the demise of this free ride.

Blowback resulting from US/NATO isolating their economic and monetary systems

It is hard to see how driving countries out of the U.S. economic orbit serves long-term U.S. national interests. Dividing the world into two monetary blocs will limit Dollar Diplomacy to its NATO allies and satellites.

The blowback now unfolding in the wake of U.S. diplomacy begins with its anti-Russia policy. Imposing trade and monetary sanctions was expected to block Russian consumers and businesses from buying the US/NATO imports to which they had become accustomed. Confiscating Russia’s foreign currency reserves was supposed to crash the ruble, “turning it into rubble,” as President Biden promised. Imposing sanctions against importing Russian oil and gas to Europe was supposed to deprive Russia of export earnings, causing the ruble to collapse and raising import prices (and hence, living costs) for the Russian public. Instead, blocking Russian exports has created a worldwide price inflation for oil and gas, sharply increasing Russian export earnings. It exported less gas but earned more – and with dollars and euros blocked, Russia demanded payment for its exports in rubles. Its exchange rate soared instead of collapsing, enabling Russia to reduce its interest rates.

Goading Russia to send its soldiers to eastern Ukraine to defend Russian speakers under attack in Luhansk and Donetsk, along with the expected impact of the ensuing Western sanctions, was supposed to make Russian voters press for regime change. But as almost always happens when a country or ethnicity is attacked, Russians were appalled at the Ukrainian hatred of Russian-language speakers and Russian culture, and at the Russophobia of the West. The effect of Western countries banning music by Russian composers and Russian novels from libraries – capped by England banning Russian tennis players from the Wimbledon tournament – was to make Russians feel under attack simply for being Russian. They rallied around President Putin.

NATO’s trade sanctions have catalyzed helped Russian agriculture and industry to become more self-sufficient by obliging Russia to invest in import substitution. One well-publicized farming success was to develop its own cheese production to replace that of Lithuania and other European suppliers. Its automotive and other industrial production is being forced to shift away from German and other European brands to its own and Chinese producers. The result is a loss of markets for Western exporters.

In the field of financial services, NATO’s exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT bank-clearing system failed to create the anticipated payments chaos. The threat had been so loudly for so long that Russia and China had plenty of time to develop their own payments system. This provided them with one of the preconditions for their plans to split their economies away from those of the US/NATO West.

As matters have turned out, the trade and monetary sanctions against Russia are imposing the heaviest costs on Western Europe, and are likely to spread to the Global South, driving them to think about whether their economic interests lie in joining U.S. confrontational Dollar Diplomacy. The disruption is being felt most seriously in Germany, causing many companies to close down as a result of gas and other raw-materials shortages. Germany’s refusal to authorize the North Stream 2 pipeline has pushed its energy crisis to a head. This has raised the question of how long Germany’s political parties can remain subordinate to NATO’s Cold War policies at the cost of German industry and households facing sharp rises in heating and electricity costs.

The longer it takes to restore trade with Russia, the more European economies will suffer, along with the citizenry at large, and the further the euro’s exchange rate will fall, spurring inflation throughout its member countries. European NATO countries are losing not only their export markets but their investment opportunities to gain from the much more rapid growth of Eurasian countries whose government planning and resistance to financialization has proved much more productive than the US/NATO neoliberal model.

It is difficult to see how any diplomatic strategy can do more than play for time. That involves living in the short run, not the long run. Time seems to be on the side of Russia, China and the trade and investment alliances that they are negotiating to replace the neoliberal Western economic order.

America’s ultimate problem is its neoliberal post-industrial economy

The failure and blowbacks of U.S. diplomacy are the result of problems that go beyond diplomacy itself. The underlying problem is the West’s commitment to neoliberalism, financialization and privatization. Instead of government subsidy of basic living costs needed by labor, all social life is being made part of “the market” – a uniquely Thatcherite deregulated “Chicago Boys” market in which industry, agriculture, housing and financing are deregulated and increasingly predatory, while heavily subsidizing the valuation of financial and rent-seeking assets – mainly the wealth of the richest One Percent. Income is obtained increasingly by financial and monopoly rent-seeking, and fortunes are made by debt-leveraged “capital” gains for stocks, bonds and real estate.

U.S. industrial companies have aimed more at “creating wealth” by increasing the price of their stocks by using over 90 percent of their profits for stock buybacks and dividend payouts instead of investing in new production facilities and hiring more labor. The result of slower capital investment is to dismantle and financially cannibalize corporate industry in order to produce financial gains. And to the extent that companies do employ labor and set up new production, it is done abroad where labor is cheaper.

Most Asian labor can afford to work for lower wages because it has much lower housing costs and does not have to pay education debt. Health care is a public right, not a financialized market transaction, and pensions are not paid for in advance by wage-earners and employers but are public. The aim in China in particular is to prevent the rentier Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector from becoming a burdensome overhead whose economic interests differ from those of a socialist government.

China treats money and banking as a public utility, to be created, spent and lent for purposes that help increase productivity and living standards (and increasingly to preserve the environment). It rejects the U.S.-sponsored neoliberal model imposed by the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization.

The global economic fracturing goes far beyond NATO’s conflict with Russia in Ukraine. By the time the Biden administration took office at the start of 2021, Russia and China already had been discussing the need to de-dollarize their foreign trade and investment, using their own currencies.[4] That involves the quantum leap of organizing a new payments-clearing institution. Planning had not progressed beyond broad outlines of how such a system would work, but the U.S. confiscation of Russia’s foreign reserves made such planning urgent, starting with a BRICS-plus bank. A Eurasian alternative to the IMF will remove its ability to impose neoliberal austerity “conditionalities” to force countries to lower payments to labor and give priority to paying their foreign creditors above feeding themselves and developing their own economies. Instead of new international credit being extended mainly to pay dollar debts, it will be part of a process of new mutual investment in basic infrastructure designed to accelerate economic growth and living standards. Other institutions are being designed as China, Russia, Iran, India and their prospective allies represent a large enough critical mass to “go it alone,” based on their own mineral wealth and manufacturing power.

The basic U.S. policy has been to threaten to destabilize countries and perhaps bomb them until they agree to adopt neoliberal policies and privatize their public domain. But taking on Russia, China and Iran is a much higher order of magnitude. NATO has disarmed itself of the ability to wage conventional warfare by handing over its supply of weaponry – admittedly largely outdated – to be devoured in Ukraine. In any case, no democracy in today’s world can impose a military draft to wage a conventional land warfare against a significant/major adversary. The protests against the Vietnam War in the late 1960s ended the U.S. military draft, and the only way to really conquer a country is to occupy it in land warfare. This logic also implies that Russia is no more in a position to invade Western Europe than NATO countries are to send conscripts to fight Russia.

That leaves Western democracies with the ability to fight only one kind of war: atomic war – or at least, bombing at a distance, as was done in Afghanistan and the Near East, without requiring Western manpower. This is not diplomacy at all. It is merely acting the role of wrecker. But that is the only tactic that remains available to the United States and NATO Europe. It is strikingly like the dynamic of Greek tragedy, where power leads to hubris that is injurious to others and therefore ultimately anti-social – and self-destructive in the end.

How then can the United States maintain its world dominance? It has deindustrialized and run up foreign official debt far beyond any foreseeable way to be paid. Meanwhile, its banks and bondholders are demanding that the Global South and other countries pay foreign dollar bondholders in the face of their own trade crisis resulting from the soaring energy and food prices caused by America’s anti-Russian and anti-China belligerence. This double standard is a basic internal contradiction that goes to the core of today’s neoliberal Western worldview.

I have described the possible scenarios to resolve this conflict in my recent book The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism. It has now also been issued in e-book form by Counterpunch Books.

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  1. “Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with RT television, Sputnik agency and Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, Moscow, July 20, 2022,” Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry, July 20, 2022. https://mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/1822901/. From Johnson’s Russia List, July 21, 2022, #5. 
  2. International Maritime Organization, “Maritime Security and Safety in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov,” https://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/HotTopics/Pages/MaritimeSecurityandSafetyintheBlackSeaandSeaofAzov.aspx. See Yves Smith, Some Implications of the UN’s Ukraine Grain and Russia Fertilizer/Food Agreements,” Naked Capitalism, July 25, 2022, and Lavrov’s July 24 speech to the Arab League. 
  3. My Super ImperialismThe Economic Strategy of American Empire (3rd ed., 2021) describes how the Treasury-bill standard has provided America with a free ride and enabled it to run balance-of-payments deficits without constraint, including the costs of its overseas military spending. 
  4. Radhika Desai and Michael Hudson (2021), “Beyond Dollar Creditocracy: A Geopolitical Economy,” Valdai Club Paper No. 116. Moscow: Valdai Club, 7 July, reprinted in Real World Economic Review (97), https://rwer.wordpress.com/2021/09/23.&nbsp;

Going to Samarkand

July 31, 2022

By Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted

The SCO and other pan-Eurasian organizations play a completely different – respectful, consensual – ball game. And that’s why they are catching the full attention of most of the Global South.

The meeting of the SCO Ministerial Council  in Tashkent this past Friday involved some very serious business. That was the key preparatory reunion previous to the SCO summit in mid-September in fabled Samarkand, where the SCO will release a much-awaited “Declaration of Samarkand”.

What happened in Tashkent was predictably unreported across the collective West and still not digested across great swathes of the East.

So once again it’s up to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to cut to the chase. The world’s foremost diplomat – amidst the tragic drama of the American-concocted Era of Non-Diplomacy, Threats and Sanctions – has singled out the two overlapping main themes propelling the SCO as one of the key organizations on the path towards Eurasia integration.

  1. Interconnectivity and “the creation of efficient transport corridors”. The War of Economic Corridors is one of the key features of the 21st
  2. Drawing “the roadmap for the gradual increase in the share of national currencies in mutual settlements.”

Yet it was in the Q@A session that Lavrov for all practical purposes detailed all the major trends in the current, incandescent state of international relations. These are the key takeaways.

How comfortable are you with the US dollar?

Africa: “We agreed that we will submit to the leaders for consideration proposals on specific actions to switch to settlements in national currencies. I think that everyone will now think about it. Africa already has a similar experience: common currencies in some sub-regional structures, which, nevertheless, by and large, are pegged to Western ones. From 2023, a continental free trade zone will start functioning on the African continent. A logical step would be to reinforce it with currency agreements.”

Belarus – and many others – eager to join the SCO: “There is a broad consensus on the Belarusian candidacy (…) I felt it today. There are a number of contenders for the status of observer, dialogue partner. Some Arab countries show such interest, as do Armenia, Azerbaijan and a number of Asian states.”

Grain diplomacy: “In regard to the issue of Russian grain, it was the American sanctions that did not allow the full implementation of the signed contracts due to the restrictions imposed: Russian ships are prohibited from entering a number of ports, there is a ban on foreign ships entering Russian ports to pick up export cargo, and insurance rates have gone up (…) Financial chains are also interrupted by illegitimate US and EU sanctions. In particular, Rosselkhozbank, through which all the main settlements for food exports pass, was one of the first to be included in the sanctions list. UN Secretary General A. Guterres has committed to removing these barriers to addressing the global food crisis. Let’s see.”

Taiwan: “We do not discuss this with our Chinese colleague. Russia’s position on having only one China remains unchanged. The United States periodically confirms the same line in words, but in practice their ‘deeds’ do not always coincide with words. We have no problem upholding the principle of Chinese sovereignty.”

Should the SCO abandon the US dollar? “Each SCO country must decide for itself how comfortable it feels to rely on the dollar, taking into account the absolute unreliability of this currency for possible abuses. The Americans have used this more than once in relation to a number of states.”

Why the SCO matters: “There are no leaders and followers in the SCO. There are no situations in the organization like in NATO, when the US and its closest allies impose one line or another on all other members of the alliance. In the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the situation that we are currently seeing in the EU does not arise: sovereign countries are literally being ‘knocked out’, demanding that they either stop buying gas or reduce its consumption in violation of national plans and interests.”

Lavrov was also keen to stress how “other structures in the Eurasian space, for example, the EAEU and BRICS, are based and operate on the same principles” of the SCO. And he referred to the crucial cooperation with the 10 member-nations of ASEAN.

Thus he set the stage for the clincher: “All these processes, in interconnection, help to form the Greater Eurasian Partnership, which President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly spoken about. We see in them a benefit for the entire population of the Eurasian continent.”

Those Afghan and Arab lives

The real big story of the Raging Twenties  is how the special military operation (SMO) in Ukraine de facto kick-started “all these processes”, as Lavrov mentioned, simultaneously leading towards inexorable Eurasia integration.

Once again he had to recall two basic facts that continue to escape any serious analysis across the collective West:

Fact 1: “All our proposals for their removal [referring to NATO-expansion assets] on the basis of the principle of mutual respect for security interests were ignored by the US, the EU, and NATO.”

Fact 2: “When the Russian language was banned in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian government promoted neo-Nazi theories and practices, the West did not oppose, but, on the contrary, encouraged the actions of the Kyiv regime and admired Ukraine as a ‘stronghold of democracy.’ Western countries supplied the Kyiv regime with weapons and planned the construction of naval bases on Ukrainian territory. All these actions were openly aimed at containing the Russian Federation. We have been warning for 10 years that this is unacceptable.”

It’s also fitting that Lavrov would once again put Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya in context: “Let us recall the example of Afghanistan, when even wedding ceremonies were subjected to air strikes, or Iraq and Libya, where statehood was completely destroyed, and many human lives were sacrificed. When states that easily pursued such a policy are now making a fuss about Ukraine, I can conclude that the lives of Afghans and Arabs mean nothing to Western governments. It’s unfortunate. Double standards, these racist and colonial instincts must be eliminated.”

Putin, Lavrov, Patrushev, Madvedev have all been stressing lately the racist, neocolonial character of the NATOstan matrix. The SCO and other pan-Eurasian organizations play a completely different – respectful, consensual – ball game. And that’s why they are catching the full attention of most of the Global South. Next stop: Samarkand.

Mobilization and Real Economy

July 20, 2022

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World War 3 for dummies

June 18, 2022

Source

By Gaius Baltar

Some knowledgeable people, apparently including the Pope, are beginning to suspect that there may be more going on in the world than just the war in the Ukraine. They say that World War 3 has already started and things will get worse from now on. This can be difficult to determine while we are participating in the unfolding events and do not have the benefit of the historical perspective. It is doubtful that people back in 1939 realized that they were looking at the start of a major worldwide conflict, although some may have suspected it.

The current global situation is in many ways like a giant jigsaw puzzle where the general public only sees a tiny part of the complete picture. Most don’t even realize that there may be more pieces and don’t even ask these simple questions: Why is all this happening and why is it happening now?

Things are more complicated than most people realize. What they see is the evil wizard Vladimir Saruman Putin invading innocent Ukraine with his orc army – for absolutely no reason. This is a simplistic view, to say the least because nothing happens without a reason. Let’s put things in perspective and see what is really going on – and why the world is going crazy before our eyes. Let’s see what World War 3 is all about.

The pressure cooker

The West (which we can define here as the US and the EU and a few more) has been maintaining pressure on the entire world for decades. This does not only apply to countries outside the West, but also to Western countries which strayed from the diktats of the West’s rulers. This pressure has been discussed widely and attributed to all kinds of motives, including neocolonialism, forced financial hegemony, and so forth. What is interesting, particularly during the last 20 years, is which countries have been pressured and what they do not have in common.

Among the pressured countries we find Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Syria, Serbia, Thailand, and Iran to mention a few. There have also been recent additions, including India and Hungary. In order to understand why they have been pressured, we need to find out what they have in common. That’s not easy since they are extremely different in most ways. There are democracies and non-democracies, conservative and communist governments, Christian, Muslim and Buddhist countries, and so on. Still, many of them are very clearly allied. One must ask why conservative and religious countries such as Russia or Iran would ally themselves with Godless communists in Cuba and Venezuela.

What all these countries have in common is their desire to run their own affairs; to be independent countries. This is unforgivable in the eyes of the West and must be tackled by any means necessary, including economic sanctions, color revolutions, and outright military aggression.

The West and its NATO military arm had surrounded Russia with hostile countries and military bases, armed and manipulated Ukraine to be used as a hammer against it, and employed sanctions and threats. The same thing was and is happening in Asia where China is being surrounded by all means available. The same applies to all the Independents mentioned above to some extent. In the past 10 years or so the pressure has increased massively on the Independents and it reached almost a fever pitch in the year before the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

During the year before the Ukraine war, the US sent its diplomats around the world to tune up the pressure. They were like a traveling circus or a rock band on a tour, but instead of entertainment, they delivered threats: buy this from us and do what we tell you or there will be consequences. The urgency was absolute and palpable, but then came the Ukraine war and the pressure went up to 11. During the first month of the war, the entire West’s diplomatic corps was fully engaged in threats against the ‘rest of the world’ to engineer the isolation of Russia. This didn’t work, which resulted in panic in political and diplomatic circles in the US and Europe.

All this pressure through the years, and all the fear and panic when it didn’t work, are clearly related to the events in the Ukraine. They are a part of the same ‘syndrome’ and have the same cause.

The debt dimension

There have been many explanations for what is going on and the most common is the fight between two possible futures; a multipolar world where there are several power centers in the world, and a unipolar world where the West governs the world. This is correct as far as it goes, but there is another reason which explains why this is happening now and all the urgency and panic in the West.

Recently the New Zealand tech guru Kim Dotcom tweeted a thread about the debt situation in the US. According to him all debt and unfunded liabilities of the US exceed the total value of the entire country, including the land. This situation is not unique to the US. Most countries in the West have debt that can only be paid back by selling the entire country and everything it contains. On top of that, most non-western countries are buried in dollar-denominated debt and are practically owned by the same financiers who own the West.

During the last few decades, the economy of the US and Europe has been falsified on a level that is difficult to believe. We in the West have been living far beyond our means and our currencies have been massively overvalued. We have been able to do this through two mechanisms:

  1. The first one is the reserve status of the dollar and the semi-reserve status of the euro which have enabled the West to export digital money and receive goods in return. This has created enormous financial power for the West and enabled it to function as a parasite on the world economy. We have been getting a lot of goods for free, to put it mildly.
  2. The second falsification mechanism is the increase in debt to a level where we have essentially pawned everything we own, including our houses and lands, to keep up our living standards. We own nothing now when the debt has been subtracted. The debt has long since become unserviceable – far beyond our ability to pay interests on – which explains why the interest rates in the West are in the neighborhood of zero. Any increase would make the debt unserviceable and we would all go formally bankrupt in a day.

On top of all this, the falsification has created artificially strong currencies in the West which has boosted their purchasing power for goods priced in non-western currencies. These mechanisms have also enabled the West to run bloated and dysfunctional service economies where inefficiencies are beyond belief. We have giant groups of people in our economies that not only create no value but destroy value systematically. What maintains the West’s standard of living now is a small minority of productive people, constant debt increase, and parasitism of the rest of the world.

The people who own all this debt actually own everything we think we own. We in the West own nothing at this point – we only think we do. But who are our real owners? We know more or less who they are because they meet every year at the World Economic Forum in Davos along with the western political elites who they also happen to own.

It is clear that our owners have been getting increasingly worried, and their worries have been increasing in sync with the increased pressure applied by the West on the rest of the world, particularly the Independents. During the last Davos meeting, the mood was bleak and panicked at the same time, much like the panic among the western political elites when the isolation of Russia failed.

What is about to happen

The panic of our owners and their politicians is understandable because we have come to the end of the line. We can no longer keep up our living standards by debt increase and parasitism. The debt is reaching beyond what we own as collateral and our currencies are about to become worthless. We will no longer be able to get free stuff from the rest of the world, or pay back our debt – let alone pay interest on it. The entire West is about to go bankrupt and our standard of living is about to go down by a massive percentage. This is what has our owners panicked and they see only two scenarios:

  1. In the first scenario most countries in the West, and everything and everyone within them, declare bankruptcy and erase the debt by diktat – which sovereign states are able to do. This will also erase the wealth and political power of our owners.
  2. In the second scenario, our owners take over the collateral during the bankruptcy. The collateral is us and everything we own.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which scenario was chosen. The plan for the second scenario is ready and being implemented as we speak. It is called ‘The Great Reset’ and was constructed by the people behind the World Economic Forum. This plan is not a secret and can be examined to a certain degree on the WEF website.

The Great Reset is a mechanism for the seizing of all debt collateral which includes your assets, the assets of your city or municipality, the assets of your state, and most corporate assets not already held by our owners.

This asset seizure mechanism has several components, but the most important are the following four:

  1. Abolishment of sovereignty: A sovereign (independent) country is a dangerous country because it can choose to default on its debt. The decrease in sovereignty has been a priority for our owners and various schemes have been attempted such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The most successful scheme is undoubtedly the European Union itself.
  2. The down-tuning of the economy: The western economy (and indeed the global economy) must be tuned down by a very significant percentage. This down-tuning is necessary because the western economy is massively falsified now and must be taken down to its real level – which may be as low as half of what it is now – or more. The slow takedown has also the purpose of avoiding a sudden crash that would cause massive social unrest which would be a threat to our owners. A controlled takedown is therefore preferable to an uncontrolled crash. This controlled takedown is already happening and has been going on for quite some time. Many examples can be mentioned of this takedown, including the EU and US energy policy which is designed to sabotage the western economy, and the obvious attempts at demand destruction during and after the epidemic, including the fairly bizarre logistical problems which suddenly came out of nowhere.
  3. Asset harvesting (you will own nothing and be ‘happy’): All assets that can be considered to be collateral to our private and collective/public debt will be taken over. This is a clearly stated aim of the Great Reset but it is less clear how this would be carried out. Total control of western governments (and indeed all governments) would seem to be necessary for this. That precondition is closer than one might think because most western governments seem to be beholden to Davos at this point. The process will be sold as necessary social restructuring because of an economic crisis and global warming and will result in a massive decrease in living standards for regular people, although not the elites.
  4. Oppression: A great many people will not like this and an uprising is a likely response, even if the takedown is done gradually. To prevent this from happening, a social control mechanism is being implemented which will erase personal freedom, the freedom of speech, and privacy. It will also create absolute dependence of the individual on the state. This must be done before the economic takedown can be completed or there will be a revolution. This mechanism is already being implemented enthusiastically in the West as anybody with eyes and ears can see.

Russia, China, and other Independents

How do Russia and China, and the war in Ukraine, factor into all of this? Why all the pressure from the West throughout the years and why all this panic now? Part of the reason for the pressure on the Independents, particularly Russia and China, is simply that they have resisted western hegemony. That is enough for getting on the West’s naughty list. But why the increased pressure in recent years?

The reason is that Russia and China cannot be subjugated through bankruptcy and their assets harvested. They do not have much debt in western currencies which means that the people who own the West through debt do not currently own Russia and China (like they own the West and the indebted ‘third world’) and cannot acquire them through debt. The only way to acquire them is through regime change. Their governments must be weakened by any means, including economic sanctions and military means if necessary -thus the use of Ukraine as a battering ram for Russia and Taiwan for China.

Subjugating Russia and China is an existential issue for our Davos owners because when they take the western economy down, everything else must go down too. If the western economy is taken down and a large economic block doesn’t participate in the downfall, it will be a disaster for the West. The new block will gain massive economic power, and possibly unipolar hegemony of sorts, while the West descends into a feudal Dark Age and irrelevance. Therefore the entire world must go down for the Great Reset to work. Russia and China must be subjugated by any means, as well as India and other stubborn nations.

This is what has fueled the situation we now find ourselves in and will fuel the continuation of World War 3. The western owner-elites are going to war to keep their wealth and power. Everyone who resists must be subjugated so they can follow the West into the planned Great Reset Dark Age.

The reason for the current panic among western elites is that the Ukraine project isn’t going as planned. Instead of Russia being bled on the battlefield, it is Ukraine and the West that bleed. Instead of the Russian economy crashing resulting in Putin’s replacement by a Davos-compatible leader, it is the West’s economy that is crashing. Instead of Russia being isolated, it is the West that is being increasingly isolated. Noting is working, and to top it all off, Europe has given the Russians the means and motive to destroy the European economy by partly shutting down its industry. Without Russian resources, there is no European industry, and without industry, there are no taxes for paying for unemployment benefits, pensions, all the refugees, and pretty much everything else which holds European societies together. The Russians now have the ability to engineer an uncontrolled crash in Europe which is not what Davos planned. An uncontrolled crash might see Davos’s heads roll, literally, and that is causing fear and panic in elite circles. The only solution for them is to move on with World War 3 and hope for the best.

What to do

The Great Reset of the world economy is the direct cause of World War 3 – assuming that is what is going on. What can be done about this? From inside the West, little can be done. The only way is to somehow remove Davos from the equation, but that is most likely not going to happen for two reasons: The first one is that the Davos great resetters are too entwined in the western economy and politics. Davos is like an octopus with its arms and suckers inside every country’s elite circles, media, and government. They are too entrenched to be easily removed. The second reason is that the western population is too brainwashed and ignorant. The level of their brainwashing is such that a large part of them actually want to become poor – although they use the word ‘green’ for ‘poor’ because it sounds better. There are, however, some indications that there may be divisions within western elites. Some of them, particularly within the US, may be resisting the primarily Europe-designed Great Reset – but whether this opposition is real or effective remains to be seen.

However, outside the West, there are certain measures that can be taken and must be taken. Some of those measures are drastic and some of them are being done as we speak. Among the measures are the following:

  1. The Independents, led by Russia, China, and India, must create a block to isolate themselves from the radioactive West. This isolation must not only be economic, but also political and social. Their economic systems must be divorced from the West and made autonomous. Their cultures and history must be defended against western influences and revisionism. This process appears to be underway.
  2. The Independents must immediately ban all western sponsored institutions and NGOs in their countries, regardless of whether they are sponsored by western states or individuals. Furthermore, they must ban all media receiving western sponsorship and strip every school and university of western sponsorship and influence.
  3. They must leave all international institutions up to and possibly including the United Nations because all international bodies are controlled by the West. They must then replace them with new institutions within their block.
  4. They must, at some point, declare the dollar and the euro currencies non grata. That means that they should declare default on all debts denominated in these currencies, but not other debts. This will most likely come at a later stage but is inevitable.

This will create a situation where the West will descend into darkness without pulling others down with it – if we manage to escape the nuclear fire.

Economic Rent and Exploitation: Michael Hudson, Shepheard Walwyn

June 18, 2022

Michael Hudson, Shepheard Walwyn recording May 23, 2022
Part one:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDo7HykYN9k

Part two here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-xWgLertkg

Jonathan Brown
Michael, welcome to the podcast.

Michael Hudson
It’s good to be here. I’m looking forward to it.

Jonathan Brown
Michael, I think you have one the most extraordinary upbringings and journeys into economics. And I just wanted to give our listeners just some sense of how you got from being the godson of Leon Trotsky all the way to what I consider to be probably the most important economist in the world today.

Michael Hudson 00:23
There’s no direct causality there that could have been anticipated. I never studied economics in college, because I went to school at the University of Chicago. We know that there were some students at the university who were at that business school. They were such strange people that we never even thought of going near them, because there was something otherworldly about them, something abstract.

My degree was in German language and history of culture, because the head of the History of Culture Department was Matthijs Jolles, a German professor and translator of von Clausewitz, On War. And in at the time, my intention was to become a musician. And I had to learn German in order to read the works of Heinrich Schenker. In music theory, my teachers were German. And for the History of Culture, most of the books that I was reading were, were all in German. And the German professors were also heads of the Comparative Literature Department and other departments. That meant that I could take all the courses cafeteria style at the university that I wanted.

I had to go to work when I graduated. I went to work for a while for direct mail advertising for the American Technical Society, a publisher a block away from the university, and then went to work for Free Press that was headed by Jerry Kaplan, a Trotskyist follower of Max Shachtman. And he wanted to send me to New York to help set up Free Press there.

Soon after I came to New York, Trotsky’s widow died. And Max Shachtman was the executor of her estate. He thought I should go into publishing by myself. And I had already had the copyrights for George Lukacs, the Hungarian Marxist and I thought tried to get funding for a publishing company with Trotsky’s works and other works. I’ve been writing a history of music and art theory. And needless to say, I didn’t get any funding because nobody was at all interested in publishing the works of Trotsky. I even tried to get Dwight Eisenhower the write the introduction to his military papers, wouldn’t work.

I was urged to meet Terence McCarthy, the father of a girlfriend of one of my schoolmates, Gavin MacFadyen. He was the first English-language translator of the first history of economic thought that was written: Karl Marx’s Theories of Surplus Value (Mehrwert), reviewing the value theory of classical economics. Terence said that he would help guide me in economic thinking if I’d get a PhD in economics and go to work on Wall Street to see how the world works. But I had to read all of the bibliography in Marx’s Theories of Surplus Value. So I had to begin buying the books, and ended up working as a sideline with one of the reprinters, Augustus Kelly, who was reprinting many of the classical economists. He was a socialist. There were other dealers in New York: Samuel Ambaras, Sydney Millman. I began buying all of the 19th-century classical economic books that I could, sinse that was the only way that I could get copies.

I took graduate classes in the evening while working at a bank for three years, the Savings Banks Trust Company. It was a commercial bank, but was acting as a central bank for the savings banks that in America finance mortgages. All their savings are reinvested in mortgages. So for three years my job was to track the real estate market, the mortgage market, interest rates, the funding of mortgages, the growth of assets by the savings banks, all growing at compound interest. All the growth in savings in the New York savings banks in the early 1960s was simply the accrual of dividends. So you’d have a step function at dividend time every quarter, going up exponentially. There was hardly any new savings inflow. It’s as if you’ve just left a given amount of savings in 1945, and let the amount rise exponentially. All this increase in savings was recycled into the real estate market.

The New York banks wanted to extend their market so they couldn’t just keep bidding up New York housing prices. They won the right to lend out of state, especially the Florida. So my job was basically seeing that real estate prices were whatever a bank would lend. At that time, banks would not lend you a mortgage if the debt service exceeded 25% of your income. And you had to put up usually 30% of the purchase price as a down payment, but possibly 10%. So housing was affordable. You could buy a really nice house for you know, $20 or $30,000. Now, it costs $400,000 to buy just a one room apartment in a condominium.

I bought a house for $1 down – it was $45,000 total. I took out a mortgage from Chase for half the price, and the other half was a purchase-money mortgage. So it was easy. Anybody coul get a house in New York at that time. Housing was readily affordable.

After I finished my PhD courses, I changed jobs. My real interest at the time was international finance and the balance of payments. So I went to work at Chase Manhattan as their balance of payments economist. This was at a time when the balance of payments and even balance-sheet analysis was not taught in schools. It was very specialised. I realised that what I was taught, especially in monetary theory, had nothing at all to do with what I was learning in practice.

In monetary theory, for instance, that was the era of Milton Friedman in the 60s and 70s. He thought that when you create more money, it increases consumer prices. Well, I thought that obviously was not how things worked. When banks create money, they don’t lend for people for spending. About 80% of bank loans in America, as in England, are mortgage loans. They lend against property already in place. They also lend for corporate mergers and acquisitions, and by the 1980s for corporate takeovers.

The effect of this lending is to increase asset prices, not consumer prices. You could say that money creation actually lowers consumer prices, because 80% is to increase housing prices. Banks seek to increase their loan market by lending more and more against every kind of real estate, whether it’s residential or commercial property. They keep increasing the proportion of debt to overall real estate price. So by 2008 you could buy property with no money down at all, and take 100% mortgage, sometimes even 102 or 103% so that you would have enough money to pay the closing fees. The government did not limit the amount of money that a bank could lend against income. The proportion of income devoted to mortgage service that was federally guaranteed increased to 43%. Well, that’s a lot more than 25%. That’s 18% of personal income more in 2008 than in the 1960s – simply to pay mortgage interest in order to get a house. So I realised that this was deflationary. The more money you have to spend on mortgage interest to buy a house as land and real estate is financialized, the less you have left to spend on goods and services. This was one of the big problems that was slowing the economy down.

Well, it was obvious to me that rent was being paid out as interest. Rent is for paying interest. If I talked with various developers about buying buildings, they said, “Well, we try to buy our buildings without any money at all. The banks will lend us the money to buy a building, and they calculate how much is your rental income going to be? That rental income will carry how much of a bank loan at a given interest charge, and lend the money to buy it.” That is how real estate rent was financialized.

Democratization of real estate on credit means turns rental income into interest, not taxes
This meant that the role that had been played in the 19th century by landlords is now played by banks. In the 19th century, the problem was absentee landlords, the heirs of the warlords who conquered England or other European countries in the Middle Ages. You had hereditary rent. Well, now our rent has been democratised. But it’s been democratised on credit, because obviously, the only way that a wage earner can afford to buy is is on credit. For an investor you can buy whole buildings on credit.

Finance has transformed real estate into a financial vehicle. So that that’s what rent is for paying interest means. There’s a symbiotic sector, Finance, Insurance and Real Estate – the FIRE sector. It’s the key to today’s financialised economy. Most real estate tax in America is at the local level, because after the income tax was introduced, commercial real estate was made tax exempt by the pretence that buildings depreciate in value, as if they don’t in fact rise in price. The pretence is that they wear out, even though landlords normally pay about 10% of the rental income for repairs and upgrades to keep the building from wearing out.

Today in New York, and I’m sure in London too, the older a building is, the better it’s built. Real-estate developers have crapified building codes so that the newer the building, the more shoddily it’s built. They call shoddy buildings “luxury” real estate, meaning is built with really not very thick walls. I think the junkiest building in New York is Trump Tower, which is sort of the model of shadiness which they call luxury. It’s very high-priced.

The academic economics curriculum finds unproductive credit to embarrassing to acknowledge
While I saw the importance of finance and real estate, none of that was discussed in the university’s economics courses at all. The pretense is that money is created by banks lending to investors who build factories and employ labour to produce more. All credit is assumed to be productive, and taken on to finance productive investment in the form of tangible capital formation. Well, that that was the hope in the 19th century, and actually was the reality in Germany and in Central Europe, where you had banking becoming industrialised. But after World War I, you had a snap back to the Anglo-Dutch-American kind of banking, which was really just the Merchant banking. It was bank lending against assets already in place.

Classical economics as a reform program to free economies from economic rent and rentier income

I realised that the statistics that I worked on showed the opposite of what I was taught. I had to go through the motions of the PhD orals. and avoided conflict by writing my dissertation on the history of economic thought, because anything that I would have written about the modern economy would have driven the professors nutty. Needless to say, none of the academic professors I had ever actually worked in the real world. It was all very theoretical. So that basically how I came to realise that the 19th century fight for 100 years – we can call it the long 19th century, from the French Revolution, up to World War I, and from the French Physiocrats, to Adam Smith, Ricardo and Malthus, John Stuart Mill, Marx, Simon Patton and Thorstein Veblen – was the value and price theory of classical economics to quantify economic rent as unearned income.

The purpose of value and price theory was to define the excess of market price over actual cost value. The difference was economic rent. The essence of classical economics was a reform campaign – that of industrial capitalism. It was a radical campaign, because the basic cost-cutting dynamic of industrial capitalism was radical. It realised that in order to make Britain, France or Germany, or any country competitive with others, you had to get rid of the landlord class and its demands for economic rent. You also had to get rid of monopolies and their economic rent. You had to get rid of all payments of income that were not necessary for production to take place. The aim was to bring prices in line with the actual cost value of production, to free economies from this rake-off to unproductive investment, unproductive labour and economic rent – land rent, monopoly rent and financial interest charges. Those were the three basic categories of rent on which classical political economy focused.

To translate classical rent theory into practice, you needed a political reform, You had to get rid of the landlord class’s political power to block reform. It wasn’t enough simply to say that economic rent was not a necessary cost of production, not part of real value. The landlord class would simply say, “Well, what are you going to do about it?”

The proponents of industrial capitalism saw that the constitution of England, France and America required giving governments the power to pass laws to free economies from economic rent. in order to do that, they needed democratic reform of the political system. In England they needed to empower the House of Commons over the House of Lords. That effort led to a constitutional crisis in 1909 and 1910, when the House of Commons, Parliament, passed a land tax. That was rejected, as I’m sure you know, by the House of Lords. The crisis was resolved by saying the Lords could never again reject a Revenue Act passed by the House of Commons. That political reform was part and parcel with classi9cal economic theory defining rent as an unnecessary cost of production.

But where did this leave the interests of labor – the majority of the population? As a broad social reform, classical economics began to falter by 1848. You had revolutions in almost every European country. These revolutions were not fully democratic in the sense of they weren’t really for wage labour, which was the bulk of society. They were bourgeois revolutions, including land reform. They were all for getting rid of the landed aristocracy and the special privileges that the aristocracy held. But they were not very interested in helping consumers, and labour’s working conditions, shortening the workweek, shortening the workday and promoting safety. There was nothing really about public health, or public social infrastructure spending. So things began to falter by 1848.

But they still made progress through the balance of the 19th century. By the time World War I broke out in 1914, it looked like the world was moving towards socialism. Almost everybody in the 19th century, across the political spectrum, whatever you were advocating was called socialism.

Socialism and strong government as the program of post-rentier industrial capitalism
At the broadest level, socialism meant collecting economic rent and getting rid of the landlords and the aristocracy, either by taxing away rent or nationalizing land and natural monopolies, in hope that that by itself would create a viable industrial economy. you had libertarian socialism, Marxist socialism, anarchist socialism, industrial socialism and Christian socialism. Almost every reformer wanted that as a label. The question is, what kind of socialism were are you going to have?

That was what the aftermath of World War I was fought about. The fight was largely shaped by the Russian Revolution, which unfortunately went tragically wrong under Stalin and gave socialism and communism a bad name. But it still had a good name in England after World War II. And also in America in the 1930s, as a result of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal that saved capitalism by investing in public infrastructure.

I can give you an example of where pro-capitalist theory was in the 1890s. In the United States. The industrial interests in America faced a problem once the Civil War ended in 1865. They wanted to create an industrial society – ideally, a fair society with rising living standards. How do you do that without training people to administer such an economy? You need to train people in a university. You have to teach them how economies worked. But the main universities in America were religious colleges, founded to train the clergy. Yale, Harvard, Princeton and most taught British free-trade theory, which trivialized economic theory.

So the business interests and the government saw the need to teach reality-based economics. They saw that there was little hope in trying to reform the existing universities. Their economics departments – called moral philosophy – were unreformable. So it was necessary to create new universities. All through America, each state was given a land grant to enable it to create a new university and teach reality economics. They also would teach economic history and how the world actually works. Most of all, they would teach protectionist trade theory and how to create a society and economy that is more efficient than other economies?

Well, the first business school in America was the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Its first economics professor was Simon Patton, a protectionist. And he explained that if you’re going to make industrial products at prices that outcompete those of England, you need public infrastructure spending. You need as much of the cost of living as possible to not to be paid by the employers to factor into the price of their products, but to be paid by the government.

Patten cited public roads and canals to lower the cost of doing business. He also noted that every time you build a road or railroad, you’re going to raise the land value along these routes – and lower land prices for areas replaced by the now-more-accessible producers. You can simply self-finance the cost of these by taxing the rent.

You also need public education, and that should be free so that you don’t have like today, to earn enough money to pay an enormous student debt – and receive a high salary to afford to pay that. If the government would provide free education, you wouldn’t have to pay workers enough to pay this student debt, so they wouldn’t need such high wages simply to break even.
Today 18% of America’s national income is from medical insurance. If you have a public health system and socialized medicine, as England had after World War II and as Bernie Sanders advocates today, then you wouldn’t have to pay workers a high enough salary to afford this enormous medical expense. England realised this already in the 1870s and ‘80s, when Benjamin Disraeli campaigned as a conservative for health.

So the movement towards public infrastructure towards government spending was led by the industrialists. It was they themselves who wanted strong government. The common denominator of politics from Adam Smith through all of the 19th century was to free economies from the unnecessary economic rent, to free them from unearned income, from the free lunch. To do that, you have to have a government strong enough to take on the vested interests – first the landlord class in the House of Lords, and then the financial class behind it.

Jonathan Brown 26:00
Well, just to clarify that, Michael, I think what you’re, what you’re saying is, I know in some of your writing you talk about the view of government or the public sector was it was a fourth means of production. So you got land, labour, capital and the public sector.

Michael Hudson 26:16
That was the term that Simon Patten used. Government infrastructure is a fourth means of production. But what makes it different from profits and wages is that if you’re a wage earner, you want to make as high a wage as possible. If you’re a capitalist, you want to make as high a profit as possible. But the job of public investment is not to make an income, not to do what was done under Thatcher and Tony Blair, not to treat public utilities, education and health as profit making opportunities. Instead, Patten said, you should measure their productivity by how much they lower the cost of doing business and the cost of living for the economy at large.

Jonathan Brown 27:03
And what that allows a country to do, so if you’re good at it, is to get together and ask how to educate our people, lower the cost of transportation so we’ve got we’ve got a mobile workforce, all those things. We can then start to compete against other nations who are ahead of us, who may have more expensive means of production, and we can maintain that advantage. We’re not stuck in a lower level of the economy where we’re basically working for someone else. We’re able to develop ourselves as a nation. And I guess the benefit of us doing it collectively is that we can minimise the cost, then use a natural monopoly power in government hands to provide efficient services across the board. Is that right?

Michael Hudson 27:46
Yes, but they went further. Protectionists in America said the way to minimise costs – and it may seem an oxymoron to you – the way you minimise costs is to have high-wage labour. You raise the wages of labour, or more specifically, you want to raise the living standards, because highly paid labour, highly educated labour, well fed labour, well rested labour is more productive than pauper labour. So they said explicitly, America’s going to be a high wage economy. We’re not like Europe. Our higher wages are going to provide high enough living standards to provide high labour productivity. And our higher labour productivity, shorter working day, better working conditions, healthy working conditions, public health, well educated labor will undersell that of countries that don’t have an active public sector.

Jonathan Brown 28:45
and Henry Ford being the poster boy for that approach, of doubling his employees’ salaries and so on.

Michael Hudson 28:53
Yes.

Jonathan Brown 28:54
Amazing.

<h4>The fight against classical economics and its concept of rent as unearned income</h4>
Michael Hudson 28:55
Needless to say, the fight for the kind of democracy that will free economies from economic rent was not easy. By the late 1880s, and especially the 1890s, you had the rentiers fighting back. In America the fight was led by John Bates Clark. There was a movement, which today is called neoliberalism, to deny the entire thrust of classical economics. Clarke said that there is no such thing is unearned income. That meant that economic rent does not exist. Whatever a businessman makes, he is said to earn. Whatever a landlord makes, he earns – so there was no unearned income.

This came to a head around 1890 the Journal of Ethics. Clark wrote the first essay, and it was refuted by Simon Patton. There was a fight against the concept of economic rent by academic economics, especially in New York City at Columbia University, where Clark ended up, This is really the dividing line: You recognise that much of the economy is unearned income and you want to get rid of it. To do that, you have to pass laws that will tax away the unearned income, or better yet, you put land and other natural resources and natural monopolies in the public domain where the public sector directly sets prices. That was what Teddy Roosevelt did with his trust busting.

Jonathan Brown 31:13
Michael, I just want to say reading your work is something of a revelation. I’ve got a degree in economics for what it’s worth. And I would say the only valuable thing that I found from a getting a degree in economics is that I know, resolutely when an economist is talking bullshit. How do you know that? It’s when his lips move.

Michael Hudson 31:32
If it’s an economist, they’re talking bullshit – let me make it easy, right!

Jonathan Brown 31:36
And then the thing is, that reading your work, for example, going back to Thorstein Veblen, his work, which only made it into the mainstream when I was getting a degree in the 90s, was conspicuous consumption. It had nothing to do with absentee landlords or, and the profound importance of that, and then I’m looking in J is for Junk Economics, and you talk about the free lunch, and how Milton Friedman said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

When you look at your work, you prove that actually there is, and that he’s having it! And you say, “Most business ventures seek such free lunches not entailing actual work or real production costs, and to deter public regulation or higher taxation of rent-seeking recipients of free lunches. They have embraced Milton Friedman’s claim that there’s no such thing as a free lunch”.

And you talk about: “Even more aggressively rent extractors accused governments of taxing their income to subsidise freeloaders, pinning the label of free lunches on public welfare recipients, job programs, beneficiaries of higher minimum wage, when the actual antidote to free lunches is to make governments strong enough to tax economic rent, and keep the potential rent extracting opportunities and natural monopolies in the public domain.”

Michael Hudson 32:51
Veblen was indeed was the last great classical economist. He coined the term neoclassical economics. I think that’s an unfortunate term. When I went to school in my 20s, I thought neoclassical meant ‘Oh, it’s a new version of classical economics’. It’s not that at all. What Veblen meant was there used to be the old classical economics of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and Marx, all about economic rent and exploitation. “Neo” means there’s a new body of completely different, post-classical economics aiming to make classical economics obsolete. That is the new mainstream economics of today, trying to make itself “classical.” So Veblen he should have used the terms post-classical or anti-classical economics.

Jonathan Brown 33:44
Or even pseudo classical?

Michael Hudson 33:49
It’s antithetical, because the root of classical value and price theory was to isolate and define economic rents statistically. To deny economic rent is to deny the whole point of classical value and price theory. That is where economics became untracked.

Unfortunately, it became untracked largely by Henry George, who rejected classical economics and very quickly followed J.B. Clark and accepted his mushy value and price theory. Removing all elements the cost of production from value theory, analysing prices simply in terms of consumer demand and what people want, and not analysing what determines land and other asset prices, loses focus.

George became very popular as a journalist. He wrote wonderful journalism to expose the railroads in California as landlords, and he wrote a wonderful book on the Irish land question. But when he tried to talk about the whole economy, he didn’t want any competition. He said, in effect, “Economics begins and ends with me. Forget everything, Adam Smith and classical economics.” He’s sort of an early Margaret Thatcher. There’s no such thing as society or the economy. Only “tax the landlords.”

Jonathan Brown 35:35
What are you doing? You’re destroying my view of Henry George! He’s an early Margaret Thatcher? How, how could that possibly be?

Michael Hudson 35:47
Well, in two ways. The first way is that in the 19th century, in order to tax the land rent, you had to take on the most powerful vested interests of all: the real estate interests and the financial interests. But Henry George was a libertarian. He was for small government. He broke with the socialists, because he warned that socialism had a potential for authoritarianism. Well, we know that he was right in that warning, because we saw what happened in Stalinist Russia. But obviously, what you want is a government that is strong and democratic, and with enough authority to tax and regulate the vested interests. (That term is Veblen’s, by the way.) That was the ideal in America, but it needed a strong enough government so that Teddy Roosevelt could come in and be able to bust the trusts.

The government was strong enough in 1913-14 to impose an American income tax that fell just on 1% of the population, almost entirely on economic rent, on land rent, mineral rent on monopoly rent of the big corporations. If you’re a libertarian, your government is too small to take on these vested interests. And you’ll never win. You’ll end up like the Social Democrats or like today’s Labour Party under Mr. Starmer, not able to be very efficient. So that was George’s first problem.

The second problem was when he said that all you have to do is tax the land and everything else will take care of itself. Well, as you know, he was nominated as a celebrity candidate by the socialist and labour groups in New York City in 1876 to run for mayor. They gave him their programme – safe housing, workers housing, safe working conditions, food laws that protect people from poison, like you don’t want to use chromium for cake frosting to make it yellow.
Well, George threw out the whole labour programme and said that there’s only one thing that mattered: If you tax the land rent, the cakes will take care of themselves, worker safety conditions will take care of themselves. You don’t need socialism; just tax land rent.

Well, the word “panacea” came into popular use in the English language at that time, because George didn’t see the economy as a whole. That was a tragedy. He was great as a journalist describing rent and the machinations of the railroads. But once he tried to talk about the economy, without really describing how it worked as a system, saying there really isn’t any economic system, it’s just about land rent. That separated him from the other reformers.

By the 1890s you had many of reformers in America, who had been inspired by George’s journalism in the 70s and early 80s, including attacks on the oil monopoly and the Rockefellers. They asked what happened to George? Well, he became a sectarian. He formed his own party and said, we’re only going to talk about land rent. This diverted attention away from how the overall economy works. And if you don’t understand how the economy is all about providing a free lunch in one way or another, not only to landlords but to the financial sector primarily, then you’re really not going to address the interests of most of the population.

So his sectarian party shrank. Still, in the first decade of the 20th century you had followers of Henry George and socialists going around the country debating each other. They had great debates, they spelled out the whole problem. I wanted to reprint all these debates somewhere, what both the socialists and the Georgists said: “One thing we can agree on is that society is going to get go either your way or our way. We’re talking about how is the future of the political system and the economic relations and taxes that follow from this system. How are they going to evolve?”

The socialists focused on labour’s working conditions, because these were getting worse and worse. In America the fight for labour unionisation got quite violent, and corrupt. The abuse of consumers, the growth of monopolies, all these were growing problems. The socialists focused on these problems – and decided to leave the discussion of rent to followers of George. I think that was very unfortunate, because George had pried the discussion of economic rent away from the classical value theory and its political dimension, which was socialist.

I find little interest in today’s socialist movement or the socialist movement 50 years ago about land rent. They are more concerned about international issues, about war, about almost everything except land rent. And today I find the greatest interest in rent theory as a guide to a tax system in the context of an overall economic system to be in China. So that’s really where the debate over how to keep the price of housing down by keeping the financial sector from trying to capitalise the land rent into a bank loan.

That’s a big fight in China today. It should have been also in Russia. Fred Harrison, in the early 1990s, brought a group of people including me over to Russia. We made two trips to the Duma and did everything we could to explain that Russia could have a great advantage to rebuild its industry into a productive economy. The first thing that it should have done was to keep housing prices down. It could have given everybody their houses, free and clear, without any debt. Of course, some places would be more valuable than others, but Russia would have had the lowest-priced economy in the world. In America, the rent can take up to 43% of a home buyer’s income.

Well, there was pushback from the Russians. They had no rent in a socialist economy. Ted Gwartney, an American real estate appraiser, walked down the streets of St. Petersburg with the local mayor, I think on a fall or winter days. He pointed out that one side of the street was very sunny. The other street was in the shade. That’s how the sun is in the northern latitudes in the winter. Most people were walking on the sunny side of the street. That means that if you’re going to have a store, whether it’s a bakery, a food store or a restaurant, the store on the sunny side of the street is going to be able to attract more customers. Their site has more economic rent than the dark side of the street. Same thing with buildings near a subway. They will be worth more than sites far away from transportation.

The mayor said understood the point, and asked how to actually make a land value tax so to collect this rent? Ted explained that St. Petersburg’s layout was much like that of Boston, where a land map was easy to make. It showed that there was a peak centre of values near the subway, with rents tapering off further away. He suggested to apply Boston as a scale model to St. Petersburg. Just plug in a few prices, and you have a land-valuation map.

Russia could have been a low-cost economy. It could have kept the oil and gas, Yukos, GazProm, nickel and platinum resources all in the public domain to finance investment in re-industrialization, to become independent of the West. But as we all know, Ted and the people that Fred Harrison bought were completely overwhelmed by the billions of dollars that U.S. diplomats spent on promoting kleptocracy and shock therapy in Russia. Its officials and insiders worked for themselves, not Russia.

And it wasn’t only Russia that missed opportunities. I brought Ted Gwartney and his mathematical model-maker to Latvia, where I was Economic Research Director of the Riga Graduate School of Law. I was asked by the leading political party of Latvia, the Centre Party – basically the party of Russian speakers, with 1/3 of the population and votes – to draw up a model for how Latvia could restructure its post-Soviet economy and industry. Ted met with the tax authorities and housing authorities and explained how to use land rent as the tax base. They were amazed and said, “This is great. We can hire a separate appraiser for every single building. This will create a lot of employment”. No he said. He had been the appraiser for Greenwich, Connecticut, the state’s wealthiest city. He said, “We can do a whole city in about one week.” They couldn’t believe this in Latvia.

Around the time of his visit there was a meeting in Boston of the Eastern Economics Association. It was largely created by John Kenneth Galbraith to go off the economic mainstream. I think the Schalkenbach Foundation had a session on political critics of Henry George, so there were a lot of Georgists. Other people who came to the Eastern Economic Association meeting were socialists, including Alan Freeman who was the assistant to Ken Livingston, the Mayor of London.

When everybody was having lunch after the economic meetings, I brought Alan over to sit down with Ted Gwartney. Ted explained what he did, and Alan said, “Oh, I’ve never heard of this! I’ve got to come and meet you some more.’ So he came to New York and we went up to visit Ted in Connecticut. He explained how to make a land value map. Alan said, “You should win the Nobel Prize for this! This is amazing! There’s nothing like this in England.”

Ted explained that there are about 20,000 appraisers in America that do what he did. There are abundant statistics. Every city has a map of land and building appraisals: here’s the value of the building, here’s the value of the land. So smoothing out a land value map is pretty easy to do. Alan could hardly believe it.

Well, I went back to London shortly and met with Alan. It turned out that political pressures in England, especially from the Labour Party, led London to hire Weatheralls, a real estate company, do appraisals. So we never got to do our version of a real estate appraisal of London to calculate land rent.

But this is what all of the theories of the Physiocrats, Adam Smith, Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Marx, Veblen, Alfred Marshall, all of them were focusing on. Yet this idea is so alien that from London to St. Petersburg, they don’t have any idea of how the simple concept can be done. The economics profession is in denial. It’s followed the idea that there’s no such thing as unearned income, everybody gets what they make.

The National Income and Product Accounts treat rent as a product, not a subtrahend
A byproduct of this value-free doctrine is how countries calculate their national income and product accounts. And if you look at the GDP accounts for the United States (and I’ve published a number of articles on my website and in major economic journals), rent is counted as part of GDP.

This is easiest to see in real estate and finance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics sends its employees around to ask homeowners what the rental income of their home would be if they had to rent it. If you were a landlord and rented yourself how much rent would that be? This appears in the NIPA statistics as “homeowners imputed rent.” That’s 8% of GDP. But it is not really income, because it is not actually paid. Nobody gets it. But value-free designers of GDP want to describe all of the income that landlords make as contributing to GDP. They say that landlords provide a productive service, they provide housing to people who need it, and they provide commercial properties to businesses that need it. Well, that’s not exactly how John Stuart Mill put it. He said that rent is what landlords make ‘in their sleep’. So how can you rationalize how productive landlords are?

Another element of American GDP is financial services. I called up the Commerce Department where they make the NIPA statistics and asked what happens when credit card companies increase their interest charges. And where do penalty charges for late payments appear? Credit card companies in America make billions of dollars in interest a year and even more billions in fees, late fees and penalties. Most of the income that credit card companies make are actually on these fees and penalties. So where does that appear in that GDP? I was told, in “financial services.’ So the “service” of calculating how far the debtors must pay for falling behind in their payments. They typical charge 29%. That’s all counted as a contribution to GDP. But in reality it is a subtrahend, leaving less to spend on real “product.”

This raises the question of just what income and product actually mean. Well, this brings us back to what classical economics is all about. The “product” should be measured by what its actual necessary cost of production is. But there’s a lot of income over and above this necessary cost of production. Namely, economic rent, that’s unearned income. But the income and product accounts don’t say how much is “earned” and how much is “unearned” land rent, monopoly rent, natural resource rent, interest and financial charges.

A classical economic accounting format would show how much of the prices for what our society produces is actually necessary, and how much is a subtrahend. Classical economists treat the land rent that you pay, interest charges and monopoly prices as a rake-off. So not all of your income is income equals “product,” because only a portion of that income represents a real product.

In America, the head of Goldman Sachs a few years ago said Goldman Sachs partners – a financial management firm – make more money than almost anyone else in America, because they’re the most productive. If you make a lot of money, by definition, you make it by being productive. That’s the false identity.

Jonathan Brown 55:25
That’s really the John Bates Clark idea that if you make the money, you’ve earned it. And it’s not just because you control the gate. You’re the gatekeeper, to stop people and make them pay the toll. You’re the troll under the bridge, taking people’s money as they cross, which is essentially what financial economics is about.

Michael Hudson 55:48
Right. I have spoken with a number of political advisors, many of whom were followers of Henry George. They’ve described to me how political all of this definition of the economy is. A number of friends of mine have been trying to show how much of what the United Nations calculates as income and product is actually economic rent. Steve Keen, Dirk Bezemer and Jacob Assa are in this group. There are a number of others who do it. We publish in places like the Review of Keynesian Economics, Journal of Economic Issues and other not-mainstream journals. A lot of this was taught where I was a professor for decades, at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

Our graduates had problems getting jobs, because in order to get an appointment at a university, you have to publish articles in prestige journals. The University of Chicago, the Milton Friedman boys, the Chicago Boys control the editorial boards of all these prestige magazines, just like they control the Nobel Economics Prize Committee. The prize basically is given to Chicago Boys every year for not explaining how the economy works.

A precondition for what you call an economist, especially a Nobel Prize winning economist, is not to understand how the economy works. Because if you understand that, you’re going to threaten the vested interests that are getting the free lunch. You have to say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, everybody earns whatever they can get. Robbers and criminals like that idea. “Yeah, we stole it fair and square!”

Crime pays, and rent seeking also pays.

You can get much more money quicker by extractive means – by rent extraction – than you can by investing in plant and equipment and developing products and marketing them and making a profit over time, and spending on research and development. That’s why in today’s United States, 92% of corporate revenue, called earnings, (although not all of it is earned – that’s a euphemism) is spent on stock buybacks and dividend payouts, not on new capital investment.

So the way that the economy works today is no longer industrial capitalism; it is finance capitalism. Instead of Industrial Engineering, making society produce more with all of the environmental protection cost included, you have financial engineering, making wealth by increasing stock-market prices. Wealth is not achieved by earning it. You don’t save up your earnings and get wealthy. I think half of Americans are unable to raise $400 In an emergency. They have no savings at all.

For most people it’s very hard to save up money, especially if they have student debt, credit-card debt, medical debt and mortgage debt. After paying this, there’s really no income left to be saved. So you have the 1% of society, the rentier portion that had to pay income tax back in 1914, getting huge amounts of income and the rest of the society getting less and less. The result is economic polarisation. The dynamics of society are financial and basically rely on rent seeking that has been financialized.

I’ll give you another example of the GDP. One of the problems that makes GDP statistics meaningless is depreciation, the idea that buildings depreciate. When Ronald Reagan came in, the real estate interests and their banks basically took over the government. Henry George and the Libertarians oppose central planning by elected democratic governments, and that leaves central planning to Wall Street’s financial interests. Every economy is planned, and if you don’t have a government strong enough to do the planning, then the planning is done by the financial sector and the real estate sector, and they were given free rein under Ronald Reagan.

Under Reagan’s 1981 tax “reform” you could pretend that if you buy a big commercial building, you can write off 1/7 of the entire costs every single year as tax deductible income. At the end of seven years, you change your ownership from one name to another name, and you start all over again. The same building can be re depreciated again and again and again.

Donald Trump wrote in his autobiography, he loves depreciation, because he said thanks to the pretence of depreciation, his buildings are all going up in value, but he gets to pretend they’re falling, and deduct all of that fictitious over-depreciation from his taxable income. It’s actually economic rent. But if you look at the national income statistics, you can’t find economic rent in them at all. I was able to piece it together by adding up what goes into economic rent: Real estate taxes are part of economic rent, and also interest payments, because interest is paid out of economic rent. But fictitious depreciation tax loopholes also should be there.

But nowhere in the national income statistics is a report of how much income real estate owners actually claim as depreciation. They haven’t done that because if they showed this, people would think, ‘Wait a minute, this is a giveaway. This is utterly unrealistic.” So they only put in a figure for how much they [think] buildings are actually depreciating over a period of decades. So you have a fictitious national income accounting format that makes it impossible to calculate what land rent is – and that was the major focus of classical economics.

How are you going to get a statistical system that actually reflects this? Well, one associate of mine, Jacob Assa, has written a few books on this criticising economic rent. He worked in the United Nations here in New York until quite recently. But as I said, our graduates can’t publish in the University of Chicago economic journals whose party line is that ‘there’s no such thing as economic rent’, just like there’s no such thing as society is beyond “the market.”

I wanted to publish statistics on this and in 1994 the Henry George School in New York asked me to calculate what rent was and the land value. I found out that the value of land, the market price of land in the United States was twice what the government reported.

The government pretends that real estate prices rise mainly because buildings keep growing in value, even though they’re supposed to depreciate. They pretend that buildings grow in value by taking the original cost of the building, and multiplying it by the Construction Price Index. Whatever is left is reported as land value. Well, in 1994 the Federal Reserve reported that the land value of all of the commercially owned real estate in the United States was negative $4 billion. This is crazy.

The statistics are drawn up by a methodology that the real estate interests lobbied for. When I calculated this, the Georgists in America got furious. They said that I was showing that land value and rents were much higher than they thought. They worried that this might lead people to want to tax real estate. Lowell Harriss of Schalkenbach explained that Georgists today represent mainly real estate developers, and that their major audience was local mayors, whose biggest campaign funders are the real estate interest.

These Georgists called themselves “two raters,” wanting to keep overall real estate taxes unchanged (“revenue-neutral”) but shift the tax from commercial landlords onto homeowners by taxing land, not buildings – e.g., electric utilities, office buildings and other capital-intensive structures.

By representing the developers, Georgists proposed to save society by having the developers build up those slums, build up those vacant lots. Like George, they said that there was no need to worry about ecology or any problem except cutting property taxes for large real estate owners. You don’t need to worry about workers conditions or anything else. Let’s just give an economic incentive (i.e., a tax cut) to help contractors build up those vacant lots.

I was told if I published a new explanation of my statistics showing that most rent was paid out as interest, I could never have any relations with Schalkenbach and the Henry George school again. So I published them in a Harper’s Magazine cover story and have lived happily ever after.

Jonathan Brown 1:06:13
And was that “The New Road to Serfdom”?

Michael Hudson 1:06:22
Yes. I chose that title because the purpose of industrial capitalism was to free economies from the legacy of feudalism. And the legacy of feudalism was the landlord-warrior class collecting hereditary rent and the predatory banks that were not making loans for industry. None of the industrialists got their money to invest in banks. The inventors of the steam engine couldn’t get loans except by mortgaging their houses. Banks don’t lend money to create capital, only for the right to foreclose on it.

Jonathan Brown 1:07:02
This is all included in your in your latest book that just came out, The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial capitalism, or Socialism, which I gather was a series of lectures to a Chinese University. Is that correct?

Michael Hudson 1:07:16
Yes. There were 160,000 viewers for the first lecture, and there’s a huge interest in this in China, because they realise that higher housing prices make them poorer and more highly indebted, not richer. What is pushing up housing prices in China is the amount of credit that banks will lend against the property.

A land tax would keep housing prices down, because the rent could not be available, to be capitalized into a bank loan. As China gets more productive and more prosperous, people obviously are going to be able to afford housing, which is how most people define their status. If a site gets more valuable because of public investment in transportation, or schools or parks nearby, that’s going to make it more valuable. But if you tax this rental income, then you’re going to keep the housing price down.

I think Fred Harrison and Don Riley wrote a book Taken for a Ride where they show that the money that London spent on extending the Jubilee Line increased real estate prices by twice as much as the line cost. London could have simply collected the land’s increase in rental value that this public investment created and made it self-financing.

Instead it was a giveaway.

They ended up taxing labour and business, and the effect was to increase Britain’s cost of living and hence the cost of production, which is why Britain is de-industrialising. It’s been de-industrialising because despite the attempts through 1909 and 1911, to free itself from landlordism, the bankers have taken the place of the landlords. They are the class today that the landlords were in the 19th century. So we’re back on the revival of what really was feudalism – a rake-off by a hereditary privileged class.

America’s monetary imperialism coming to an end with de-dollarization
Jonathan Brown 1:09:47

I’m wondering where we go next. I want to get into the conversations that you started with the 1972 first edition of Super Imperialism. I know we had a third edition fairly recently, with your prescience of the predictions in analyzing the situation for America, and how the balance of payments deficit was a result of U.S. expenditure by the military. Getting into the current manifestation of the de-dollarization challenge that seems to be accelerating through the Ukraine and Russia crisis, I wonder what background we need to give the listeners just to tell them about how that system works.

Michael Hudson 1:10:39
One of the things that most people don’t understand is money, largely because of the academic discussion confusing matters. Until 1971, countries running a balance of payments deficit would have to settle it either in gold or by selling off their industry to investors in the payments-surplus countries. Well, beginning with the war in Korea in 1950-1951, the U.S. balance of payments moved into deficit. The entire U.S. balance of payments deficit from the Korean War to the 1970s was a result of its foreign military spending.

By the time the Vietnam war was ending, the Americans had to sell its gold every month. Vietnam had been a French colony, so the banks there were French. As America spent more dollars in Southeast Asia, these dollars were sent from local French bank branches to their head offices in Paris. The Paris bank would turn over these dollars to the central bank for francs, and the central bank, under General de Gaulle, would cash in these dollars for gold.

Germany was doing the same thing, using its export proceeds that were paid in dollars to buy gold. So America’s gold stock was steadily going down, until finally it had to withdraw from the London Gold pool and stop making the dollar gold convertible. Back in 1950 when the Korean War began, the American Treasury had 75% of the world’s monetary gold. It had used this monetary power to control diplomacy in other countries. The basis of America’s political power was its gold stock.

Once they left the gold-exchange standard there was hand wringing. How was the United States going to dominate the world if it didn’t have gold anymore, if the military spending abroad had made it run out of gold? My Super Imperialism pointed out that henceforth when foreign central banks got more dollars, what were they going to use them for? Well, there’s only one thing that central banks at that time did: That was to buy government securities. So the central banks of France, Germany and other payment-surplus countries had little option except to buy U.S. Treasury bills and bonds. Some of these were special non-marketable bonds that they couldn’t sell, but they were stores of value.

So the money that America was spending abroad was simply recycled to the United States. It didn’t mean that America had to devalue the dollar through running a balance-of-payments deficit, like today’s Global South countries do, or do as England had to do with its’ stop-go policies, always raising interest rates to borrow when its deficits threatened to force the pound sterling to depreciate.

Jonathan Brown 1:13:57
Michael, this insight was that was that when you were working at Chase Manhattan, and you were advising the State Department on what to do with the fact that they were having these balance of payments problem, because of military spending?

Michael Hudson 1:14:07
My job at Chase was to analyse basically the balance of payments of Third World countries and then of the oil industry. I had to develop an accounting format to find how much does the oil industry actually makes in the rest of the world. I had to calculate natural-resource rent, and how large it was. I did that from 1964 till October 1967. Then I had to quit to finish my dissertation to get the PhD. And then I developed the system of balance-of-payments analysis that actually was the way it had been calculated before GDP analysis.

I went to work for Arthur Andersen and spent a year calculating the whole U.S. balance of payments. That’s where I found that it was all military in character, and I began to write in popular magazines like Ramparts, warning that America’s foreign wars were forcing it to run out of gold. That was the price that America was paying for its military spending abroad.

I realised as soon as it went off gold in 1971 that America now had a cost-free means of military spending. Suppose you were to go to the grocery store and just pay in IOUs. You could just keep spending If you could convince the owner, the grocer to use the IOU to pay the farmers and the dairy people for their products. What if everybody else used these IOUs as money? You would continue to get your groceries for free.

That’s how the United States economy works under the dollar standard, at least until the present. This is what led China, Russia, Iran and other countries to say that they don’t want to keep giving America a free ride. These dollarized IOUs are being used to surround them of military bases, to overthrow them and to threaten to bomb them if we don’t do what American diplomats tell them to do.

That led already a few years ago to pressure to de-dollarize the world economy and make it multipolar, not simply an extension of the U.S. military, U.S. investors, mining and oil companies. The post-dollar aim was for other countries to keep their economic surplus among themselves to promote their own economic growth, instead of imposing IMF dictated austerity programmes to impose austerity so that they can pay foreign dollarized bondholders.

Just about everybody thought that it would take many years for China, Russia, Iran, India, Indonesia and other countries to get their act together and create an alternative. But this year the Biden administration itself destroyed America’s free ride for the dollar. First the United States grabbed Venezuela’s foreign exchange, then Biden grabbed all of the foreign exchange of Afghanistan, just confiscated it. And then a month ago he confiscated $300 billion of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves. He said, in effect, that we are the leading democracy in the world, and global democracy means that America’s military gets to appoint foreign presidents.

And so we don’t like the person you’ve voted in as president for Venezuela. We’re going to hire this little nitwit that we bought out, Juan Guaido, and appoint him president. To force you to accept this, we’re going to take away all of your gold reserves held in the Bank of England, and we’re going to give it to Mr. Guaido as our nominee for the bastion of democracy, to do what a democratic regime is supposed to do: hiring terrorist groups to kill all land reformers and labour leaders, to finance a neo-Nazi takeover like we did in Chile under Pinochet, and just like we’ve done in democratic Ukraine with our funding of neo-Nazis to fight against the Russians there.

This confiscation of foreign reserves and foreign money held in U.S. banks shocked the rest of the world. Nobody had believed that countries would actually grab other countries’ financial savings. If you go back to the wars in the 19th century, the Crimean War and others, countries would continue to pay their foreign debts.

All this was ended by President Biden rejecting the international rule of law. He said that “We have a ‘rules-based’ order, in which we can make up the rules. Number one, we are exempt from the rules. Only you have to follow them. Number two, the rules or whatever we say.” China, Russia and India would have taken years by themselves to denominate their trade in their own currencies. Biden’s money grab has impelled them to create a new economic order independently of the United States and Europe, whose euro and sterling are satellite currencies of the United States.

Jonathan Brown 1:19:54
So Michael, this is a crazy situation that we’ve got. Even If you have deposits in a bank, the deposits don’t really belong to you, but they used to be respected.

Michael Hudson 1:20:07
Well they belong to you, but they can be stolen.

Jonathan Brown 1:20:09
Yeah, but then they don’t belong to me, do they? They’re kind of mine, but not. Likewise, if I annoy the wrong person, I could have my car impounded, because I’ve just annoyed the local politician, which is essentially what’s happened to a Russian oligarch. Now, whether or not the oligarch deserved that $500 million yacht, obviously, they didn’t, but it was technically theirs. So what Americans are doing is showing that if you piss them off, they will take all your resources, which has happened in other countries, right? We’ve stolen it.

The British did that, right? We appropriated resources and stole resources from other nations. If you want the best example of that, you can just go into the very beautiful British Museum and see all the artefacts that we’ve appropriated, one of which was a Rosetta Stone, which I know you write about.

So we’ve got this situation now that the Americans have declared the most profound economic war on Russia, threatening China that we can do the same. China’s got trillions of U.S. dollars. And one of the things that I don’t quite understand, looking at your philosophy and Super Imperialism, was in demonstrating that the Americans can have a free lunch by getting people to buy U.S. Treasury bonds. How is it that the U.S. dollar has gone up against all currencies pretty much other than the rouble since declaring war in Ukraine?

Michael Hudson 1:21:43
Europe has committed economic suicide, United States offered its leaders a lot of money in their offshore accounts, and made sure that their kids got free education in the United States. But in return, they would have to represent the United States, not Germany, France or other countries. The Americans have been meddling in European politics for years. European politicians do not represent their own countries. They represent the American State Department and American diplomacy. And they were told to lock their countries into the U.S. economy.
For instance, European businesses had a hope that Americans really hated. The Europeans hoped that after 1991, now that communism was over, they could invest in Russia to make money. They could sell exports to Russia and make mutual gains from each other. But the Americans wanted to make all the money off Russia for themselves, mainly by using the kleptocrats they backed to sell the natural resources that they grabbed to U.S. investors. The Harvard Boys wanted to make sure that rent-yielding natural resources were given the kleptocrats – who could only make their money in hard currency by selling shares abroad in the assets they grabbed, keeping their payments in England or the United States.

So they’ve asked Europe not to buy Russian gas, but to spend seven times as much buying American liquefied natural gas, and spend $5 billion to build the ports to accept this gas – while going without gas for about three or four years…let their pipes freeze… stop making fertiliser… Don’t feed your land, we’ll take it on the chin for America. Your standard of living is going to have to drop by 20%, but it’s all for American democracy. And the European heads said that’s fine.

America said that you Europeans are bothering them by trying to stop global warming. That’s a direct attack on a major arm of U.S. diplomacy, the oil industry. American companies control almost all the world’s oil trade. It’s the highest rent-yielding sector in the world. And it’s income-tax free. It’s politically powerful, and as long as America can control the oil trade, it can talk to Latin American countries or African countries and say if they elect a leader that U.S. officials don’t like, it can impose sanctions and stop exporting oil to them to freeze them out. They won’t get fertilizer, so the U.S. can starve you out. It can put a sanction on their food trade. 

Agriculture is Americans biggest trade surplus.

Jonathan Brown 1:25:14
That’s what they’re doing with the conflict in Ukraine to Russia, and also China as well. Are there other major sources of grain, wheat and rice?

Michael Hudson 1:25:26
Yes. But President Biden has blamed Putin for creating a world food shortage and threatening to cause a famine, because Ukraine can’t export its grain. Ukraine, at American direction, has put mines all over the Black Sea. So the Black Sea’s ports have mines around them. If a ship hits them, it’ll blow a hole in the hull and will sink.
As a result, if you’re a shipping company and want to transport grain, you have to get insurance, because if you don’t have insurance, then you’re in danger of going bust if your ship goes under. But no insurance company will insure it until the Ukrainians remove the mines that they put. You need minesweepers for that. Needless to say, Russia doesn’t want American minesweepers in, because they may very well attack as there’s a war on.

So you have the United States blocking Ukrainian grain exports, which was a huge export. You’ve had the American dollar area, the NATO countries, refusing to import food from Russia, which is the world’s largest agricultural exporter. This is creating a crisis for Global South countries, for Latin America and Africa.

Meanwhile, global warming is causing droughts that are reducing the harvest. The Green Party in Germany has a pro-war policy that is making global warming rise faster. By supporting military warfare against Russia, and U.S. military adventurism in general, they are becoming major lobbyists for the air polluters. The largest air polluter is the American military. The Green Party in Germany advocates fighting Russia more, providing it with more arms, and thus supporting the military that is now the largest new contributor to global warming. In effect, this means that Europe is willing to say, ‘Okay, we are willing to have the sea levels rise another 10 feet, as long as we can help America dominate Russia’.

Europe even is letting America keep the Trump tariffs on its exports, in place, so it can’t export more for America. It looks like Europe will have to de-industrialize, maybe we’ll go back to the 19th century and become a country of farmers. That basically is the situation that its subservience is imposing.

Jonathan Brown 1:28:49
I’d like to come back to the just what China and Russia can do, given their reserves. They understand they’ve got… they’ve got lots of reserves of gold, and also large grain stores, China having the most as I understand it, but can you help me understand why all these nations around the world have U.S. dollar reserves in some form or other, most of it in bonds? Why is the dollar still increasing at this moment in time?

Michael Hudson 1:29:28
Because the Euro was going down. The Japanese Yen is going down. The Yen is the worst performing currency, because they’ve held their interest rates very low. Their aim is for banks to make money by borrowing low at low rates and lending to foreign countries at a higher rate. Europe is also keeping its interest rates low. The American Federal Reserve is raising the interest rate, and that is money from low interest rate countries. Capital from Europe and Japan is flowing to America.

Currency values are primarily set by relative interest rates and capital flows. They’re not set by the cost of production for imports and exports. They are not caused by trade, unless there’s a radical breakdown of trade. All these zigzags that you see are short-term capital movements. America tells other countries to keep their interest rates low, so that money will flow from their banks and financial to the United States to buy American securities that yield higher returns. As long as the Euro is a satellite currency to the dollar, it’s going to continue to go down. So the both the euro and the British Sterling are now moving towards $1 per pound and $1 per euro.

Jonathan Brown 1:28:49
That’s a short-term measure. The long-term measure is that countries have to start selling the bonds that they’ve got in U.S. currency. So long term, it has to come down. Is that right?

Michael Hudson 1:29:28
Yes. They’re going to hold each other’s currencies. Especially now that Russia is denominating its exports, in roubles instead of dollars. The American banks have lost the trade financing of the world oil trade, certainly Russian oil and agricultural trade. Instead of holding dollars, countries will hold rouble reserves to stabilise their currencies via the rouble, China is holding rouble reserves, and Russia is holding Chinese yuan reserves.

The balance will be held more in gold and some kind of assets without a liability attached to them. I think the logical direction in which this is moving is that the non-dollar countries will create their own version of the International Monetary Fund, their own World Bank, their own trade organization. So there will be one set of trade and financial and development organisations and military organisations in the U.S. and Europe, in NATO, that is, in the white countries, and another set of relations and the non-white countries that are actually developing while America and Europe shrink.

Jonathan Brown 1:33:06
So what’s your idea of how much gold China actually holds, because there’s the published numbers [which] are really extraordinarily small aren’t they for an economy that’s so big.

Michael Hudson 1:33:18
I don’t know. Governments can hold gold not only through their own treasury, but through some subordinate agency. I no longer go into the financial statistics like I used to, because it takes a whole year to do a balance sheet that is comprehensive. All I know is that they saw how America simply grabbed Russia’s dollar holdings, and they don’t want the same thing done to them. President Biden has said China is America’s number one long-term enemy, and he wants to destroy the Russian economy first and then attack China after prying them apart.

Obviously, China is reading the newspapers and wants to avoid that fate.

Jonathan Brown 1:34:16
The other thing that I find utterly remarkable, for example, is that Biden in his speech said that he wants to get rid of Putin. I think if it was a U.S. Defence Secretary or Secretary of State saying that he wants to arm Taiwan……. If I ran China and I said I want to arm Mexico, or if anyone in South America wants any weapons then my doors open to you, I would expect the Americans to be very upset with that because I’m breaching the Monroe Doctrine. Can you help me understand, having been in the corridors of power, whether Chase Manhattan or the contacts you’ve got, how can …. how can politicians be so delusional to think they can say stuff like that without having a negative consequence?

Michael Hudson 1:35:18
Well you know who’s really upset by that? The Taiwanese! They say, Oh, they want to make Taiwan into another Ukraine, to fight to the last Taiwanese, just like the Ukrainians have been used. They see two choices before them. If they do arm and get weapons that can hit China, then China is likely to bomb them. On the other hand, I’ve met Taiwanese officials for 40 years, and many have said that their long-term hope is to be reintegrated. They want to be investors in China, but they want to merger under terms where they can be sort of like Hong Kong, able to have a merger that will make them prosperous too.

So Taiwan’s choice is between following the Americans and becoming the Ukraine of the Pacific, or joining with China. Given the fact that China is growing and America is shrinking, what are they going to choose? Well, I would imagine that you will see a strong, peaceful integrationist movement with China. But China remembers that Chiang Kai Shek massacred the communists in 1927.

Jonathan Brown 1:36:47
So what are we looking at then, who is in charge, President Biden or other people?

Michael Hudson 1:36:56
President Biden is a front man. They’re all the front men for the faceless people in the State Department, the neocons who are controlling things. Biden has always been right-wing, just a corrupt party politician. He does what he’s paid to do. He’s unimaginative. He’s brought in some real Russia haters – people who have a visceral hatred of Russia because of their family background under the tsars or under Stalin. Blinken said that his family was Jewish and lost under the tsars, and maybe under Stalin. He wants to kill Russians because he’s so angry at what they did to his ancestors. That is the neocon mentality in a nutshell. It’s a crazy mentality.

The Federal Reserve and the Treasury officials say they were not consulted in the political moves that Biden and Blinken and the neocons are making. There is the kind of single-minded tunnel vision at work. They really are Russia haters and China haters. There is a lot of racism you’re seeing in New York, where it’s very dangerous for Asian women to take a subway. Almost every week, the lead news item is yet another Asian woman attacked or pushed in front of a subway. There’s a there’s a new race hatred in America. And they are treating Russians as the Ukrainians do, as if Slavic speaking people are a separate race.

Jonathan Brown 1:38:49
Extraordinary. So Super Imperialism came out, as I understand it, and was used by the State Department to figure out how to continue running their economics …

Michael Hudson 1:39:04
At first U.S. officials thought that going off gold was going to be a disaster. Herman Khan told me, “You’ve shown that we’ve run rings around the British Empire.” He hired me for the Hudson Institute, which is a national security institute, and brought me to the State Department for meetings and to Army War colleges and Air Force war colleges to talk about it. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the main people who wanted to learn how imperialism works were the imperialists themselves. I had thought that the anti-imperialists were going to be my main audience, but the imperialists really needed to know what was new.

Jonathan Brown 1:39:50
They took your book, Super Imperialism and they read it as a love letter, right.

Michael Hudson 1:39:56
Not a love letter. They saw it as a “how to do it” book. I was a technician.

Jonathan Brown 1:40:04
Right. And working for Herman Kahn, he’s a powerful guy that people don’t talk about so much anymore, but he was, he was extraordinarily influential at the time, right?

Michael Hudson 1:40:14
Yes, he had a great sense of humour. He was a great speaker. He was absolutely brilliant. He wrote a book on thermonuclear war, saying that even if there were to be a war, somebody would be left to survive. That made him one of the models for Dr. Strangelove in the movies. I would sit and hear Herman talk about military strategy, and was awed by how he thought it all through. He was a brilliant military tactician. He would bring me and sit down with generals, and they would explain things. I don’t have a good military sense, or any military training at all. He wrote that, personally, he wanted to be right under the first hydrogen bomb. He didn’t want to live in the post-nuclear world. But there would be some survivors somewhere. That made him notorious. He was so reviled for even having brought up discussion of the topic that needed to be discussed, that he wanted to have ideas that people liked. And that was the corporate environment study. That was what I was pretty much in charge of. I was the economist, he was the military. We had the same salary there.

We would go around the world disagreeing with each other. It would be like a show. He’d talk about the world being a cup half full. I talked about the cup being half-empty, as he put it. I talked about the debt overhead, and how debt was growing and would ultimately stifle the economy. He talked about how productivity would be sufficient to pay debt, although productivity doesn’t necessarily give you the money to pay the debt. Productivity does not grows exponentially, but tapers off. As debt grows, any rate of interest is a doubling time. And it doubles quicker than the economy can double.

Jonathan Brown 1:42:24
And this is really coming back to one of your initial questions from Terrence McCarthy, which was to focus on productivity, wasn’t it?

Michael Hudson 1:42:33
Yes. And the idea was focusing on productivity, you realise that it all comes down to labour ultimately. How do you make labour more productive? How do you make industry more productive? You get rid of what is unproductive – and the unproductive overhead is rent. So how much corporate spending is just plain overhead? How much is unnecessary for corporate industry to take place? That line of questioning brings you back into the classical economics.
Marx is really the last great classical economist who pushed it all to its logical end. His contribution was to explain that just as the landlord exploits by taking rent, the industrial capitalist exploits labour by charging more for the products of labour than it costs to hire labour to produce.

However, unlike the rentier, unlike the landlord, the capitalist uses this economic surplus value to expand production, to build yet more factories, to employ yet more labour. This is an expanding society, whereas the rent paid to landlords is a kind of exploitation that is pure overhead and shrinks industrial capitalism. That’s why Marx said that the political aim of industrial capitalism was to free society from the landlords, predatory bankers and monopolists. That’s why the Communist Manifesto‘s program begins with collecting rent for the public sector. You can tax the land as a transition to socialising it. That was the Communist Manifesto’s classical economics.

Jonathan Brown 1:44:26
You have these views, and yet you were still a valued member of the team at the Hudson Institute.

Michael Hudson 1:44:33
Yes, because I was explaining how the world worked. Herman and I disagreed so much, we were genuine friends. I liked him, and we couldn’t believe that the other would actually believe something so different. But we said okay, if the arguments that we’re having is the “big argument,” it’s going to determine where the economy is going. Either he’s right or I’m right.
This is like the debates between Henry George’s followers and the socialists in the early 1900s. It was going to be one world or another.

What is the key to analysing the economy? Is it to focus on rent and finance, or on technological potential? My point is that technological potential can be smothered by so much overhead paid to the rentier class via the FIRE sector – finance, insurance and real estate – that there’s no money left to invest, no income left for wage earners to spend on buying the goods and services that they produce.

Jonathan Brown 1:45:48
And yet the technology sector in my opinion is actually the new monopolist. Instead of having a competition, in that sense they’re the new landowners. So Google is a spectrum landowner. If I want to host these videos, then I’ve got to negotiate or accept the terms of the landowner YouTube. I’m posting them there, but I won’t be making any money on it. Because I’m one of the serfs on YouTube.

Michael Hudson 1:46:16
This is the problem that China is dealing with in its own way. What do you do when Jack Ma and other IT specialists end up as billionaires? Well, China did not have an anti-monopoly group. It let 100 flowers bloom and let billionaires develop, but would then have them transfer their money to the government in one way or another. They haven’t done this in the way that Western economies do, by an anti-monopoly tax, but by a political consensus way.

In countries like Russia, I’m trying to get them to formalise this into formally calculating the magnitude of economic trends. You want innovation to take place, you want people to make the fortune, but at a certain point they can’t somehow make so big a fortune that it ends up crashing the economy.

Jonathan Brown 1:47:37
But looking at your writing from the Byzantine times and the ancient Near East, is the importance of the leader of that particular economy or society to make sure that no one got so rich that they could overthrow the leader? Which is really what you’ve got with someone like Zuckerberg, the power that he was able to wield in the election, whether you agree with him or not, was extraordinary. And likewise, if you look at the fight that’s currently going on with Elon Musk and Twitter, is to recognise that actually we want, we want our people to own these resources that we pretend are private, but actually have tremendous social power.

Michael Hudson 1:48:24
Yes, they financialized politics in America, by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Anyone can contribute as much as they want, if you’re a corporation. The rentier interests give to pro-rentier politicians to act as their puppets. The money goes for advertising airtime on television and the media to overwhelm all the people who normally would want to minimise the rentier class. So essentially, you’ve financialized politics in America much more than has occurred in Europe. But in Europe, it’s the right wingers who basically control the press, commercial television and media. So if the media are controlled by the right wing with their own agenda, they frame the economic issues from the vantage point of the rentier class instead of from the vantage point of how an economy actually develops and grows wealthier in a fair manner.

Jonathan Brown 1:49:48
I know we need to need to wrap up. Just thinking about the scenarios for Russia and China currently. Everybody who is part of the original white economies of Europe, realises that if they don’t side with America, they get overthrown. But also right now they have a short-term challenge that the Americans are going to let them starve because they’re stopping wheat exports coming through the European ports. But then you’ve also got Russia with resources, you’ve got China with grain resources.

So there is a potential that when people start to starve, and you look at the challenges in Sri Lanka, with politicians being murdered and people running out of food, there’s a chance for China to step in and say, we can send you grain exports. And by lucky coincidence, because of the all the lock downs that China’s got right now, a lot of the world’s boats and ships are currently waiting outside ports in China.

Michael Hudson 1:50:54
[Missing part here] Computer chips are part of the problem. And that’s probably going to make them friendlier with Taiwan. Taiwan has the computer chips.

Jonathan Brown 1:51:03
And by your assessment, because Taiwan do not want to be another Ukraine, American actions are likely to accelerate the reintegration.

Michael Hudson 1:51:12
There’s a bell shaped curve, I haven’t met with the Taiwanese in quite a few years so I don’t know, up to date what the dynamic is. But just by logic, you can see the international environment in which they’re operating. You wonder how they are going to calculate the plusses and minuses of the U.S. versus China? What economy do they want to attach themselves to so that they can get richer fastest?

Jonathan Brown 1:51:46
And also stay safe and not get involved in unnecessary wars. When you look at the tragedy in Ukraine, all these people dying when you’ve got such a strong opponent in Russia, how can you go to war with them for any period of time?

Michael Hudson 1:52:07
Well, that’s what the world is divided into. The U.S. and European society is built on war. It’s the only foreign policy they have, because they don’t have an economic power anymore. They’ve de-industrialised and the rest of the world that is trying to industrialise and trying to feed itself. China, Russia, India, the Global South are the anti-war part of the world. So the world is dividing into two parts: a rentier part supporting finance capitalism [that] is trying to impose it on other countries, to financialize China and Russia to make them put a Margaret Thatcher or Boris Yeltsin in charge of China. While they try to put their own candidates in charge, a la General Pinochet, the rest of the world is trying to defend itself against this terrorism.

So the Western world that calls itself democracy is the terrorist military world. The nations that it calls authoritarian are any authority strong enough to control and tax the financial interests – that is, any government strong enough to regulate finance and real estate. Such an economy is by definition authoritarian as opposed to a democracy, where Wall Street and the financial centres are the democratically elected central planners. So what’s at issue is who’s going to plan society: the financial sector, or the people as in China and other countries.

Jonathan Brown 1:53:41
I think that says it. From a Western lens it’s a different type of democracy.

Michael Hudson 1:53:48
Yes. But democracy really means an economy run to benefit the great bulk of the population, who happen to be wage earners? Or is it going to be for the 1%? Is the economy run for on behalf of the 99% and the 1%? Well, the 99% need a strong government to run it in their own interests and cope with the counter-revolutionary policies, the neo-feudal rentier policies of the 1%.

Jonathan Brown 1:54:22
Okay, so knowing China, then your take on its zero-COVID policy that the authorities are implementing in some parts of the country?

Michael Hudson 1:54:32
The more I read about long COVID here, the worse it seems. I’m 83 years old, so my wife and I have not gone to a restaurant since 2020. We haven’t even gone to our friends’ houses for dinner. We’re isolating ourselves. China has isolated itself at great cost, but it saved the population not only from having COVID itself, but from having long COVID. There are now a million Americans with long COVID. They also say that long COVID lowers your, your IQ by 10%.

It’s almost as dangerous is inheriting a trust fund when it comes to impairing your IQ. It’s debilitating.

My webmaster in Australia and his family have COVID. So I’m very sympathetic with what China’s doing, even though it means that I can’t go there, because I’d have to be isolated in a hotel room for two weeks just to give a few days’ meeting – and then be isolated again when I come back. So China is making a huge effort not to sicken its population with COVID. And now of course, since the Russians have began to publish all their findings of the US bio-warfare labs in Ukraine that were designed to spread a COVID like diseases by migrating birds and bats and manmade aircraft over Russia.

Now, they’ve reopened the question ‘was COVID a US bio-warfare from the very beginning’? And the Chinese are looking at it and saying ‘was it engineered’? If the Americans are trying to engineer COVID to affect mainly Slavic population and their DNA signatures, could they have been doing the same thing against Asians? So all of this is suddenly opened up. The World Health Organisation has refused to divulge any of the USA biowarfare efforts, and the U.S. has stonewalled all efforts to find out about the bio-warfare. This is isolating America and Europe.

If American Europe is left with its current foreign policy, biowarfare and atomic bombs, NATO will be shunned by the civilised world. As Rosa Luxemburg said a century ago, the choice is between socialism or barbarism. NATO, Europe and America represent the new barbarism. The alternative is socialism. That is how the world seemed to be developing in Europe and America until World War I untracked everything. The rest of the world now has a chance to get back on track. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the West.

Jonathan Brown 1:57:47
Michael, as always, you always get more into your stuff than I expected. Are there any things that you’d like to say to our listeners, before we finish up,

Michael Hudson 1:57:56
I’ve probably said too much. And I hope you can edit out anything that’s embarrassing.

Jonathan Brown 1:58:01
I may get thrown off YouTube for publishing some of your comments. So you may have to go back and review a few of them. But as always, Michael, thanks so much your time what we’ll do is we’ll send a link to everybody for the website and also for the new book, as well which I think and those series of lectures when I was researching for this conversation were the single best economic lectures I’ve ever listened to – truly extraordinary levels of insight and real economics rather than theoretical or textbook stuff. So as always from ShepherdWalwyn, thanks so much for your time and for your contribution.

Michael Hudson 1:58:41
Well, if you transcribe it all in will be worth it. \

Jonathan Brown 1:58:45
That’s, that’s our promise 100%. So thanks very much.

Michael Hudson 2:00:05
Thanks a lot.

Will the Global South break free from dollarized debt?

In his latest book, economist Michael Hudson pits socialism against finance capitalism and tears apart the ‘dream civilization’ imposed by the 1 percent.

June 09, 2022

By Pepe Escobar

Let’s jump straight into the fray. Hudson begins with an analysis of the “take the money and run” ethos, complete with de-industrialization, as 90 percent of US corporate revenue is “used to share buybacks and dividend payouts to support company stock prices.”

Michael Hudson’s new book on the world’s urgent global economic re-set is sure to ruffle some Atlanticist feathers.Photo Credit: The Cradle

With The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism, Michael Hudson, one of the world’s leading independent economists, has given us arguably the ultimate handbook on where we’re at, who’s in charge, and whether we can bypass them.

That represents the apex of “Finance Capitalism’s” political strategy: to “capture the public sector and shift monetary and banking power” to Wall Street, the City of London and other western financial centers.

The whole Global South will easily recognize the imperial modus operandi: “The strategy of US military and financial imperialism is to install client oligarchies and dictatorships, and arm-twist allies to join the fight against designated adversaries by subsidizing not only the empire’s costs of war-making (“defense”) but even the imperial nation’s domestic spending programs.” This is the antithesis of the multipolar world advocated by Russia and China.

In short, our current Cold War 2.0 “is basically being waged by US-centered finance capitalism backing rentier oligarchies against nations seeking to build up more widespread self-reliance and domestic prosperity.”

Hudson presciently reminds us of Aristotle, who would say that it is in the interest of financiers to wield their power against society at large: “The financial class historically has been the major beneficiary of empires by acting as collection agents.”

So inevitably the major imperial leverage over the world, a true “strategy of underdevelopment,” had to be financial: instrumentalizing IMF pressure to “turn public infrastructure into privatized monopolies, and reversing 20th century pro-labor reforms” via those notorious ‘conditionalities’ for loans.

No wonder the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), established in Belgrade in 1961 with 120 nations and 27 observers, became such a threat to US global strategy. The latter predictably fought back with a slew of ethnic wars and the earliest incarnations of color revolution – fabricating dictatorships on an industrial scale, from Suharto to Pinochet.

The culmination was a cataclysmic Houston get-together in December 19, 1990 “celebrating” the dissolution of the USSR, as Hudson reminds us how the IMF and the World Bank “laid out a blueprint for Russia’s leaders to impose austerity and give away its assets – it didn’t matter to whom – in a wave of ‘shock therapy’ to let the alleged magic of free enterprise create a neoliberal free-for-all.”

Lost in a Roman wilderness of debt

To a large extent, nostalgia for the rape-and-pillaging of 1990s-era Russia fuels what Hudson defines as the New Cold War, where Dollar Diplomacy must assert its control over every foreign economy. The New Cold War is not waged only against Russia and China, “but against any countries resisting privatization and financialization under US sponsorship.”

Hudson reminds us how China’s policy “followed almost the same path that American protectionism did from 1865 though 1914 – state subsidy for industry, heavy public-sector capital investment…and social spending on education and health care to upgrade the quality and productivity of labor. This was not called Marxism in the United States; it was simply the logical way to look at industrialization, as part of a broad economic and social system.”

But then, finance – or casino – capitalism gained steam, and left the US economy mainly with “agribusiness farm surpluses, and monopolies in information technology (largely developed as a by-product of military research), military hardware, and pharmaceutical patents (based on public seed-money to fund research) able to extract monopoly rent while making themselves largely tax-exempt by using offshore banking centers.”

That’s the current State of Empire: relying only “on its rentier class and Dollar Diplomacy,” with prosperity concentrated in the top one percent of establishment elites. The inevitable corollary is US diplomacy imposing illegal, unilateral sanctions on Russia, China and anyone else who defies its diktats.

The US economy is indeed a lame post-modern remake of the late Roman empire: “dependent on foreign tribute for its survival in today’s global rentier economy.” Enter the correlation between a dwindling free lunch and utter fear: “That is why the United States has surrounded Eurasia with 750 military bases.”

Delightfully, Hudson goes back to Lactantius, in the late 3rd century, describing the Roman empire on Divine Institutes, to stress the parallels with the American version:

“In order to enslave the many, the greedy began to appropriate and accumulate the necessities of life and keep them tightly closed up, so that they might keep these bounties for themselves. They did this not for humanity’s sake (which was not in them at all), but to rake up all things as products of their greed and avarice. In the name of justice they made unfair and unjust laws to sanction their thefts and avarice against the power of the multitude. In this way they availed as much by authority as by strength of arms or overt evil.”

Socialism or barbarism

Hudson succinctly frames the central issue facing the world today: whether “money and credit, land, natural resources and monopolies will be privatized and concentrated in the hands of a rentier oligarchy or used to promote general prosperity and growth. This is basically a conflict between finance capitalism vs. socialism as economic systems.”

To advance the struggle, Hudson proposes a counter-rentier program which should be the Global South’s ultimate Blueprint for responsible development: public ownership of natural monopolies; key basic infrastructure in public hands; national self-sufficiency – crucially, in money and credit creation; consumer and labor protection; capital controls – to prevent borrowing or denominating debts in foreign currency; taxes on unearned income such as economic rent; progressive taxation; a land tax (“will prevent land’s rising rental value from being pledged to banks for credit to bid up real estate prices”); use of the economic surplus for tangible capital investment; and national self-sufficiency in food.

As Hudson seems to have covered all the bases, at the end of the book I was left with only one overarching question. I asked him how he analyzed the current discussions between the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Chinese – and between Russia and China, further on down the road – as being able to deliver an alternative financial/monetary system. Can they sell the alternative system to most of the planet, all while dodging imperial financial harassment?

Hudson was gracious enough to reply with what could be regarded as the summary of a whole book chapter: “To be successful, any reform has to be system-wide, not merely a single part. Today’s western economies have become financialized, leaving credit creation in private hands – to be used to make financial gains at the expense of the industrial economy… This aim has spread like leprosy throughout entire economies – their trade patterns (dependency on US agricultural and oil exports, and IT technology), labor relations (anti-unionism and austerity), land tenure (foreign-owned plantation agriculture instead of domestic self-reliance and self-sufficiency in food grains), and economic theory itself (treating finance as part of GDP, not as an overhead siphoning off income from labor and industry alike).”

Hudson cautions that “in order to break free of the dynamic of predatory finance-capitalism sponsored by the United States and its satellites, foreign countries need to be self-sufficient in food production, energy, technology and other basic needs. This requires an alternative to US ‘free trade’ and its even more nationalistic ‘fair trade’ (deeming any foreign competition to US-owned industry ‘unfair’). That requires an alternative to the IMF, World Bank and ITO (from which Russia has just withdrawn). And alas, an alternative also requires military coordination such as the SCO [the Shanghai Cooperation Organization] to defend against the militarization of US-centered finance capitalism.”

Hudson does see some sunlight ahead: “As to your question of whether Russia and China can ‘sell’ this vision of the future to the Global South and Eurasian countries, that should become much easier by the end of this summer. A major byproduct (not unintended) of the NATO war in Ukraine is to sharply raise energy and food prices (and shipping prices). This will throw the balance of payments of many Global South and other countries into sharp deficit, creating a crisis as their dollar-denominated debt to bondholders and banks falls due.”

The key challenge for most of the Global South is to avoid default:

“The US raise in interest rates has increased the dollar’s exchange rate not only against the euro and Japanese yen, but against the Global South and other countries. This means that much more of their income and export revenue must be paid to service their foreign debt – and they can avoid default only by going without food and oil. So what will they choose? The IMF may offer to create SDRs to enable them to pay – by running even further into dollarized debt, subject to IMF austerity plans and demands that they sell off even more of their natural resources, forests and water.”

So how to break free from dollarized debt? “They need a critical mass. That was not available in the 1970s when a New International Economic Order was first discussed. But today it is becoming a viable alternative, thanks to the power of China, the resources of Russia and those of allied countries such as Iran, India and other East Asian and Central Asian countries. So I suspect that a new world economic system is emerging. If it succeeds, the last century – since the end of World War I and the mess it left – will seem like a long detour of history, now returning to what seemed to be the basic social ideals of classical economics – a market free from rent-seeking landlords, monopolies and predatory finance.”

Hudson concludes by reiterating what the New Cold War is really all about:

“In short, it is a conflict between two different social systems, each with their own philosophy of how societies work. Will they be planned by neoliberal financial centers centered in New York, supported by Washington’s neo-cons, or will they be the kind of socialism that the late 19th century and early 20th century envisioned – a ‘market’ and, indeed, society free from rentiers? Will natural monopolies such as land and natural resources be socialized and used to finance domestic growth and housing, or left to financial interests to turn rent into interest payments eating into consumer and business income? And most of all, will governments create their own money and steer banking to promote domestic prosperity, or will they let private banks (whose financial interests are represented by central banks) take control away from national treasuries?”

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Is US/NATO (with WEF help) pushing for a Global South famine?

June 06, 2022

By Michael Hudson and posted with the author’s permission

Is the proxy war in Ukraine turning out to be only a lead-up to something larger, involving world famine and a foreign-exchange crisis for food- and oil-deficit countries?

Many more people are likely to die of famine and economic disruption than on the Ukrainian battlefield. It thus is appropriate to ask whether what appeared to be the Ukraine proxy war is part of a larger strategy to lock in U.S. control over international trade and payments. We are seeing a financially weaponized power grab by the U.S. Dollar Area over the Global South as well as over Western Europe. Without dollar credit from the United States and its IMF subsidiary, how can countries stay afloat? How hard will the U.S. act to block them from de-dollarizing, opting out of the U.S. economic orbit?

U.S. Cold War strategy is not alone in thinking how to benefit from provoking a famine, oil and balance-of-payments crisis. Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum worries that the world is overpopulated – at least with the “wrong kind” of people. As Microsoft philanthropist (the customary euphemism for rentier monopolist) Bill Gates has explained: “Population growth in Africa is a challenge.” His lobbying foundation’s 2018 “Goalkeepers” report warned: “According to U.N. data, Africa is expected to account for more than half of the world’s population growth between 2015 and 2050. Its population is projected to double by 2050,” with “more than 40 percent of world’s extremely poor people … in just two countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.”[1]

Gates advocates cutting this projected population increase by 30 percent by improving access to birth control and expanding education to “enable more girls and women to stay in school longer, have children later.” But how can that be afforded with this summer’s looming food and oil squeeze on government budgets?

South Americans and some Asian countries are subject to the same jump in import prices resulting from NATO’s demands to isolate Russia. JPMorgan Chase head Jamie Dimon recently warned attendees at a Wall Street investor conference that the sanctions will cause a global “economic hurricane.”[2] He echoed the warning by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva in April that, “To put it simply: we are facing a crisis on top of a crisis.” Pointing out that the Covid pandemic has been capped by inflation as the war in Ukraine has made matters “much worse, and threatens to further increase inequality” she concluded that: “The economic consequences from the war spread fast and far, to neighbors and beyond, hitting hardest the world’s most vulnerable people. Hundreds of millions of families were already struggling with lower incomes and higher energy and food prices.”[3]

The Biden administration blames Russia for “unprovoked aggression.” But it is his administration’s pressure on NATO and other Dollar Area satellites that has blocked Russian exports of grain, oil and gas. But many oil- and food-deficit countries see themselves as the primary victims of “collateral damage” caused by US/NATO pressure.

Is world famine and balance-of-payments crisis a deliberate US/NATO policy?

On June 3, African Union Chairperson Macky Sall, President of Senegal, went to Moscow to plan how to avoid a disruption in Africa’s food and oil trade by refusing to become pawns in the US/NATO sanctions. So far in 2022, President Putin noted: “Our trade is growing. In the first months of this year it grew by 34 percent.”[4] But Senegal’s President Sall worried that: “Anti-Russia sanctions have made this situation worse and now we do not have access to grain from Russia, primarily to wheat. And, most importantly, we do not have access to fertilizer.”

U.S. diplomats are forcing countries to choose whether, in George W. Bush’s words, “you are either for us or against us.” The litmus test is whether they are willing to force their populations to starve and shut down their economies for lack of food and oil by stopping trade with the world’s Eurasian core of China, Russia, India, Iran and their neighbors.

Mainstream Western media describe the logic behind these sanctions as promoting a regime change in Russia. The hope was that blocking it from selling its oil and gas, food or other exports would drive down the ruble’s exchange rate and “make Russia scream” (as the U.S. tried to do to Allende’s Chile to set the stage for is backing of the Pinochet military coup). Exclusion from the SWIFT bank-clearing system was supposed to disrupt Russia’s payment system and sales, while seizing Russia’s $300 billion om foreign-currency reserves held in the West was expected to collapse the ruble, preventing Russian consumers from buying the Western goods to which they had become accustomed. The idea (and it seems so silly in retrospect) was that Russia’s population would rise in rebellion to protest against how much more Western luxury imports cost. But the ruble soared rather than sunk, and Russia quickly replaced SWIFT with its own system linked to that of China. And Russia’s population began to turn away from the West’s aggressive enmity.

Evidently some major dimensions are missing from the U.S. national-security think-tank models. But when it comes to global famine, was a more covert and even lager strategy at work? It is now looking like the major aim of the U.S. war in Ukraine all along was merely to serve as a catalyst, an excuse to impose sanctions that would disrupt the world’s food and energy trade, and to manage this crisis in a way that would afford U.S. diplomats an opportunity to confront Global South countries with the choice “Your loyalty and neoliberal dependency or your life – and, in the process, to “thin out” the world’s non-white populations that so worried Mr. Dimon and the WEF?

There must have been the following calculation: Russia accounts for 40% of the world’s grain trade and 25 percent of the world fertilizer market (45 percent if Belarus is included). Any scenario would have included a calculation that if so large a volume of grain and fertilizer was withdrawn from the market, prices would soar, just as they have done for oil and gas.

Adding to the disruption in the balance-of-payments of countries having to import these commodities, the price is rising for buying dollars to pay their foreign bondholders and banks for debts falling due. The Federal Reserve’s tightening of interest rates has caused a rising premium for U.S. dollars over euros, sterling and Global South currencies.

It is inconceivable that the consequences of this on countries outside of Europe and the United States were not taken into account, because the global economy is an interconnected system. Most disruptions are in the 2 to 5 percent range, but today’s US/NATO sanctions are so far off the historical track that price increases will soar substantially above the historic range. Nothing like this has happened in recent times.

This suggests that what appeared in February to be a war between Ukrainians and Russia is really a trigger intended to restructure the world economy – and to do so in a way to lock U.S. control over the Global South. Geopolitically, the proxy war in Ukraine has been a handy excuse for America’s to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The choice confronting Global South countries: to starve by paying their foreign bondholders and bankers, or to announce, as a basic principle of international law: “As sovereign countries, we put our survival above the aim of enriching foreign creditors who have made loans that have gone bad as a result of their choice to wage a new Cold War. As for the destructive neoliberal advice that the IMF and World Bank have given us, their austerity plans were destructive instead of helpful. Therefore, their loans have gone bad. As such, they have become odious.”

NATO policy has given Global South countries no choice but to reject its attempt to establish a U.S. food stranglehold on the Global South by blocking any competition from Russia, thereby monopolizing the world’s grain and energy trade. The major grain exporter was the heavily subsidized U.S. farm sector, followed by Europe’s highly subsidized Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These were the main grain exporters before Russia entered the picture. The US/NATO demand is to roll back the clock to restore dependency on the Dollar Area and its eurozone satellites.

The implicit Russian and Chinese counterplan

What is needed for the world’s non-US/NATO population to survive is a new world trade and financial system. The alternative is world famine for much of the world. More people will die of the sanctions than have died on the Ukrainian battlefield. Financial and trade sanctions are as destructive as military attack. So the Global South is morally justified in putting its sovereign interests above those of the wielders of international financial and trade weaponry.

First, reject the sanctions and reorient trade to Russia, China, India, Iran and their fellow members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The problem is how to pay for imports from these countries, especially if U.S. diplomats extend sanctions against such commerce.

There is no way that Global South countries can pay for oil, fertilizer and food from these countries and also pay the dollar debts that are the legacy of U.S.-sponsored neoliberal trade policy subject to U.S. and eurozone protectionism. Therefore, the second need is to declare a debt moratorium – in effect, a repudiation – of the debts that represent loans gone bad. This act would be analogous to the 1931 suspension of German reparations and Inter-Ally debts owed to the United States. Quite simply, today’s Global South debts cannot be paid without subjecting debtor countries to famine and austerity.

A third corollary that follows from these economic imperatives is to replace the World Bank and its pro-U.S. policies of trade dependency and underdevelopment with a genuine Bank for Economic Acceleration. Along with this institution is a fourth corollary in the form of the new bank’s sibling: a replacement for the IMF free of austerity junk economics and subsidy of America’s client oligarchies coupled with currency raids on countries resisting U.S. privatization and financialization takeovers.

The fifth requirement is for countries to protect themselves by joining a military alliance as an alternative to NATO, to avoid being turned into another Afghanistan, another Libya, another Iraq or Syria or Ukraine.

The main deterrent to this strategy is not U.S. power, for it has shown itself to be a paper tiger. The problem is one of economic consciousness and will.

  1. “Bill Gates has a warning about population growth,” World Economic Forum/Reuters, September 19, 2018. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/09/africas-rapid-population-growth-puts-poverty-progress-at-risk-says-gates
  2. Lananh Nguyen, “‘It’s a hurricane.’ Bank chiefs warn of a weakening economy,” The New York Times, June 1, 2022. 
  3. Kristalina Georgieva, IMF Managing Director, “Facing Crisis Upon Crisis: How the World Can RespondApril 14, 2022. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2022/04/14/sp041422-curtain-raiser-sm2022.&nbsp;
  4. “Putin meets with African Union Chairperson at Sochi, June 3, 2022.” President Sall was accompanied by Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission. http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/68564. For a elated discussion on the sanctions see https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/06/sanctions-now-weapons-of-mass-starvation.html

Bilderberg does China

June 04, 2022

When Davos and Bilderberg messenger boys look at The Grand Chessboard, they realize that their era of perpetual free lunch is over.

By Pepe Escobar posted with his permission and widely cross-posted. 

Discreetly, as under the radar as a looming virus, the 68th Bilderberg meeting  is currently underway in Washington, D.C. Nothing to see here. No conspiracy theories about a “secret cabal”, please. This is just a docile, “diverse group of political leaders and experts” having a chat, a laugh, and a bubbly.

Still, one cannot but notice that the choice of venue speaks more volumes than the entire – burned to the ground – Library of Alexandria. In the year heralding the explosion of a much-awaited NATO vs. Russia proxy war, discussing its myriad ramifications does suit the capital of the Empire of Lies, much more than Davos a few weeks ago, where one Henry Kissinger sent them into a frenzy by advancing the necessity of a toxic compromise named “diplomacy”.

The list of Bilderberg 2022 participants is a joy to peruse. Here are just some of the stalwarts:

James Baker, Consigliere extraordinaire, now a mere Director of the Office of Net Assessment at the Pentagon.

José Manuel Barroso, former head of the European Commission, later the recipient of a golden parachute in the form of Chairman of Goldman Sachs International.

Albert Bourla, the Pfizer Big Guy.

William Burns, CIA director.

Kurt Campbell, the guy who invented the Obama/Hillary “pivot to Asia”, now White House Coordinator for Indo-Pacific.

Mark Carney, former Bank of England, one of the designers of the Great Reset, now Vice Chair of Brookfield Asset Management.

Henry Kissinger, The Establishment’s Voice (or a war criminal: take your pick).

Charles Michel, President of the European Council.

Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, which will duly relay all major Bilderberg directives in the magazine’s upcoming cover stories.

David Petraeus, certified loser of endless surges and Chairman of KKR Global Institute.

Mark Rutte, hawkish Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO top parrot, sorry, secretary-general.

Jake Sullivan, Director of the National Security Council.

The ideological and geopolitical affiliations of these members of the “diverse group” need no further elaboration. It gets positively sexier when we see what they will be discussing.

Among other issues we find “NATO challenges”; “Indo-Pacific realignment”; “continuity of government and economy” (Conspirationists: continuity in case of nuclear war?); “disruption of global financial system” (already on); “post-pandemic health” (Conspirationists: how to engineer the next pandemic?); “trade and deglobalization”; and of course, the choice wagyu beef steaks: Russia and China.

As Bilderberg follows Chatham House Rules, mere mortals won’t have a clue of what they actually “proposed” or approved, and none of the participants will be allowed to talk about it with anyone else. One of my top New York sources, with direct access to most of the Masters of the Universe, loves to quip that Davos and Bilderberg are just for the messenger boys: the guys who really run the show don’t even bother to show up, ensconced in their uber-private meetings in uber-private clubs, where the real decisions are made.

Still, anyone following in some detail the rotten state of the “rules-based international order” will have a pretty good idea about the 2022 Bilderberg chatter.

What the Chinese say

Secretary of State Little Blinken – Sullivan’s sidekick in the ongoing Crash Test Dummy administration’s Dumb and Dumber remake – has recently claimed that China “supports” Russia on Ukraine instead of remaining neutral.

What really matters here is that Little Blinken is implying that Beijing wants to destabilize Asia-Pacific – which is a notorious absurdity. Yet that’s the master narrative that must pave the way for the US to muscle up its “Indo-Pacific” concoction. And that’s the briefing Sullivan and Kurt Campbell will be delivering to the “diverse group”.

Davos – with its new self-billed mantra, “The Great Narrative” – completely excluded Russia. Bilderberg is mostly about containment of China – which after all is the number one existential threat to the Empire of Lies and its satrapies.

Rather than wait for Bilderberg morsels dispensed by The Economist, it’s much more productive to check out what a cross-section of fact-based Chinese intelligentsia thinks about the new “collective West” racket.

Let’s start with Justin Lin Yifu, former Chief Economist of the World Bank and now Dean of the Institute of New Structural Economics at Peking University, and Sheng Songcheng, former head of the Financial Survey and Statistic Dept. a the Bank of China.

They advance that if China achieves “dynamic zero infection” on Covid-19 by the end of May (that actually happened: see the end of the Shanghai lockdown), China’s economy may grow by 5.5% in 2022.

They dismiss the imperial attempt to establish an “Asian version of NATO”: “As long as China continues to grow at a higher rate and to open up, European and ASEAN countries would not participate in the US’s decoupling trap so as to ensure their economic growth and job creation.”

Three academics from the Shanghai Institute of International Studies and Fudan University touch on the same point: the American-announced “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework”, supposed to be the economic pillar of the Indo-Pacific strategy, is nothing but a cumbersome attempt to “weaken the internal cohesion and regional autonomy of ASEAN.”

Liu Zongyi stresses that China’s position at the heart of the vastly inter-connected Asian supply chains “has been consolidated”, especially now with the onset of the largest trade deal on the planet, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Chen Wengling, Chief Economist of a think tank under the key National Development and Reform Commission, notes  the “comprehensive ideological and technological war against China” launched by the Americans.

But he’s keen to stress how they are “not ready for a hot war as the US and Chinese economies are so closely linked.” The crucial vector is that “the US has not yet made substantial progress in strengthening its supply chain focusing on four key fields including semiconductors.”

Chen worries about “China’s energy security”; “China’s silence” on US sanctions on Russia, which “may result in US retaliation”; and crucially, how “China’s plan of building the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with Ukraine and EU countries will be affected.” What will happen in practice is BRI will be privileging economic corridors across Iran and West Asia, as well as the Maritime Silk Road, instead of the Trans-Siberian corridor across Russia.

It’s up to Yu Yongding, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and a former member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank, to go for the jugular, noting how” the global financial system and the US dollar have been weaponized into geopolitical tools. The nefarious behavior of the US in freezing foreign exchange reserves has not only seriously damaged the international credibility of the US but has also shaken the credit foundation of the dominant international financial system in the West.”

He expresses the consensus among Chinese intel, that “if there is a geopolitical conflict between the US and China, then China’s overseas assets will be seriously threatened, especially its huge reserves. Therefore, the composition of China’s external financial assets and liabilities urgently needs to be adjusted and the portion of US dollar denominated assets in its reserves portfolio should be reduced.”

This chessboard sucks

A serious debate is raging across virtually all sectors of Chinese society on the American weaponization of the world financial casino. The conclusions are inevitable: get rid of US Treasuries, fast, by any means necessary; more imports of commodities and strategic materials (thus the importance of the Russia-China strategic partnership); and firmly secure overseas assets, especially those foreign currency reserves.

Meanwhile Bilderberg’s “diverse group”, on the other side of the pond, is discussing, among other things, what will really happen in case they force the IMF racket to blow up (a key plan to implement The Great Reset, or “Great Narrative”).

They are starting to literally freak out with the slowly but surely emergence of an alternative, resource-based monetary/financial system: exactly what the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) is currently discussing and designing, with Chinese input.

Imagine a counter-Bilderberg system where a basket of Global South actors, resource-rich but economically poor, are able to issue their own currencies backed by commodities, and finally get rid of their status of IMF hostages. They are all paying close attention to the Russia gas-for-rubles experiment.

And in China’s particular case, what will always matter is loads of productive capital underpinning a massive, extremely deep industrial and civil infrastructure.

No wonder Davos and Bilderberg messenger boys, when they look at The Grand Chessboard, are filled with dread: their era of perpetual free lunch is over. What would delight cynics, skeptics, neoplatonists and Taoists galore is that it was Davos-Bilderberg Men (and Women) who actually boxed themselves into zugzwang.

All dressed up – with nowhere to go. Even JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon – who didn’t even bother to go to Bilderberg – is scared, saying an economic “hurricane” is coming. And overturning the chessboard is no remedy: at best that may invite a ceremonious tuxedo visit by Mr. Sarmat and Mr. Zircon carrying some hypersonic bubbly.

Vladimir Putin: Interview with Rossiya TV

June 04, 2022

The President answered questions from Pavel Zarubin of Rossyia 1 TV channel.

Pavel Zarubin: Mr President, we have just followed your meeting with the head of Senegal who is also the current leader of the African Union. He expressed, and actually in the past week many countries have expressed concern not so much about the food crisis, but they are afraid of large-scale famine because world food prices are climbing and so are oil and gas prices, These issues are interrelated.

Naturally, the West blames Russia for this, too. What is the real situation at this point, how is it developing? And what do you think will happen in the food and energy markets?

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Yes, indeed, we are seeing attempts to place the responsibility on Russia for developments in the global food market and the growing problems there. I must say that this is another attempt to pin the blame on someone else. But why?

First, the situation with the global food market did not become worse yesterday or even with the launch of Russia’s special military operation in Donbass, in Ukraine.

The situation took a downturn in February 2020 during the efforts to counter the coronavirus pandemic when the global economy was down and had to be revived.

The financial and economic authorities in the United States, of all things, found nothing better than to allocate large amounts of money to support the population and certain businesses and economic sectors.

We generally did almost the same thing, but I assure you that we were much more accurate, and the results are obvious: we did this selectively and got the desired results without affecting macroeconomic indicators, including excessive inflation growth.

The situation was quite different in the United States. The money supply in the United States grew by 5.9 trillion in less than two years, from February 2020 to the end of 2021 – unprecedented productivity of the money printing machines. The total cash supply grew by 38.6 percent.

Apparently, the US financial authorities believed the dollar was a global currency, and it would spread, as usual, as it did in previous years, would dissolve in the global economy, and the United States would not even feel it. But that did not happen, not this time. As a matter of fact, decent people – and there are such people in the United States – the Secretary of the Treasury recently said they had made a mistake. So, it was a mistake made by the US financial and economic authorities – it has nothing to do with Russia’s actions in Ukraine, it is totally unrelated.

And that was the first step – and a big one – towards the current unfavourable food market situation, because, in the first place, food prices immediately went up, they grew. This is the first reason.

The second reason was European countries’ short-sighted policies, and above all, the European Commission’s policy in regard to energy. We see what is going on there. Personally, I believe that many political players in the United States and Europe have been taking advantage of people’s natural concerns about the climate, climate change, and they began to promote this green agenda, including in the energy sector.

It all seems fine, except for the unqualified and groundless recommendations about what needs to be done in the energy sector. The capabilities of alternative types of energy are overestimated: solar, wind, any other types, hydrogen power – those are good prospects for the future, probably, but today, they cannot be produced in the required amount, with the required quality and at acceptable prices. And at the same time, they began to belittle the importance of conventional types of energy, including, and above all, hydrocarbons.

What was the result of this? Banks stopped issuing loans because they were under pressure. Insurance companies stopped insuring deals. Local authorities stopped allocating plots of land for expanding production and reduced the construction of special transport, including pipelines.

All this led to a shortage of investment in the world energy sector and price hikes as a result. The wind was not as strong as expected during the past year, winter dragged on, and prices instantly soared.

On top of all that, the Europeans did not listen to our persistent requests to preserve long-term contracts for the delivery of natural gas to European countries. They started to wind them down. Many are still valid, but they started winding them down. This had a negative effect on the European energy market: the prices went up. Russia has absolutely nothing to do with this.

But as soon as gas prices started going up, fertiliser prices followed suit because gas is used to produce some of these fertilisers. Everything is interconnected. As soon as fertiliser prices started growing, many businesses, including those in European countries, became unprofitable and started shutting down altogether. The amount of fertiliser in the world market took a dive, and prices soared dramatically, much to the surprise of many European politicians.

However, we warned them about this, and this is not linked to Russia’s military operation in Donbass in any way. This has nothing to do with it.

But when we launched our operation, our so-called European and American partners started taking steps that aggravated the situation in both the food sector and fertiliser production.

By the way, Russia accounts for 25 percent of the world fertiliser market. As for potash fertilisers, Alexander Lukashenko told me this – but we should double-check it, of course, although I think it is true – when it comes to potash fertilisers, Russia and Belarus account for 45 percent of the world market. This is a tremendous amount.

The crop yield depends on the quantity of fertiliser put into the soil. As soon as it became clear that our fertilisers would not be in the world market, prices instantly soared on both fertilisers and food products because if there are no fertilisers, it is impossible to produce the required amount of agricultural products.

One thing leads to another, and Russia has nothing to do with it. Our partners made a host of mistakes themselves, and now they are looking for someone to blame. Of course, Russia is the most suitable candidate in this respect.

Pavel Zarubin: Incidentally, it has just been reported that the wife of the head of our largest fertiliser companies has been included in the new European package of sanctions.

What will all this lead to in your opinion?

Vladimir Putin: This will make a bad situation worse.

The British and later the Americans – Anglo-Saxons – imposed sanctions on our fertilisers. Then, having realised what was happening, the Americans lifted their sanctions, but the Europeans did not. They are telling me themselves during contacts: yes, we must think about it, we must do something about it, but today they have just aggravated this situation.

This will make the situation in the world fertiliser market worse, and hence the crop prospects will be much more modest, and prices will keep going up – that is it. This is an absolutely myopic, erroneous, I would say, simply stupid policy that leads to a deadlock.

Pavel Zarubin: But Russia is accused by high-ranking officials of preventing the grain that is actually there, in Ukrainian ports, from leaving.

Vladimir Putin: They are bluffing, and I will explain why.

First, there are some objective things, and I will mention them now. The world produces about 800 million tonnes of grain, wheat per year. Now we are being told that Ukraine is ready to export 20 million tonnes. So, 20 million tonnes out of 800 million tonnes amounts to 2.5 percent. But if we proceed from the fact that wheat accounts for merely 20 percent of all food products in the world – and this is the case, this is not our data, it comes from the UN – this means that these 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian wheat are just 0.5 percent, practically nothing. This is the first point.

The second. 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian wheat are potential exports. Today, the US official bodies also say that Ukraine could export six million tonnes of wheat. According to our Ministry of Agriculture, the figure is not six but about five million tonnes, but okay, let us assume it is six, plus it could export seven million tonnes of maize – this is the figure of our Ministry of Agriculture. We realise that this is not much.

In the current agricultural year of 2021–2022, we will export 37 million and, I believe, we will raise these exports to 50 million tonnes in 2022–2023. But this is apropos, by the way.

As for shipping out Ukrainian grain, we are not preventing this. There are several ways to export grain.

The first one. You can ship it out via the Ukraine-controlled ports, primarily in the Black Sea – Odessa and nearby ports. We did not mine the approaches to the port – Ukraine did this.

I have already said to all our colleagues many times – let them demine the ports and let the vessels loaded with grain leave. We will guarantee their peaceful passage to international waters without any problems. There are no problems at all. Go ahead.

They must clear the mines and raise the ships they sunk on purpose in the Black Sea to make it difficult to enter the ports to the south of Ukraine. We are ready to do this; we will not use the demining process to initiate an attack from the sea. I have already said this. This is the first point.

The second. There is another opportunity: the ports in the Sea of Azov – Berdyansk and Mariupol – are under our control, and we are ready to ensure a problem-free exit from these ports, including for exported Ukrainian grain. Go ahead, please.

We are already working on the demining process. We are completing this work – at one time, Ukrainian troops laid three layers of mines. This process is coming to an end. We will create the necessary logistics. This is not a problem; we will do this. This is the second point.

The third. It is possible to move grain from Ukraine via the Danube and through Romania.

Fourth. It is also possible through Hungary.

And fifth, it is also possible to do this via Poland. Yes, there are some technical problems because the tracks are of different gauges and the wheel bogies must be changed. But this only takes a few hours, that is all.

Finally, the easiest way is to transport grain via Belarus. This is the easiest and the cheapest way because from there it can be instantly shipped to the Baltic ports and further on to any place in the world.

But they would have to lift the sanctions from Belarus. This is not our problem though. At any rate, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko puts it like this: if someone wants to resolve the problem of exporting Ukrainian grain, if this problem exists at all, please use the simplest way – through Belarus. No one will stop you.

So, the problem of shipping grain out of Ukraine does not really exist.

Pavel Zarubin: How would the logistics work to ship it from the ports under our control? What would the conditions be?

Vladimir Putin: No conditions.

They are welcome. We will provide peaceful passage, guarantee safe approaches to these ports, and ensure the safe entry of foreign ships and passage through the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea in any direction.

By the way, several ships are stuck in Ukrainian ports at this point. These are foreign ships, dozens of them. They are simply locked up and their crews are still being held hostage.

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