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12:08PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) Making It Hardest For The Most Resilient Among Us

HUMANITY HAS TRANSFORMED THE NATURE OF LIVING OVER THE PAST CENTURY, ROUGHLY DOUBLING LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH AND THUS SHIFTING THE MEAN AGE RADICALLY UPWARD. This changes the structure of all societies, albeit at uneven paces. Globally, the worker-to-elder-dependent ratio was 12:1 in 1950, dropping only to 9:1 in the year 2000. But with globalization's profound expansion over the last 25 years, we're looking at a ratio of just 4:1 in 2050 (per the UN). That's an amazing burden shift that will be accommodated by people working later in life, technology and productivity advances, and — most crucially — the proper harnessing of youth as future labor. The big problem? Most of those youth are located in the emerging South, where a 10:1 ratio will still exist in 2050, whereas the advanced West will be looking at an untenable 2:1 ratio ...

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3:56PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) The Internet of Things: Resistance Is Futile, But Resilience Is Fruitful

 

CONTINUING LAST FRIDAY'S THEME OF WHO'S-SPYING-ON-YOU, A DISTURBING ARTICLE FROM CBS NEWS HIGHLIGHTS HOW YOUR SMART PHONE CAN BE USED AGAINST YOU IN A VARIETY OF CRIMINAL/NEFARIOUS WAYS. What this reminds us is that, per the security expert cited in the story, we're all basically carrying around a mini personal computer in our pockets all day long, and that can be as disastrously hacked as any desk or laptop. Indeed, it can be far worse because of the camera, video, and recording capacities that we tend to view primarily as standard technologies kluged together in one unit, when they're all – to varying degrees – accessible to hackers via the software.

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3:56PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) How Climate Change Truly Tests Human Resilience Is By Pitting Middle Earth Against the Poles

YES, IT IS COMPLETELY UNFAIR THAT THE INDUSTRIAL NORTH, WHICH IS MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR GLOBAL WARMING, WILL RECEIVE MOST OF ITS BENEFITS, WHILE THE SOUTH, EAGER NOW TO ACHIEVE SIMILAR LEVELS OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, WILL BE MOST HAMPERED BY CLIMATE CHANGE. And yes, this disparity will cause a great deal of political-military tension between that equatorially-centric band and the rest of humanity. We see an early version of this already in the migratory flows from central and north Africa, across the Mediterranean, into Europe. You may think it's all about civil strife in Libya and Syria, and there's plenty of that, but the consistent, long-term pressure of bodies heading north is more about climate-change-fueled desertification than anything else, reflecting the fact that it's growing harder to live in those regions ...

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12:36PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) How Resilient's Industry Mapping Covers Both DHS (Critical Sectors) and Thomson Reuters' (Economic Sectors) Schemata (GRAPHIC)

THE ABOVE GRAPHIC IS PRESENTED AS A COMPILATION OF PREVIOUSLY POSTED VIDEOS THAT INDIVIDUALLY COMPARE RESILIENT CORPORATION'S SCHEMA WITH THOSE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY AND THOMSON REUTERS.

The slide displays how Resilient's 18-industry schema covers both the public sector-centric approach of DHS and the private sector-centric approach of Thomson Reuters.

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1:09PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) Rising Sea Levels, Rising Awareness, Rising Resilience?

 

IN GENERAL, HISTORY SAYS HUMANS DO BETTER WHEN IT GETS WARMER AND WORSE WHEN IT GETS COLDER. There are a number of reasons for this, but the simplest explanation is energy: (1) it's easier to cool people than to warm them; and (2) it's easier to grow human energy (food) when it's warmer than when it's cooler. But that's a uber-macro take on the subject, when regional variations in climate change will be the real story of this century — namely, the middle regions of the world will get much hotter and drier while the most northern and southern bands will grow more temperate. Humans will adapt to all this, and huge numbers will be put on the move — poleward (just like plants and animals have been for decades now), but there will be a tremendous die-off of species from this rapid change (not rivaling other mass extinction periods in Earth's history in scope [one, for example, encompassed 96% of all species], but apparently surpassing them in speed). None of this is really negotiable at this point; it's a done deal. We can delay some impacts, or take the worst edge of others, but they are coming — with the bulk arriving in the lifetimes of our children ... 

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3:20PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) Western Hemisphere's Shale Men as Oil Industry's New "World Swing Producers"?

 

FASCINATING BRIEFING IN A RECENT ECONOMIST (23 JAN 16) ADDS A NEW TWIST TO AN ARGUMENT I'VE BEEN RECENTLY ADVANCING ON HOW NORTH AMERICA'S EMERGING ENERGY INDEPENDENCE DRAMATICALLY REDEFINES ITS OWN SENSE OF ECONOMIC RESILIENCE AND – ULTIMATELY – AMERICA'S GLOBAL SECURITY PERSPECTIVE. Think of the future as mostly about energy and water, with the latter accounting for food production. Any country seeking to ensure its economic resilience going forward wants to be either rich in both, or rich in secure access to both. This is essentially where China is weakest now and in coming decades (hence the aggressive military behavior on display off its coast), because it must import both food and energy in ever increasingly amounts (and overwhelmingly via seaborne trade). This is also where America (and North America in general) is strongest now and in coming decades, relative to just about every great power out there – save perhaps Russia. But even there, America has little reason to unduly worry about the widely-perceived renewal of strategic rivalry with Moscow, which invariably becomes China's economic vassal on that basis . . .

 

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5:26PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) Uber's Legal and Regulatory Exposure Radically Escalates With Michigan Driver's Shooting Rampage

THE OUT-OF-THE-BLUE SHOOTING RAMPAGE BY A 45-YEAR-OLD UBER DRIVER (KILLING SIX, SERIOUSLY WOUNDING TWO) IN MICHIGAN ACCELERATES THE RIDE-SHARE COMPANY'S LONG-RUNNING P.R. NIGHTMARE OVER THE CRIMINAL ACTS OF ITS "INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS," EVEN AS THE COMPANY'S CONTRACTUAL FINE PRINT KEEPS IT IN THE LEGAL CLEAR REGARDING VICTIMS. To be clear here: the alleged shooter didn't shoot his fares but shot bystanders at various locations in-between fares, so none of the victims were Uber customers. And, if he had done all this during his off-hours, the connection to Uber would be significantly weakened (mentally ill or violent people work for all sorts of companies).  But the fact that he interspersed his shootings with Uber fares is decidedly spooky for a company that's already coming under fire from a variety of legal and regulatory angles ...

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5:17PM

(RESILIENT VIDEO) Comparing Resilient Corporation's Industry Schema with Thomson-Reuters' "Economic Sectors"

The embedded video, found on Resilient Corporation's YouTube channel, explains how our method for cataloguing industry sectors –  in our Resilient Score/Index offerings –  compares to Thomson-Reuters mapping of a nation's "economic sectors." The video demonstrates that our resilience rating system encompasses the wide scope of Thomson-Reuters's market schema.


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5:38PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) Cultural Resilience in the Age of Globalization: Telling Your Own Stories, Your Own Way

THE NOTION THAT GLOBALIZATION RESULTS IN CULTURAL HOMOGENIZATION ONLY SEEMS TRUE DURING ITS INITIAL "INVASION," BUT, OVER TIME, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL PILLARS INVARIABLY RECLAIM THEIR HISTORIC CULTURAL INFLUENCE AND MARKET TURF. We in America tend to view this as a "reversal" of globalization's tide, when it is nothing of the sort. It's simply local populations accepting globalization's connectivity while repopulating its content, and, in doing so, rendering it more applicable, tolerable, and entertaining. I've made this point for many years in my writing: virtually everyone in the world welcomes globalization's connectivity, but many - if not most - have a problem with its content (particularly when it emanates from culturally free-wheeling America). A few nations deal with this content mismatch by censorship, bans, and the like. But the smarter cultures adopt the media/connectivity models and then fill them up with their own unique content - eventually exporting that content abroad ...

 

 

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5:35PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) America Without Latinos - The Cost to our National Economic Resilience

IS THERE A MORE HOT-BUTTON ISSUE IN THIS YEAR'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN THAN IMMIGRATION? ARGUABLY NO. And there are plenty of reasons for why that's so: the historic influx of Latino immigrants in the 1990s/2000s; the steadily declining fortune of the American middle class over much of the same timeframe; and, of course, America's (still) recent (enough) financial crisis/"great recession." Of course, those dynamics aren't all that well related to one another, but their subsequent synergy is clear enough in US history: scare the socio-economic-political middle and you'll get an angry electorate that turns on foreigners. Yes, I know that immigration has declined rather dramatically since the downturn. But long term, we know the die has already been cast: Latinos now are the #1 minority in the US and by mid-century they'll surpass a 1/4 share of the US population, making them the #2 "majority-minority" after whites ...


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10:21AM

America’s Post-Oil Grand Strategy

[Wrote this last June as possible publication, but it was a bit beyond the pale for journal, which wanted dramatic changes. Not unusual for me - happens with every new tack I undertake (the "new map" suffered similarly). I liked it as it was, so we parted on that disagreement. I later used it in China as a written version of the presentations I gave there in Beijing and Shanghai (August 2015). I post it here now because I've recently received a number of requests based on my 2015 presentation in DC (a further iteration of my presentations in China). I also post it because these things just get lost over time if I don't.]

 

America's Post-Oil Grand Strategy
by 
Thomas P.M. Barnett

June 2015


The United States defaulted to a Middle East-centric grand strategy in the waning years of the Cold War and has remained stuck there ever since – sometimes in denial (like now) and sometimes in fervent embrace (George W. Bush and his neocons) but always in a manner that demanded some measure of White House attention.  That seemingly unbreakable focus – particularly in relation to allies Israel and Saudi Arabia – now rapidly dissipates, falling victim first to a technological curveball and ultimately to a demographic shift that leaves Americans less willing to police the world and more interested in recasting their pursuit of happiness.  

America’s political leaders have taken to describing this era as one of unprecedented uncertainty, but this is hardly the case.  Globalization is either winning or has won across all the world’s regions, leaving only the question of which global “brands” (American, Chinese, Indian, European, Russian) will dominate where.  President Obama and much of Washington now project the nation’s grand strategic ambitions in the direction of Asia, but they are mistaken.  America’s historical scheme of integrating the world “laterally” (West to East) since World War II is largely complete, meaning these United States now enter an age of “vertical” integration (North to South) in the Western Hemisphere. This latitudinal expansion of the American System once imagined by our Founding Fathers will define U.S. foreign policy across the rest of this century.

 

The technological curveball that arrives just in time

In many ways, the hybrid U.S. economic system of big firms surrounded by a sea of small, technology-innovating start-ups represents the purest real-world expression of Karl Marx’s dialectic materialism – a theory of history that tracks causality from inexorable technological advance to altered economic reality to inevitable political change. What Marx never imagined was a political system able to structure itself so that those technological waves would just keep coming over the decades, consistently “buying off” the electoral acquiescence of the lower and middle classes in the face of elite domination (oftentimes real, sometimes just imagined) of the highest levels of government.  In Marxian terminology, America’s political “superstructure” has learned how to co-evolve with its economic “base” better than any nation-state in history.

The feedback loop that has allowed that successful co-evolution is America’s sometimes stunningly permissive rule of law.  Basically, you can try or invent just about anything in America that isn’t currently prohibited by law, whose construction trails innovation sometimes for decades. In too much of the rest of the world, one’s innovation and industry is limited to what is allowed by law.  Do Americans pay for that permissiveness?  Regularly – in the form of surges in criminality, environmental damage, labor abuse and sheer greed.  But thanks to our participatory regulatory and legal systems, the “little guy” can fight back and can make those bastards pay for what they’ve done!  So while the construction of protective laws trails crimes, disasters, and tragedies of the common, it never falls so far behind that the political system fractures – save for our unique historical experience with slavery.

Thus, it is only fitting that America’s historically recent Middle East-centric grand strategy, seemingly beholden as it was to the goal of assuring the world’s access to affordable energy, now falls victim to yet the latest in a long string of U.S.-triggered technological waves – the so-called fracking revolution.  This silver bullet development, coming as it does just as two new, energy-import-dependent superpowers (China, India) rise in the East, could not be more fortuitous for extending the global moratorium on great power war begun with the invention of nuclear weapons.  It essentially introduces enough slack in the world energy system to allow both Asian giants to step into their economic primes without needing to militarily challenge either the United States or its long-nurtured global trade system.  When combined with the Western Hemisphere’s most crucial resource advantage – namely, arable land in an age of global climate change, America’s new-found energy independence fundamentally prevents any historical repeat of the structural run-ups to World Wars I or II, much less any revivification of the Cold War’s East-West destructive superpower rivalry.  Thanks to fracking, it turns out that this town is big enough for the both of us – the U.S. and China in the Pacific Rim today, and China and India in Asia tomorrow.

Think about that for a minute: amidst all the continuing expert predictions of overpopulation and rising consumption bankrupting the planet to the point of non-stop “resource wars” among “thirsty” great powers (think oil and water), American ingenuity once again comes to the world’s rescue on both energy and food (i.e., water turned into human energy).

Just a decade ago, America imported almost two-thirds of its crude oil and entertained plans for new infrastructure to facilitate imports of liquid natural gas.  Today it surpasses Saudi Arabia on crude oil production and, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, will become a net exporter of crude oil in roughly a decade’s time. Moreover, by tapping into what is estimated to be the world’s second-largest shale gas reserves (China is number one), America has re-vaulted itself to the leading ranks of world natural gas producers – soon available for export.  This sort of technological turnaround is – quite frankly – just as impressive as China’s economic rise over the similarly long gestation period of the past quarter-century.  But – again – more importantly, America’s technological achievement essentially solves the structural challenge created by China’s rapid ascension in the world power system – but only if both Washington and Beijing become smart enough to realize that.

President Barack Obama was absolutely correct in downsizing America’s “war on terror” from the Bush Administration’s focus on regime toppling to hunting down and killing bad guys.  Frankly, that’s been America’s story on military interventions going all the way back to Panama and Manuel Noriega in 1989.  We don’t take on governments anymore; we take on bad/nonstate actors (the Milosevic gang in Serbia, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the “deck of 52” in Iraq, Qaddafi in Libya, and so on). By re-symmetricizing what has long been described as radical Islam’s asymmetrical war on the West, Obama right-sized the terror war. But to cover his soft-on-defense vulnerability as a Democrat, he coupled that wise decision with the strategically unsound declaration of America’s “pivot to Asia” – in effect, shifting from a region in which globalization’s advance is still being violently contested to one where its victory is already complete.

But here’s where the strategic irony grows stunningly disturbing: by attempting to contain rising China’s natural military expansion in East Asia, Washington inadvertently prevents what must become Beijing’s progressive embrace of the role of extra-regional security Leviathan for the Persian Gulf.  Worse, by doing this, Washington actually encourages rival India to do the same when it must eventually partner with China in providing that regional security umbrella. In other words, just as America’s technological breakthrough on energy relieves it of its unwanted role in the Persian Gulf, Washington wrongheadedly works to prevent our historical relief from moving toward those “responsible stakeholder” roles. 

 

America’s Long(itudinal) War: It only gets worse

Understand this from the start:  the Persian Gulf still matters to Europe in terms of energy flows but not to the United States.  From the five top-10 global oil exporters located in the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait), only negligible amounts of crude oil currently flow to the Western Hemisphere.  The vast majority of Persian Gulf oil exports (roughly four-fifths) flows into East Asia, with China and India alone accounting for half of that flow.  Anti-war protestors got it only half-right: it may have been American blood, but it was never our oil.

If you’re paying attention to Barack Obama’s second-term boldness in foreign policy, this newfound swagger clearly tracks back to a growing sense of both America’s energy independence and its ability to influence global energy markets.  The recent bottoming of global oil prices was due in no small part to rising American production.  In the case of Venezuela’s flagging financial support to Cuba, this left the Castro brothers more open to Obama’s offers of normalizing bilateral relations. In the case of Iran, this increased the White House’s confidence in moving ahead on the nuclear power deal – despite Riyadh and Israel’s obvious displeasure.  Even in the case of Russia’s ongoing squeeze of Ukraine, the Obama Administration reveals no penchant for “blinking,” and why should it?  The more Vladimir Putin isolates Russia from the West, the more Moscow is forced to sell off its vast natural resources to the world’s largest buyer of the same – those notoriously stingy and difficult Chinese.  Putin’s reward for grabbing the Crimea is pitiable: the right to sell off Russia at bargain-basement prices to Beijing.

But make no mistake: there is genuine strategic risk in Obama’s mistimed Asian “pivot.”

In Asia alone, Washington risks a number of stumbling-into-great-power-war pathways, several of which could be driven by local powers (Japan and Vietnam especially) over-reacting to Beijing’s latest – literally – dredged-up beachhead or the right shooting incident between patrol craft operating above, on, or below the disputed waters.  A rising superpower like China has wont of an appropriate whipping boy to demonstrate its growing military prowess.  When America reached that jingoist apogee late in the 19th century, it was smart enough to target the comatose Spanish Empire in the Caribbean (Cuba) and Pacific (Philippines).  For China, still nurturing regional grudges over past “humiliations,” East Asia is a sufficiently target-rich environment.  And with the Pentagon locked and loaded to prove its AirSea Battle Concept, one cannot help but worry that some Asian variant of Archduke Ferdinand is now figuratively riding through the streets with his car-top down. Granted, the resulting shooting war is more likely virtual than real, but there too we find burgeoning cyber-warfare forces on both sides of the Pacific itching to press those keys and reveal to the world the damage they’re truly capable of inflicting.

Should the United States increasingly put at risk its greatest foreign policy achievement in history – namely, the rapid and planet-wide spread of our economic source-code (aka, globalization) – with this China-centric “pivot” to East Asia?  No. In Beijing’s eyes, any U.S. effort to block their naval expansion leaves the Mainland vulnerable to military pressure from the sea – the oft employed attack vector of Western powers seeking China’s “humiliation.”  All Americans have to do to approximate the average Chinese’s nationalism on this point is to imagine Chinese aircraft carriers, submarines and aircraft patrolling just beyond America’s declared national waters.  Think of just how far Fox News could run with that.

Predictably – if not fortunately, crises in the Middle East routinely erupt to recapture America’s dangerously short strategic attention span.  Here, the Obama Administration’s modus operandi of “leading from behind” is a preview of coming distractions. With Washington locally perceived as backing out of its longtime regional Leviathan role, and with relief (China, India) nowhere in sight, we collectively enter a nobody-is-minding-the-stove period in which the region’s preeminent three-sided rivalry between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey will come to a dangerous boil.

We’ve seen this already unfold in the Islamic State’s frighteningly rapid rise.  Fearing growing encirclement by the fabled Shia Crescent, Riyadh secretly bankrolled the group’s emergence in Syria and Iraq.  Ankara, with similar rivalrous instincts, allowed Turkey to become a smuggling sieve for foreign fighters and supplies transiting to and from ISIS.  Now, as their monstrous co-creation threatens them directly, both regimes are caught in the sort of strategic conundrum usually reserved for intervening extra-regional great powers – a truly telling development.  Iran too now faces a certain imperial “overstretch” throughout the wider region, making its determined effort to gain international recognition as a nuclear power oddly reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s efforts with the West during the Cold War, in that, the more Tehran engages in great-power meddling of its own, the more it wants to erase the threat of possible strategic retaliation against the homeland – a decidedly logical move.

But it will be in the nuclear realm where this three-sided Gulf rivalry regularly rattles the world’s nerves in coming years. With Tehran on the verge of getting the Obama Administration to implicitly recognize its nuclear breakout capacity of a year-or-less, Riyadh is strongly rumored to be readying itself to cash in Pakistan’s long-offered promise of ready-to-use nuclear weapons.  Meanwhile, Ankara, with NATO nuclear weapons already on its soil, will likely resist the temptation for now.  Still, soon enough the world will find itself managing a three-sided nuclear standoff – however latent – among Israel, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.  That prospect has to scare even the most fervent believer in the system-stabilizing effect of nuclear weapons, myself included.

Frightening as it may be for the world to re-learn the fundamental logic of mutually assured destruction – particularly in a region chock-full of End Times-embracing millenarians, I have spent the last decade proclaiming the inevitability of this pathway simply because Israel’s regional nuclear monopoly was always unsustainable and a bit spooky with its Masada complex.  Now, the technological curveball that triggers America’s new strategic distance renders this outcome virtually inescapable.  In nuclear terms, the inmates are finally running the asylum.

 

Go South, Young Man

America’s shift from a “horizontal” grand strategy (West integrating East) to a “vertical” grand strategy (North integrating South) is preordained by demographics. Any country’s economic rise stems first and foremost from an advantageous national age distribution, meaning lots of labor relative to children and old people. This “demographic dividend” is typically triggered by improvements in healthcare for mothers and young children, which allows families to eschew additional pregnancies out of the growing assurance that their first two or so children will make it into adulthood. That turning-off-the-fertility-spigot creates a welcome labor bulge that comes with a time limit of roughly a generation’s time – like the journey of America’s Boomer generation from youth to (now) old age.  If you’re lucky, your society gets rich before it gets old.

America took advantage of a fortuitous demographic dividend in the 1950s and 1960s to power the global economy with manufacturing.  Compared to all of its competitors that suffered great loss of young life, the U.S. was overloaded with labor relative to dependents – a glorious run extended somewhat by the first Boomers’ arrival in the workplace in the mid-to-late 1960s. Japan was next to ride a lifting demographic wave, rising like a rocket across the 1970s and 1980s, only to see that trajectory fizzle out since the 1990s as the nation rapidly started stockpiling old people due to stunningly low fertility.  China was next in the 1990s and 2000s, but then predictably saw its demographic dividend peak in 2010.  Now, with fertility still low (the one-child policy became a hard habit to break), China will age (mean age) three times as fast as the U.S. through the middle of the century.

Whose up next?  Southeast Asia enjoys a demographic dividend now, with India’s coming on its heels.  Beyond them lay the Middle East and Africa, the latter looking at the biggest dividend that the world has ever seen (the better part of a billion people).

Why this economic history matters: Once a nation embraces manufacturing to leverage its demographic dividend, it starts “climbing the ladder of production,” moving from cheap and assembled goods to higher-order manufacturing.  A rite of passage is seen in automobile manufacturing, which dovetails with any rising economy’s growing middle-class demand for mobility.  As it climbs that ladder, the nations in question must slough off their lower-end manufacturing to those countries coming into their own demographic dividends.  In short, these nations become inexorably bound to their successors through direct investment and integration via expanding global production chains.  In many ways, then, the shifting center of gravity in the global economy’s cheap-labor surplus is a magnificently integrating and thus pacifying historical force.  China, for example, needs Southeast Asia’s demographic dividend to work for its own long-term economic health.  In the end, that’s the biggest brake on Chinese regional militarism.

Which brings us to why America must turn its welcoming gaze southward – now.

America is the Dorian Gray of great powers.  We’ll age far more slowly than the rest of the West and even most of the advancing East over the next several decades precisely because we enjoy immigration pressures from Latin America – a far younger and faster-growing region than North America. Demographically speaking, the two most important factors in economic growth are slowing social aging and integrating one’s economy with younger and faster-growing neighboring economies.  For the U.S., that’s Latin America, which is why America’s long-standing policy of focusing its foreign policy attention everywhere else in the world but Latin America must end, along with our nation’s highly costly and destructive “war on drugs” – a process thankfully begun in terms of individual states decriminalizing marijuana use.

You may be thinking: shouldn’t America contest China’s spreading influence in places like East Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa?  The answer is no, for all the economic integration reasons cited above.  Good example: China and Africa are simultaneously engaging in a massive urbanization wave, giving Chinese construction companies clear economies-of-scale advantages in that vast building scheme.  Yes, American companies can and should be part of that build-up process, but we cannot hope to compete with the Chinese for influence brought about by progressively deeper economic integration.  America’s great accomplishment during its demographic heyday was to trigger and nurture and defend Asia’s integration into the global economy.  Now it’s Asia’s turn to extend that historical process to most of the remaining South – but not Latin America if the U.S. plays it smart.

With climate change making the planet’s middle lattitudes increasingly inhospitable over this century, migratory pressures will grow.  In choosing between heading south (Argentina, Brazil, Chile) or heading north (North America), most Latinos will continue to head north – as they should.  In terms of underutilized arable land, upper North America offers far more economic potential than South America’s southern cone.  Today America grows wheat in water-starved Texas.  By mid-century we’ll be growing it in water-rich Alaska.  No kidding.

Right now, one out of six Americans is Latino.  By mid-century, Latinos will approach a one-third share of the U.S. population – and voters.  Already, Miami is the de facto social and economic “capital” of Latin America – a sign of political integration to come.

No, adding new stars to the American flag won’t unfold as some modern, militaristic imperialism. Instead, led by its largest demographic cohort ever – those Millennials, these United States will get back in the historical business of attracting and accepting new members.  Remember, we began this journey of integration as a confederation of 13 colonies (1789), growing over the next 170 years to our current total of 50 states.  That’s averaging a new member roughly every half-decade. Then we shut that door following the admissions of Hawaii and Alaska (non-contiguous states, it must be noted) in 1959, adding nothing since.  Do you want America to stay competitive with those billion-person Asian behemoths China and India?  Well, the Western Hemisphere contains roughly a billion souls.

When America’s Founding Fathers dreamt of an American System of political, economic, social and territorial integration, they weren’t just contemplating our horizontal slice of North America.  Visionaries like Alexander Hamilton and later Henry Clay (who coined the term) imagined that system extending itself to welcome all Americans

The U.S. remade the world over the last seven decades by spreading its system of rules and economic model.  Globalization was a “conspiracy” hatched by Washington and it’s been called many things over the decades, from Teddy Roosevelt’s “open door” to Franklin Roosevelt’s “new deal for the world.”  Having successfully led that integration process from West to East, it’s now America’s duty – and self-preserving opportunity – to build out that American System across the entire Western Hemisphere.

And that process needs to begin now – as in, the next president.

11:57AM

(RESILIENT BLOG) The Future of Human Resilience - or Indulgence?

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE TWO TYPES OF HUMANS: THOSE WHO SEEK TO "SAVE" THEMSELVES AND THEIR FUTURE (BY LIVING CAREFULLY) AND THOSE WHO SEEK TO "SPEND" THEIR LIVES (AND LITERALLY THEIR BODIES) AS AGGRESSIVELY AS POSSIBLE. On the former, think of vegan ascetics; on the latter, think of career military or NFL players. There is no right choice – just the choice. To quote the heavy-metal band MetallicaMy lifestyle determines my death style. Except maybe now, thanks to emerging bio-technologies, it no longer will. At first glance, this is an unmitigated blessing: worn-out or diseased or damaged organs and bones replaced with organic replacements crafted from your own cells! But what happens to human behavior when people start to realize that today's extreme risks can be covered by emerging technological fixes? Are we suddenly braver? More foolhardy? More given to addictions? Less virtuous? In sum, does this form of new-school resilience (break it, replace it) somehow diminish the old-school variant (overcoming damage)?
...

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11:54AM

(RESILIENT BLOG) The Looming Social Burnout That is Demographic Aging 

EVERY CULTURE THE WORLD OVER BRAGS ABOUT HOW THEY RESPECT THEIR ELDERS, AND IT'S ALL TRUE – UP UNTIL A CERTAIN LEVEL OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IS ACHIEVED. It's a matter of numbers and living circumstances. In a traditional rural agrarian situation, elders are – quite frankly – not all that common. That's an exhausting life, typically not well managed with medical care. Those who make it into old age are prized for their wealth of experience and their ability to serve as extra caregivers with children. But then economic development happens and all that is turned upside down ...

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11:50AM

(RESILIENT BLOG) Apogee of MSM Hyperbole on Global Conflict - Aleppo Battle as "Mini World War"

PERCEPTIONS MATTER WHEN IT COMES TO RESILIENCE – A RATHER NIETZSCHEAN CONCEPT IN AND OF ITSELF (DIFFICULT SITUATIONS FOSTERING SKILL-GROWTH).  One cannot be a Chicken Little and resilient, as problems must be examined with a clear eye toward their scale and surmount-ability. You can't be squealing "game over! game over!" into the camera lens and expect to foster anything but panic – the white flag of resilience ...

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12:39PM

Most Perceptive Presentation of My Thinking - Ever

Christopher Hitchens once called Perry Anderson, the British Marxian historian who presently teaches at UCLA, both "the West’s most influential Marxist" and "the most profound essayist wielding a pen.” I've always viewed him as D'Artagnan to the three musketeers of English school of Marxism – namely, E.P. Thompson, Christopher Hill, and Eric Hobsbawn (now all deceased).

In 2013, the New Left Review, for only the third time in its history, devoted an entire issue to one author's take on a subject. It was Perry Anderson on "American Foreign Policy And Its Thinkers," divided into two long essays: "Imperium" – a history of U.S. foreign policy, and "Consilium" – an examination of the current state of grand strategy in the U.S. On the latter, Anderson avoided treating intellectuals who were primarily creatures of the media, so no Friedmans or Zakarias.

While I naturally don't agree with everything in his short history, I really admire the attempt, as I tried something similar in Great Powers. I also love Anderson's writing style. He is rare in that you often need to read a sentence more than once to understand it, but, when you do, you realize that the construction is so beautiful that it was worth the effort. You can say that about . . . really no one I've ever read before.

I am even more interested in his "Consilium" essay because it contains the single most intelligent and accurate analysis of my vision - better than anything I've ever found. Frankly, I don't think I summarize my strategy better than he does here. It's very nuanced and comprehensive, adds all the right grace notes (as far as I'm concerned) and captures me to the core (Marxian in outlook but not a Marxist).

I excerpt all the relevants bits in this post, offering no commentary because none is needed.  Where so many have gotten me wrong, Anderson gets me totally correct, and, quite frankly, I never thought I'd live to see this day.

[On that last point, I waited until Verso published the two essays as a book last spring (which I recommend to everyone) to generate this post. I like the formality of a book treating other books. But yes, it took me a long stretch to get around to this task.]

The other great joy for me here is that Anderson completely ignores my first two books (Pentagon's New Map, Blueprint for Action) and focuses solely on Great Powers (2009). Obviously, I will always be best known for PNM, but I consider Great Powers to be the culminating summation of the trilogy, which "descended" in scope from system (PNM) to state (BPFA) to leadership/strategy (GP) – purposefully Waltzian. I also think I was a much better author by the publication of GP. Plus, it's the least known and least appreciated of the three, when I feel it should be the best known and best appreciated (oh well, such is the trajectory of trilogies ...).

Now to book:

CONSILIUM

In the American intellectual landscape, the literature of grand strategy forms a domain of its own, distinct from diplomatic history or political science, though it may occasionally draw on these. Its sources lie in the country's security elite, which extends across the bureaucracy and the academy to foundations, think tanks, and the media. In this milieu, with its emplacements in the Council on Foreign Relations, the Kennedy School at Harvard, the Woodrow Wilson Center in Princeton, the Nitze School at Johns Hopkins, the Naval War College, Georgetown University, the Brookings and Carnegie Foundations, the Departments of State and of Defense, not to speak of the National Security Council and the CIA, positions are readily interchangeable, individuals moving seamlessly back and forth between university chairs or think tanks and government offices, in general regardless of the party in control of the administration ...

 

(10) CRUSADERS

[the Wilsonian liberal idealism with its focus on democracy, with treatment of Walter Russell Mead, Michael Mandelbaum, John Ikenberry, and Charles Kupchan]

 

(11) REALIST IDEALS

[the opposing school of American strategic thought known as idealism, with its focus on "hard" power, permanent interests, and no permanent friends, with treatment of Robert Kagan, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Robert Art]

 

(12) ECONOMY FIRST

Are there any significant constructions in the discourse of American foreign policy that escape its mandatory dyad? Perhaps, in its way, one. In background and aim Thomas P.M. Barnett belongs in the company of grand strategests, but in outlook is at an angle to them. Trained as a Sovietologist at Harvard, he taught at the Naval War College, worked in the Office of Force Transformation set up by Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, voted for Kerry and now directs a consultancy offering technical and financial connexions to the outside world in regions like Iraqi Kurdistan. Great Powers: America and the World After Bush, the product of this trajectory, is unlike anything else in the literature, in manner and in substance. In the breezy style of a salesman with an inexhaustible store of snappy slogans, it lays out a eupeptic, yet far from conventional, vision of globalization as the master narrative for grasping the nature and future of US planetary power – one calculated to disconcert equally the bien-pensant platitudes of Clintonism, and their condemnation by critics like Brzezinski, in a triumphalism so confident it dispenses with a good many of its customary accoutrements.

America, Barnett's argument runs, has no cause for doubt or despondency in the aftermath of a war in Iraq that was well-intentioned, but hopelessly mismanaged. Its position is not slipping: "This is still America's world." For as the earth's first and most successful free-market economy and multiethnic political union, whose evolution prefigures that of humanity at large, "we are modern globalization's source code – its DNA." The implication? "The United States isn't coming to a bad end but a good beginning – our American system successfully projected upon the world."[GP, 1-2. 4] That projection, properly understood, neither involves nor requires US promotion of democracy at large. For Barnett, who declares himself without inhibition an economic determinist, it is capitalism that is the real revolutionary force spawned by America, whose expansion renders unnecessary attempts to introduce parliaments and elections around the world. The Cold War was won by using US military strength to buy time for Western economic superiority over the Soviet Union to do its work. So too in the post-Cold War era, peace comes before justice: if the US is willing to go slow in its political demands on regions that neither know nor accept liberal democracy, while getting its way on economic demands of them, it will see the realization of its ideals within them in due course. "America needs to ask itself: is it more important to make globalization truly global, while retaining great-power peace and defeating whatever anti-globalization insurgencies may appear in the decades ahead? Or do we tether our support for globalization's advance to the upfront demand that the world first resembles us politically?" [GP, 30]

So today it is not a league of democracies that is called for, but a league of capitalist powers, committed to making the order of capital workable on a world stage, rebranded along Lincoln lines as a "team of rivals" comprising China and Russia along with Japan, Europe, India, Brazil. Americans have no reason to baulk at the inclusion of either of their former adversaries in the Cold War. It took the United States half a century after its revolution to develop a popular multi-party democracy, even then excluding women and slaves, and it protected its industries for another century beyond that. China is closing the distance between it and America with the methods of Hamilton and Clay, though it now needs regulatory reforms like those of the Progressive Era (as does contemporary Wall Street). Its nationalist foreign policy already resembles that of the first Roosevelt. As for Russia, with its economic brutalism and crude materialism, it is in its Gilded Age – and there will be plenty of other versions of its younger self America is going to bump up against, who may not take it at its own estimation: "Moscow pragmatically sees America for what it truly is right now: militarily overextended, financially overdrawn and ideologically overwrought." But its anti-Americanism is largely for show. In view of Russia's past, the US could scarcely ask for a better partner than Putin, whose regime is nationalist, like that of China, but not expansionist. "Neither represents a systemic threat, because each supports globalization's advance, and so regards the world's dangers much as we do," with no desire to challenge the dominant liberal trade order, merely to extract maximum selfish benefit from it.[GP, 184-5, 227-31] The varieties of capitalism these and other rising contenders represent are one of its assets as a system, allowing experiments and offsets in its forms that can only strengthen it.

Between the advanced core and the more backward zones of the world, a historic gap remains to be overcome. But a capitalist domino effect is already at work. In that sense, "Africa will be a knock-off of India, which is a knock-off of China, which is a knock-off of South Korea, which is a knock-off of Japan, which half a century ago was developed by us as a knock-off of the United States. Call it globalization's 'six degrees of replication.'"[GP, 248] But if economically speaking, "history really has 'ended,'" transition along the gap is going to generate unprecedented social turmoil, as traditional populations are uprooted and customary ways of life destroyed before middle-class prosperity arrives. Religion will always be a way of coping with that tumult, and as globalization spreads, it is logical that there should be the greatest single religious awakening in history, because it is bringing the most sweeping changes in economic conditions ever known. In this churning, the more mixed and multicultural societies become, the more individuals, in the absence of a common culture, cling to their religious identity. There too, America in its multi-cultural patterns of faith is the leading edge of a universal process.

What of the war zone where Barnett himself has been involved? For all the spurious pretexts advanced for it, the decision to invade Iraq was not irrational: however mismanaged, it has shaken up the stagnation of the Middle East, and begun to reconnect the region with the pull of globalization. By contrast, the war in Afghanistan is a dead-end, only threatening fruther trouble with Pakistan. Bush's greatest failure was that he got nothing from Iran for toppling its two Sunni enemies, Sadam and the Taliban, and persisted – in deference to Saudi and Israeli pressure – in trying to contain rather than co-opt it. So it is no surprise that the mullahs have concluded nuclear weapons would keep them safe from US attempts to topple them too. In that they are absolutely right. Iran should be admitted to the nuclear club, since the only way to stop it from acquiring a capability would be to use nuclear weapons against it – conventional bombing would not do the trick. Needed in the Middle East is not a futile attack on Iran by Israel or America, but a regional security system which the big Asian powers, China and India, both more dependent on Gulf oil than America, cooperate with the US to enforce, and Iran – the only country in the region where governments can be voted out of office – plays the part to which its size and culture entitle it.[GP, 10-11, 26-7]

For the rest, by raising the bar so high against great power wars, US military force has been a huge gift to humanity. But the latter-day Pentagon needs to cut its overseas troop strength by at least a quarter and possibly a third. For Barnett, who lectured to Petraeus and Schoomaker, the future of counter-insurgency lies in the novel model of AFRICOM, which unlike the Pentagon's other area commands – Central, Pacific, European, Northern, Southern – maintains a light-footprint network of "contingency operating locations" in Africa, combining military vigilance with civilian assistance: "imperialism to some, but nothing more than a pistol-packing Peace Corps to me."[GP, 286-9] Chinese investment will do more to help close the gap in the Dark Continent, but AFRICOM is playing its part too.

In the larger scene, American obsessions with terrorism, democracy and nuclear weapons are all irrelevances. What matters is the vast unfolding of a globalization that resembles the internet as defined by one of its founders: "Noboy owns it, everybody uses it, and anybody can add services to it." The two now form a single process. Just as globalization becomes "a virtual Helsinki Accords for everyone who logs on," so WikiLeaks is – this from a planner fresh from the Defense Department - "the Radio Free Europe of the surveillance age."[GP, 301, 318] To join up, there is no requirement that a society be an electoral democracy, reduce its carbon emissions or desist from sensible protection of its industries. The rules for membership are simply: "come as you are and come when you can." As the middle class swells to half the world's population by 2020, America need have no fear of losing its preeminence. So long as it remains the global economy's leading risk-taker, "there will never be a post-American world. Just a post-Caucasian one."[GP, 413, 251]

Topped and tailed with a poem by Lermontov as epigraph and a tribute to H.G. Wells for envoi, as an exercise in grand strategy Great Powers is, in its way, no less exotic than [Mead's] God and Gold. The two can be taken as bookends to the field. Where Mead's construction marries realism and idealism a l'americaine in a paroxysmic union, Barnett sidesteps their embrace, without arriving – at least formally – at very different conclusions. In his conception of American power in the new century, though he tips his hat to the president, the Wilsonian strain is close to zero. Even the "liberal international order" is more a token than a touchstone, since in his usage it makes no case of economic protection. If, in their local meanings, idealism is all but absent, elements of realism are more visible. Theodore Roosevelt – not only the youngest, but "the most broadly accomplished and experienced individual ever to serve as president" – is singled out as the great transformer of American politics, both at home and abroad, and Kagan's Dangerous Nation saluted as the work that set Barnett thinking of ways in which he could connect Americans to globalization through their own history. But the cheerful welcome Great Powers extends to the autocracies of China and Russia as younger versions of the United States itself is at antipodes of Kagan. Treatment of Putin is enough to make Brzezinski's hair stand on end. Ready acceptance of Iranian nuclear weapons crosses a red line for Art.

Such iconoclasm is not simple a matter of temperament, though it is clearly also that – it is no surprise the Naval War College felt it could do without Barnett's services. It is because the underlying problematic has so little to do with the role of military force, where the realist tradition has principally focused, or even economic expansion, as a nationalist drive.The twist that takes it out of conventional accounts of American exceptionalism, while delivering a maximized version of it, is its reduction of the country's importance in the world to the pure principle of capitalism – supplier of the genetic code of a globalization that does not depend on, nor require, the Fourteen Points or the Atlantic Charter, but simply the power of the market and of mass consumption, with a modicum of force to put down such opponents as it may arouse. In its unfazed economic determinism, the result is not unlike a materialist variant, from the other side of the barricades, of the vision of America in Hardt and Negri's Empire. That empire in its more traditional sense, which they repudiate, has not entirely fled the scene in Great Powers, its paean to the Africa Command makes plain. There, the footprints are ever more frequent. Created only in 2007, AFRICOM now deploys US military effectives in 49 out of 55 countries of the continent. Not America rules the world – the world becomes America. Such is the message, taken straight, of Great Powers. In the interim, there is less distinction between the two than the prospectus suggests.

[then two paragraphs on Richard Rosecrance in a three-paragraph sub-chapter that ends with this paragraph:]

With a low view of European economic and demographic health, the vision of any kind of TAFTA as an open sesame to restoration of American fortunes is an object for derision in Great Powers: "Whenever I hear an American politician proclaim the need to strengthen the Western alliance, I know that leader promises to steer by our historical wake instead of crafting a forward-looking strategy. Recapturing past glory is not recapturing our youth but denying our parentage of this world we inhabit so uneasily today."[GP, 369] Europeans are pensioners in it. It would be wrong to reject them, but pointless to look to them. After all, Barnett remarks kindly, on the freeway of globalization grandad can come along for the ride, whoever is sitting in the front seat next to the driver.

 

(13) OUTSIDE THE CASTLE

[final chapter that compares the various grand strategists and strategies]

[at the bottom of a paragraph on the need to "fix" America with a centrist agenda being common to all thinkers] The menu may be ignored – it largely is by Kagan and Barnett – but rarely, if ever, is it outright rejected.

Remedies for external setbacks or oncoming hazards are more divisive. The Republican administration of 2000-2008, more controversial than its predecessor, enjoyed the support of Kagan throughout, Mead and Barnett at first, while incurring criticism, much of it vehement, from Ikenberry and Kupchan, Art and Brzezinski ...

Democracy, on the other hand, its spread till yesterday an irrenounceable goal of any self-respecting diplomacy, is now on the back burner. Openly discarded as a guideline by Kupchan, Barnett and Brzezinski, downgraded by Art, matter of horticulture rather than engineering for Mandelbaum, only Ikenberry and Kagan look wistfully for a league of democracies ...

If Iran refuses to obey Western instructions to halt its nuclear programme, it will – no one, of course welcomes the prospect – in extremis have to be attacked, hopefully with a helping hand or a friendly wink from Moscow and Beijing. Only Barnett breaks the taboo that protects the Israeli nuclear monopoly in the name of nonproliferation.

How is American domination to be presevered in the arena of Weltpolitik proper – the domain of the great powers and their conflicts, actual or potential? 

... 

For Mandelbaum and Ikenberry, on the contrary, China is the great prize whose adhesion to the liberal international order is increasingly plausible, and will render it irreversible, while for Barnett, with his more relaxed conception of such an order, the PRC is to all intents and purposes already in the bag.

 Again, what I like best is that Anderson doesn't distort what so many distort in my work (endless wars! globalization at the barrel of a gun!) and captures the essence of my vision, which is – indeed - "economy first."

 

12:25PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) Organizational Resilience Is a Practical Tool For Both Reforming Progressives & Fiscal Conservatives

I'VE SPOKEN HERE BEFORE ABOUT THE LEGITIMATE ANGER OF THE 99-PERCENT, AND WE NOW SEE THOSE MOST PROMINENTLY CHANNELING THAT ANGER IN THE U.S. CAMPAIGN FOR THE WHITE HOUSE BEING CHALLENGED ON WHAT PRACTICAL STEPS OR TOOLS THEY WOULD EMPLOY TO ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING. I'll let the voters decide which candidates are more capable of "walking the walk" in addition to "talking the talk," but I'll also make the case here that what we at Resilient offer in our quest to spread the gospel of organizational resilience are some very practical tools to do exactly what this cluster of candidates say needs to be done to "un-rig" the U.S. political economy (more on that term of art in just a bit) ...

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11:53AM

(RESILIENT BLOG) Resilient Families --> Resilient Employees --> Resilient Companies (That Earn Better)

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU HEARD THE OLD CORPORATE BIT ABOUT HOW "OUR PEOPLE ARE OUR GREATEST STRENGTH"?  What executives really mean when they trot that out is that their human capital is highly resilient – a concept that encompasses company loyalty in a big way. Compared to brand, products, services, physical plant, company rules and procedures, etc., your employees are the one asset that can most rapidly adjust to truly disruptive change. Everything else takes time to reconfigure, relaunch, re-something, but your people can alter their behaviors at great speed – if properly incentivized to value the firm's survival and success above their own instinctive need to stick to what they know/are comfortable doing/etc. Their ability to successfully engage and surmount risks and emergencies is whatever gets you(r enterprise) through the night – however defined ...

 

 

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1:38PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) There Are No Development Short-Cuts, But You Can Compress the Costs - the Energy Example

BJORN LOMBORG HAS LONG BEEN A FAVORITE OF MINE, POINTING OUT VERY UN-P.C. TRUTHS ABOUT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND THE HYPOCRISY OF WELL-MEANING LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES ABOUT THE "RIGHT PATH." Lomborg tends to split those differences and does so most contentiously on climate change, arguing that humanity should balance benefits against costs, calm adaptation against frantic action, and measurable progress in the here-and-now against strident urgency for fantastically-ambitious-but-likely-counterproductive achievements in the distant future. In short, he's annoyingly pragmatic in a debate that's grown far too ideological and shrill on both sides. He is a person out of time – like any good strategic thinker ...

 

 

 

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5:39PM

(RESILIENT BLOG) When Wal-Mart Leaves Your Small Town, So Does a Great Deal of Your Community's Resilience

ONCE DEMONIZED AS DOWNTOWN-KILLING MACHINE, A NOW-OVEREXTENDED WAL-MART'S RETREAT FROM SMALL-TOWN AMERICA WILL EXTINGUISH THE MOST VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES.  Many small towns give up the ghost when they lose their local hospital, a sure sign that there's no longer enough local dollars to sustain a high-priced facility and its personnel.  But when big-box, rock-bottom-prices Wal-Mart gives up on your town, it's actually far worse, because now the people with the least disposable income - and often no car - are now locked out of their primary source of just-getting-by consumption.  Stand outside a Wal-Mart sometime and see who walks up (sans car), or bikes there, or is forced to take a bus or taxi to the store, only to come out an hour later with bags of virtually everything they'll consume over the coming weeks, and you'll be looking at the most vulnerable of the 99 percent in America. Because, when Wal-Mart pulls up stakes within their small universe, they've got nowhere else they can go for anything close to the same buying power (and no, the truly vulnerable don't shop much online) ...

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11:08AM

(RESILIENT BLOG) Political Resilience Is Being Confident To Face Ugly Truths, Knowing Your System Will Survive The Encounter

AFTER AMERICA RODE A TIDAL WAVE OF ECONOMIC INTEGRATION AND EXPANSION FOLLOWING ITS CIVIL WAR (MOVING RAPIDLY FROM A SECTIONAL ECONOMY TO A TRULY CONTINENTAL ONE), A FRIGHTENING STRETCH OF BOOMS AND BUSTS IGNITED A LENGTHY PROGRESSIVE ERA (BREAKING FOR THE ROARIN' TWENTIES) WHEN POLITICAL ACTORS FROM BOTH PARTIES SOUGHT SYSTEMIC REFORMS - LEST THE COUNTRY SUCCUMB TO THE SORT OF RADICALISM LOOMING IN EUROPE (SEE FALLOUT OF WWI, CAUSES OF WWII). It was a frightening journey in many ways, with worried leaders concerned that the very nature of American democracy was at stake. But this is the usual price to be paid in return for a radical and lengthy expansion of economic activity, and it's one the world faces today after that quarter-century-plus boom that ended in 2008-09 and left the global economy with a bad hangover of toxic debt that is still largely to be processed ...

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