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July 29, 2013

DOOM: Sag mir, wo die DOOMen sind?

DOOOOM

It's been a long time since the last DOOM, my groovy babies. It's not due to any lack of DOOM to report, I assure you. It's just that my Kyrgyz prison cell did not have internet access. But now that I have escaped my unjust bondage, I am free once again to bring the DOOM train to your cities and towns, bearing a heavy load of bad economic news.

The AP catches a glimpse of the obvious: most people are out of work at one time or another in their lives. This falls under the heading "life is not fair". You show me somebody who never had to hustle to make the rent during a rough patch, and I'll show you a trust-fund baby who probably isn't worth a mousefart in a hurricane.


Then we have the sad saga of Detroit. We know what brought Detroit to this low state; what's more topical is what is going to happen to Detroit going forward. The city was built to house about twice the people it currently contains. Detroit faces a situation that no other major American city has had to face until now: how to shrink rather than grow. And Detroit may be only the first of many such cities -- not just in America, but all over the world -- that has to grapple with that problem. (Japan is facing the same grim problem in the years and decades to come.) Economic performance is predicated on growth, yet Detroit must spend a lot of money and effort to shrink in order to survive. Time will tell if this is even possible. I suspect that the answer will be...no.

Detroit's survival is not simply a matter of fixing a broken infrastructure. A community, above all, is the people who live in it. Detroit's most funamental problem is that it may not have the human capital to survive. Much of Detroit's potential workforce is simply unsuited for the kinds of jobs that would bring prosperity back to the city. The glib solution to this problem is "education and training", yet that is a process that must play out over decades; maybe generations. It's far too late for that kind of thing in Detroit. Even if it weren't too late, doing so would require efficient political and educational systems that Detroit does not have.

Detroit has been a bad joke for as long as I've been alive. As Adam Smith said about nations, Detroit had a lot of ruin in it. But not an infinite amount. Detroit was not killed by the impersonal forces of history or simple bad luck. The city was killed by the deliberate and forceful application of Democrat social planning theories.

Of course Democrats advocate more of the same medicine that poisoned Detroit in the first place. If we lived in a different age, I would be more hopeful that lessons would be learned and more useful approaches tried. But under the reign of His Majesty the King Barack Hussein Obama, the Imperial Will is all that matters: if His Majesty wishes to retain his status as savior of Detroit, he may make it known to his minions that the failure of Detroit would equal an insult to the Royal Person. The minions will raid the public treasury to prevent such an outrage. Celah.

Los Angeles may follow Detroit into bankruptcy absent Divine intervention, and for pretty much the same reasons.

China will not save us. They may not even be able to save themselves. China-boosters like Tom Friedman like to position China as the next world superpower, but I think the real truth is less dramatic: not a world with an alternate superpower, but a world with no superpower at all. As America's global reach diminishes, regional power-blocs will hold sway, just as they have always done. It may be that no other country can -- or even wants to -- take on the mantle of global hegemon. It's a pretty thankless job, after all.

The current unrest in Egypt has many facets, but one of the most important is Egypt's looming food shortage. The Egyptian military overthrew Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood because they had mismanaged Egypt's finances so badly that there was no money left to buy international grain (or to subsidize its purchase by Egypt's millions of poor people). Daniel Goldman (via his nom de plume Spengler) wrote a piece on this a couple of years ago in the Asia Times:

Revolutions don't only kill their children. They kill a great many ordinary people. The 1921 famine after the Russian civil war killed an estimated five million people, and casualties on the same scale are quite possible in Egypt as well. Half of Egyptians live on $2 a day, and that $2 is about to collapse along with the national currency, and the result will be a catastrophe of, well, biblical proportions.

The IRS scandal? Still a thing, Democrat protestations to the contrary.

The public sector pension tsunami just keeps rolling inexorably on. The amount of total public-sector pension debt varies depending on the assumptions and expectations you use, but even the middle-of-the-road case is enough to make one blanch: shortages running into the trillions of dollars.

I've said for a long time that automation would eventually start to intrude even on menial labor jobs, and so it proves. The history of the Industrial Age is in part the history of machines taking over the tasks of farming from human beings. That process will continue to its logical endpoint. That has some pretty grim implications for workers on the very lowest rung of the employment latter (especially migrant farm laborers of both the legal and illegal variety). The good news, I guess, is that this development may solve the illegal-immigrant problem with no governmental action required.

3197350 700b

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posted by Monty at 08:12 AM

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