An Evitable Disaster

Shanghai, China

“The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War”, according to Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira in Medium is “there’s no bipartisan way forward at this juncture in our history — one side must win. … The solution for the people of California was to reconfigure the political landscape and shift a supermajority of citizens — and by extension their elected officials — under the Democratic Party’s big tent.”


This conquer or die view, unlike Kevin Williamson’s, is not beyond the pale. In fact Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey described the Medium article as a “great read”. The idea that only one side of the political aisle leaves the room while the other is clapped in irons plainly expresses many may have secretly thought except heretofore it was necessary to conceal it. Now the decks are cleared and some are itching to raise the Jolly Roger.

The major problem with this strategy is China, whose relentless competition will penalize all irrational political correctness and all serious division. America can become as dysfunctional as California but China will own it. As David Goldman noted in a speech delivered at Hillsdale College “China is a phenomenon unlike anything in economic history.”

The average Chinese consumes 17 times more today than in 1987. This is like the difference between driving a car and riding a bicycle or between indoor plumbing and an outhouse. In an incredibly short period of time, this formerly backward country has lifted itself into the very first rank of world economies.

Over the same period, China has moved approximately 600 million people from the countryside to the cities—the equivalent of moving the entire population of Europe from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. To accommodate those people, it built the equivalent of a new London, plus a new Berlin, Rome, Glasgow, Helsinki, Naples, and Lyons. And of course, moving people whose ancestors spent millennia in the monotony of traditional village life and bringing them into the industrial world led to an explosion of productivity.

Where does America stand in respect to China? By a measure economists call purchasing power parity, you can buy a lot more with $100 in China than you can in the United States. Adjusted for that measure, the Chinese economy is already bigger than ours. In terms of dollars, our economy is still bigger. But the Chinese are gaining on us, and in the next eight to ten years their economy—unlike the economies of our previous competitors—will catch up.


The American elite is no longer as it is accustomed to thinking of itself, “the only adult in the room” whose patience with the childish Red states is now at an end,  but a fragile civilization hanging on to its advantage by a thread against China.  Before the left raises the Jolly Roger they should note the giant war junk bearing down on them fast.  America’s sole remaining advantage Goldman notes, is that it is ruled consensually, which is precisely the advantage Leiden and Teixeira intend to surrender. The dilemma for the Left is they can’t indulge their fantasies in the face of a peer competitor any more than an army can divide its forces in the face of the foe.  They will need the Deplorables to survive. But they haven’t realized that yet.

Opening the borders to replace the Deplorables won’t work because the replacements won’t be as cooperative as those they are intended to replace. As David Goldman points out a low skilled balkanized population nurtured on gender studies and political correctness won’t save America from the Chinese challenge.

One of the most dangerous misconceptions Americans have about the Chinese is that they can’t innovate. Who do you think invented gunpowder, the magnetic compass, the clock, and movable type? Yes, China’s culture is much more conformist than ours. And on average, Chinese are less likely than Americans to be innovators. But there are 1.38 billion Chinese, and their research and development (R&D) spending is quickly catching up with ours. They’re producing four times as many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) bachelor’s degrees and twice as many STEM Ph.D.s as the United States. Granted, some of them are of low quality—but many are excellent.

The single most troublesome deficiency we have in the United States is not the industrial base, which is relatively easy to deal with. It is the lack of scientific and engineering education. Six or seven percent of U.S. college students major in engineering. In China that number is 30-40 percent.


Goldman ended his address with this exhortation: “we can meet the strategic challenge of China, but we have to meet it as Americans in the American way.”  Yet the notion of Americans and the “American way” is exactly what the liberal call to arms seeks to abolish. This can only lead to disaster.

The lesson being administered to Europe, with its stagnation, anomie and political crisis, is that the elites cannot rule without their core populations. The bureaucrats can command no real loyalty from their imported auxiliaries, who at the first default of payoffs will turn on the apparatchiks who will by then have nowhere to appeal for support. Thus the logic of civil war, as proclaimed in the Medium article, is the logic of the fall. This does not change the fact Leyden and Teixeira are probably correct in anticipating what happens next.  Someone’s going to go for the brass ring or die trying.

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For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.

Support the Belmont Club by purchasing from Amazon through the links below.


The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. This book reveals the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realize immense bounty but also experience wrenching change. Professions of all kinds – from lawyers to truck drivers – will be forever upended. Companies will be forced to transform or die. Recent economic indicators reflect this shift: fewer people are working, and wages are falling even as productivity and profits soar. Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, MIT’s Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies for survival and a new path to prosperity.


Open Curtains: What if Privacy were Property not only a Right, by George Spix and Richard Fernandez. This book is a proposal for bringing privacy to the internet by assigning monetary value to data. The image of “open curtains” is meant to suggest a system that allows different degrees of privacy, controlled by the owner. The “curtains” may be open, shut, or open to various degrees depending on which piece of data is being dealt with. Ultimately, what is at stake is governance. We are en route to control of society by and for the few rather than by and for the many, because currently the handful of mega tech companies are siphoning up everyone’s data, for nothing, and selling it. Under the open curtains proposal, government would also pay for its surveillance in the form of tax rebates, providing at least some incentive for government to minimize its intrusions … (from a review by E. Greenwood).

Skin in the Game, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In his new work, Taleb uses the phrase “skin in the game” to introduce a complex worldview that applies to literally all aspects of our lives. “Never trust anyone who doesn’t have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will profit and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them,” he says. In his inimitable style, he pulls on everything from Antaeus the Giant to Hammurabi to Donald Trump to Seneca to the ethics of disagreement to create a jaw-dropping tapestry for understanding our world in a brand new way.


For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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