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Works and Days

The World of the Coliseum

November 17th, 2013 - 6:53 pm

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I woke up one morning not long ago, and noticed that the world that I was born into no longer exists. It was as if I had once lived in Republican Italy, took a nap, and awoke to the Roman Empire, AD 200.

Latifundia

Let me explain. All the farms in these environs that I grew up with — 40-80 acres with a farmhouse and family — have simply vanished.

Where did they go?

I suppose when I meet someone with 5,000 acres that I am supposed to think that spread represents the old, and now recombined, 100 50-acre farms under new management. Yet where did the 100 farm households go — and what replaced them?

When I ride around the rural landscape, I see the old skeletons of farmhouses; but they are mostly rented to farm workers.  Are the social circumstances of renting a house and working on a 5,000-acre farm different from 100 agrarian households doing it — in terms of local PTA, Little League, the regional hospital board, or city council?

I leave it to you to decide. I can attest only that in terms of agricultural productivity, today’s 8,000-acre almond operations look far more efficient, up to date, and savvy than what 100 80-acre almond orchards used to seem like: old barn, clunky tractors in the yard, kids out in the orchard not up on the latest scientific approaches to fertilization, mom doing the books in a way the computerized corporate whiz kid would laugh at, tight-fisted gramps hobbling about looking for loose tire-popping nails in the alleyway while giving sermons about avoiding a mortgage.

The Tech Ghettos

The new pyramid is not just agricultural. Go to Silicon Valley. In all the old quaint homes of Menlo Park, Mountain View, and Palo Alto that I remember visiting in the 1960s, there is only a small middle class. The houses, true, are almost preserved in amber, appearing just as they did on the tree-lined streets a half-century ago. But what is in them now?

Strapped $400,000 a year-income couples paying $10,000 a month in taxes and mortgages for $800-per-square-foot old frame cottages are not what I remember. Even a far greater number of residents are renting $2,000 a month apartments, while a vast underclass of families in Redwood City and East Palo Alto quadruples up in rented 1,000 square-foot houses.

A few tech and financing geniuses live in splendor in Woodside or Portola Valley (well, not quite in splendor: air lift their multimillion-dollar castles to Fresno or Merced and their square footages and design would suddenly be considered no more than mere $500,000 nice, big houses).

What drives the new madcap California rush to the high-priced coastal strip? The weather has not changed since 1960. Stanford is still Stanford; Berkeley remains Berkeley. Is it the destruction of the old interior muscular world and the new high profits of the cerebral coastal? Does one pass up a $150,000 house in Madera to go into life-long debtor status to buy something smaller for $1 million to escape the dividends of illegal immigration and vast entitlements in the interior?

The small dry cleaner and his wife the teacher do not buy a nice 1,500 square foot home in San Carlos, start their 3-children family in their twenties, and join the middle class. More likely the future bridegroom is still single, living at home until he is 30. His would-be wife is still renting. And at 35 they might marry and have one child with a $600,000 mortgage. There is no room there for the middle-class family starting out youthful, with visions of a ranch house, kids, good jobs, and upward mobility.

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The odds are long because of the corrupting power of big money, but we still have a shot. Electing a president who is willing to expose what is going on and name names will not, in itself, be easy. Even the GOP which is partially bought and paid for too will try to silence such a one. Assuming we get that far, then actually exposing the networks will be no cakewalk either because they will pull out all the stops. The ensuing chaos will likely lead to civil unrest or worse. As we get closer to their inner circles they will trigger economic crises and international incidents to further complicate things, all the while blaming it on our reforming president, like they did with Bush only worse, and a gullible public will believe much of it... We will be reduced to a relatively small (maybe 30 million?) hard-core of dedicated Patriots, demonized as racist, misogynist, greedy, clean-water and air hating, fascist fanatics.

Besides a lot of what the leftist elite is up to is not technically illegal. So the onus will be on us to prove actual crimes to a generally skeptical public, shell-shocked by propaganda and tired of partisan politics.

Furthermore, the historical record is not encouraging. Few societies that have reached this point have reversed course back towards individual freedom. The best that ancient Rome was able to do was keep the ideal of the free mind burning in the form of nascent Christianity. Through centuries of darkness, Christianity was the pillar around which a whole new civilization, the most dynamic and free since the days of ancient Athens would emerge. So even if the coming darkness is inevitable, remember to teach your children that men were once free, and bid them to teach their children as well...

Finally, the overall agenda of this globalist clique has a distinct totalitarian and anti-human tone. This will become increasingly apparent as they consolidate power and control. The technologies we are becoming addicted too, and the energy that drives them and feeds us, are susceptible to central control. Ironically the anarchic hackers who drive us crazy with their antics may turn out to be among our strongest allies.

So yes, the odds are long. Just the way I like it. ; )

Look, we were set on this path on day one. The kind of wealth we were destined to produce cannot help but be corrupting, given human nature. The Framers knew this and provided safety valves which are still available to us. We got very good at defeating our military enemies, but have not developed a lot of experience combating political / asymmetric enemies. But we can learn. We will have to be prepared to undo certain habits, and learn new ways of thinking, but this can be done without abandoning our core faith in the free human individual. We will have to steel ourselves. We will be called every name in the book (to erode our confidence) and reviled. So the key is not to give into it, but to feed on it. The more impact we have, the more the left grows hysterical.

Also we have to take every opportunity to break their momentum, and to force them to reset and change course. These are the moments when they are vulnerable. There is much we can do but the key is to not give up. That is exactly what they are trying to get you to do: to buy into the idea that it is a lost cause. Like I said, the odds are long but what are we hear for? To just live a comfortable, safe life and then die? Or to stand against seemingly insurmountable odds, roll the dice, and just maybe accomplish something that will echo across centuries and inspire generations to come?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am always struck by how much Dr. Hanson's posts could literally be the basis of a science fiction novel. They are often about technological and social change, and give a context that brings us from the past to the present, giving food to extrapolate into the future. This post is no different. It is only lacking a story of individuals with names and faces to exist as a generational novel that could move from 1930 to 2180.

During times of sudden changes, SF literature writes itself, creates itself, because, with perspective, we see we are actually living that story.

I just re-watched the old western "Cimmaron" from 1931. It starts in 1889 and goes to the present. The changes are startling, (even more startling than the most bizarre acting performance by Richard Dix in western film history) much more massive than in the last 42 years.

I have also been reading the tired racist lie that SF is about and was created by imperialism and colonialism. Genre SF got its start around 1910, at the center of those vast changes. Like Dr. Hanson's posts, SF started itself, wrote itself, pushed into existence by technological and societal changes.

The reason SF (when it's honest) and Dr. Hanson's posts are so valuable, is that they provide a landscape of facts and speculation in a broad historic context for us to look back at ourselves.

Dr. Hanson's story is a dystopian one. With 100 million more people than 1960, too many from the failed Third World, and those paid off and radicalized and politicized by hate-speech to get their vote, the future looks bleak.

But if you can't see what's broke, you can't fix it. America's main problem is that the zeitgeist of the ruling party that is now mainstreamed into our most important institutions keeps fixing things that aren't broken and breaking things that are just fine. That is evident from Dr. Hanson's posts, as if we didn't already know that fixing America by guaranteeing unemployment and underemployment by allowing millions of illegal aliens, or institutionalizing hate-speech, could kill the golden goose.

As you can see from the United Kingdom's example, once our treasure is dedicated to our new and unproductive, things like space exploration are through, as is the ability to keep a strong military and the Pax Americana that has kept World Wars away since 1945. The U.K. could not re-create the Falkland Islands operation today, though it happened only 3 decades ago. Make a list of the world's economies that DON'T have to bankrupt themselves to have a military. It's most of the world.

As America bankrupts itself, that will change, and the political correctness that has infested America like a plague will have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the world. Basically, those few tens of millions that have reached America have consigned the hundreds of millions left behind to a much worse future than those countries would've had had those immigrants stayed and fought to make their nations better places to live.

A frontier that needed people in 1890 is a far different place from an overcrowded America that is simply too big to govern effectively, and with the overflow population from unexceptional nations that need external aid with every storm, earthquake and revolution.

Dr. Hanson's posts give more honest food for speculative thought than moronic stereotypes like the film "Elysium," which places the blame in precisely the opposite direction from which it is actually coming. And that stupidity is the centerpiece of political correctness, and PC is what is empowering this brutal bureaucracy dedicated to precisely nothing.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, the lessons of ancient Rome apply here. In fact it is pattern that goes back even further. As wealth concentrates into fewer and fewer hands, largely through natural processes, a clique comes along that seeks to consolidate and entrench their status at the top for good. Hence the rule of the god-kings. The left has studied ancient Rome too; as well as the various lessons in extracting power from the masses offered by the French Revolution and the rise of Naziism and Soviet style Communism. So all of the factors you describe Prof. Hanson, there is an additional one worth mentioning: the rise of the “choice architect”.

Lee Harris wrote an interesting article which neatly illustrates, through the example of Soviet collective farming, how meticulous, logical and even ingenious attempts to mold human behavior go sideways when they meet the real world. http://www.lee-harris.org/14045/nudge

Harris refers to Cass Sunstein, one of the preeminent social engineers (or as he likes to call himself “choice architects”) of our day. Sunstein believes that government should “nudge” citizens” along certain decision paths, using subtle but pervasive indoctrination and pre-determined algorithms, to “make their lives easier”. Sunstein was Obama's head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees the US government's information processing and regulatory systems. He also worked on Obama's 2008 campaign staff. In the past Sunstein has advocated for greater executive power in the office of the president. He has proposed that “experts” should monitor the media to ensure approved political content and that government should “infiltrate” political debates, and “force” the media to express certain views. He believes in granting legal “personhood” to some animals, that it is the state's obligation to provide jobs, food, buyers (for sellers), homes, insurance etc. to the entire population; and that the “triumph of the Left be constitutionally mandated.”

To most of us, Sunstein would be just another imbecile, and yet he is a prominent Harvard professor and a top Obama adviser. Nor is this an aberration, Obama's administration, along with his wider circle of advisers is jammed with lunatic ideologues like Sunstein, and that is no accident, because Obama is one of them. Scratch any of his high or mid-level cabinet members or czar and you will find some form of delusion or another. Sunstein himself is affiliated with the American Prospect, which is a major national umbrella group for far Left activism that receives funding from George Soros as well as from the Rockefeller Foundation and several other foundations and networks. Once you start connecting these various groups and their stated agendas, you realize there is a vast Leftist apparatus that has wrapped its tentacles around every layer of society and is squeezing the life out of the nation in a deliberate, coordinated effort. They work along Gramsci, Marcuse, Alinsky and Cloward-Piven lines to infiltrate, agitate, undermine, overload, divide, discredit or corrupt any institution, group or individual that can either help or hamper their cause. It is guys like Sunstein who design these policies, Obama is only there to implement. He is really just their pawn, though they may like to make him feel like he's in charge from time to time for morale purposes. And certainly they will hang him out to dry if he ever becomes an outright liability. (more...)
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (75)
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Dr. Hanson continually appears to be in mourning for a life that has blown away on the wind. Vic, it's simple. As an ex-Californian, all I can say is, time to get out of Dodge. It was great, it was cool, it's gone.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
This article by Dr. Hansen touches my heart and is close to home. I live in the Midwest and there are few jobs other than service jobs which are dominated by Hispanics both legal and illegal. The few construction jobs available are prevailing wage which few small companies can afford the payroll and refuse to cheat and lie and pay little more than minimum for experienced craftsman, many who are just quitting and no younger workers willing to learn complex tasks for little pay. What will happen when the miners, loggers, farmers, construction trades, manufacturing, are just gone with no trained workers to replace them? Computers and tech are wonderful tools not replacement for human intelligence, imagination, sheer will, and physical abilities. Atlas has shrugged but not by choice.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Latifundia in Italy required the complicity of the government to be built in that public lands were rented to patricians who eventually acquired property in them by dint of occupation. The patrician families had diverse outside sources of income from trade and mines, and could out-compete families that had no other sources of income during hard years. Subsidies have had a similar effect here. They give the mega-farmer a competitive advantage that overcomes the only advantage the family farmer has, that of being able to scratch his way through. Without the help from the central government in the form of subsidies, many big farmers would give up because of meager profits, while family farmers would stick it out because they have no place else to go. The mega-farms that would go out of business would end up as starter family farms. The only reason farm land is expensive is subsidies.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Victor, please move to the US and let Mexico gradually reconquer California
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Really, Herb? Cede California without a fight? REALLY?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Knockout in the fourth round, fighter is on the mat, ref has called it. Yes, fight is over. Planes fly, just go.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
The only way to get Cal back is to decide ahead of time that when they go bankrupt we put them into territorial status with a federally assigned manager and no representation in the Congress and Senate (and no Presidential eligibility) and strict criteria to be met before readmitting her to the Union. The State Constitution gets thrown out the window and gets rebuilt from scratch and has to be approved by the national legislature.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Victor, you need to get out of California - seriously. Texas ain't that way.

You'd like it here, you really would, and you wouldn't be losing anything, because the world you loved long ago is already dead. So come to the new world, like your ancestors once did - come to Texas!!!!
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
IT'S TIME FOR AN OBAMA-ECTOMY
Some of the wealthiest donors to Obama come from the heirs of the founders of medical device companies. Why would these people support Obama -- when they knew that ObamaCare was going to tax and possibly destroy the very innovation that made them wealthy, the very innovation that made American healthcare the best in the world?
Could it be that these multi-millionaires are ashamed of the wealth they inherited and are asking to be publicly flogged? Could it be these super wealthy have no idea how important medical devices actually are?
As to the reason medical devices are being taxed, I think I know the answer: Medical devices save lives, help us live longer. This tax is a stealth way to ration help. That is, it makes life-extending devices too expensive to save lives.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
They are building apartments like mad in San Jose. Massive apartments projects. In 50 years who knows what these places will be like.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
You have to see the video of a welfare hi-rise that was blown up (in NJ?) at the request of its tenants to really understand the insanity of liberalism.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pruitt-Igoe projects: on youtoob.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
The past can't be restored by a decadent people or anyone else. The left has gradually seized all of the modes of culture, education, finance and power in this country the way a tapeworm consumes its host.

However, the inconsistencies of leftist governance can be used to bring their great experiment down. Reduce its revenues and increase its costs abruptly so that collapse is evident even to the herd.

Trigger collapse. The Phoenix cannot rise from the flames until the Buzzard has been consumed by the fire. In this context I recommend the following article for your perusal:

http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/ugo-bardi/peak-civilization
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nov 18, 2013 Press TV has conducted an interview with Michel Chossudovsky of the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal about the issue of the Western proxy war in Syria and the fresh advances being made by the army of the Syrian government in its fight against insurgents backed by the West, Israel and some Persian Gulf states.


The West is the Architect of Terrorism in Syria

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZPHi-6Tnk8&feature=player_embedded
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
But if the central problem, or one of them, is that the new owner of the 5,000 acre almond farm is that much smarter and obviously better capitalized than the many former owners, what is the solution to that? Do you want a program that re-incentivizes small farmers? Isn't the inference that the very intelligent rise farther and faster now to the exclusion of the broader masses? And who or what is to blame for that? Are the 1% running amok? Are things to be made better by simply making entitlements and iPhones harder to get? Is that somehow going to produce more or better jobs? If the answers here have to do with political philosophy, then let me know how that would work.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, actually Dwight, the better networked and credentialled rise further and faster; intelligence doesn't have much to do with it except if intelligence is defined as being able to maintain a certain cynical, glib affect.

The single family farm has been a problem in America since colonial days. The problem with a single family farm is that it can only support a single family. Since farm families tended to have many children, you either sentenced them to a downward spiral of poverty by dividing the farm or forced them to move to the frontier to find land for their own single family farm. We pretty much ran out of frontier in the 1890s.

The massive industrialization of the first World War kinda, sorta disguised the problem. While the industrialized parts of the Country were roaring through the '20s, the commodity producing family farms and ranches were failing and being foreclosed on. Then the Market Crash and the Great Depression brought it home to the whole Country. Most of the New Deal was really about allowing the children to leave the family farm, ranch, or store for for wage work without leaving Ma and Pa to starve in their old age.

With unparallelled prosperity and a burgeoning consumer economy in the '50s the death knell of the family farm and the small town merchant was sounded; you simply couldn't make enough money to participate in the consumer economy off these small scale endeavors. So, the 5000 acre farmer isn't smarter or more industrious; he's just there to take advantage of US agricultural, industrial, and tax policy over the last century.

US Government policy obsoleted, make that destroyed, the single family farm and the small town merchant; WalMart and Archer Daniels are the inheritors. They're what the government wanted. I grew up on a family farm; I hated it. We didn't have much more than a pot to piss in and a window to throw it out of. I wanted a GTO! My dad lived out his days as a small town merchant getting steadily more poor as the WalMart got bigger. I said, "f*ck it," and went to work for government; that's where the money is.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I take your point about the loss of the frontier, but would fold that into my analysis that most of what we have for good and for bad is in the inherent nature of getting bigger, bigger, bigger and more "civilized," urban, etc.

"The single family farm has been a problem in America since colonial days. The problem with a single family farm is that it can only support a single family." vs. "US Government policy obsoleted, make that destroyed, the single family farm and the small town merchant; WalMart and Archer Daniels are the inheritors. They're what the government wanted. I grew up on a family farm; I hated it."
So is their demise inherent to the nature of the small farm or is it because "government" destroyed them? There is a myth out there (and in here, even more) that if we could get back to the principles of the Founders, then all would be well, but without having similar conditions: the frontier, the slow communications, the basic, universal need for plodding labor, the dominance of the WASP etc., how can one deny that the principles need to be tweaked and as with all things, some tweaks are better than others.

As for "intelligence doesn't have much to do with it except if intelligence is defined as being able to maintain a certain cynical, glib affect." There is intelligence and there is intelligence, according to some book/philosophy that used to be fashionable, six or seven or eleven different kinds. What I think of first is the brilliant inventor, who has no idea not not a good enough idea how to market his invention until an Arkwright comes along and puts the whole package together, alternately stealing, wheeling, dealing and setting the Luddites into violence. Someone like Edison could do both. Hell, I will certainly admit that almost all of the 1% are smarter than I am, especially if you include the abilty to focus as a kind of intelligence.
To get back to the locovores, how many of them to you need to get some resurgence in the family farm? There is an uptick in local farms in New England, anyway, because they have found a niche in farmers' markets, creative marketing, farm animal petting days, maple syrup production &c. It's still a struggle and it needs to have consumers who can afford to spend a little more because they choose to. Being on the farm around here does not imply the isolation which it used to, since many of these people are fairly adept at online marketing and being in touch with whatever, as is the whole culture, given the electronic gadgetry - essentials, which VDH seems to decry.
Now it simply may be in the nature of our beast that you will have a class, who can entertain itself with gaming from Grand Theft Auto to fantasy football, get a fair amount of government subsidy to live, and we say to them, "take your few thousand a month, your food stamps, play with your games and your big screen tv, but don't kill anyone or sell too many drugs, in which case we will (try) to put you in jail, and then you will get another kind of government subsidy.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh D Oh D OD.

"Hell, I will certainly admit that almost all of the 1% are smarter than I am, especially if you include the abilty to focus as a kind of intelligence."

This is their gig. That is, to convince others that they have some form of knowledge plus hard work that allows you to think that they have by and large "earned" it. Some have, no doubt, but at this point in time the economy is dominated by low (effectively less than zero for major players) interest rates. The Federal Reserve treats it's own with treats.

The Federal Reserve has become a micro managing monetary feel good Manson. Along with Executive and Congressional support, the State (Fed) has moved in and become virtually the only game in town. It didn't happen overnight, but there has been an ongoing process in which wealth is now largely vested in State power. Name a major economic sector that is not beholden to Crony Sam's candy. Or hammer.

Let the "intelligent" player's interest rate go to a historically low rate of say 4% and then sit back and watch the waves wash over the castle. And the national debt at that 4% rate?

And so castles made of sand
slips into the sea,
Eventually
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hi D-W-ite

"Are the 1% running amok?"

Ever hear of the Federal Reserve Bank?

"Are things to be made better by...?"

Notice that your questions involve (how much) government intervention. Since when, in a system of "We the People" is the government the final arbiter?

Or has that changed?

"There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it..."
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
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