One Word Defines This Era: Stagnation

Beneath the surface PR of progress, the operant dynamic of this era is stagnation. Cheerleaders of progress have a few unalloyed wins in the past 15 years–battles won against diseases, for example–and a general increase in living standards among the world’s poorest populations.

But much of what is sold as progress is an inch deep and a mile wide: the proliferation of smart phones and social media for example.

What the cheerleaders of progress don’t dare mention is the stagnation of quality, political choice, productivity and growth that isn’t dependent on the hyper-expansion of debt and financial speculation.

I addressed some aspects of the stagnation of quality in China and the Decline in Quality (and Soon in Profits), but this only scratches the surface.

In effect, rather than advance the quality of goods via increasing automation and competition based on quality, the West moved much of its manufacturing to China where the work involves hand-assembly of inferior quality materials and parts–a process in which every possible corner has been cut to lower costs.

How many of you can honestly claim that the services you get from government or global corporations are better now than they were in 2000, or 1985? Get real, people; more often than not, the service has declined or stagnated rather than improved.

Meanwhile, what services you do get cost a lot more. To get local streets repaved, now you have to approve a bond–in other words, the cost of repaving streets is being shoved onto our kids and grandkids.

If you call that progress, you are delusional.

In the political sphere, our choices have stagnated: can anyone claim politics has progressed when the same two dynasties of decline that have dominated the news cycle for decades (George Bush I from 1980 when he ran against Ronald Reagan in the Republican primaries and Billary Clinton since 1992) are still frolicking in the political sewers of the nation, 35 years and 23 years on?

If you call that progress, you are delusional.

I have read a number of essays by conventional economist cheerleaders claiming that American household incomes have risen by 50% in real (adjusted for inflation) terms since 1980 (the beginning of the age of financialization, by the way).

Ludicrously, these claims boil down to this: once government transfers and tax cuts are included in income calculations, magically, middle class household income soars.

In other words, once we count entitlements and social welfare from the federal government, household income isn’t so bad after all. Baldly stated: the middle class clings to “middle class” status thanks to payments from the government.

If you call that progress, you are delusional.

And how about the greatest example of progress, China? The cheerleaders never mention the real drivers of China’s boom:

1. An unparalleled expansion of debt and mal-investment.

2. The despoliation of China’s air, water and soil–environmental damage that will require hundreds of billions of dollars of remediation and clean-up.

3. The exploitation of tens of millions of poorly paid workers who face life-threatening chronic diseases as a result of the poisoning of their nation and the introduction of progress in the form of a diabesity-drenched Western diet.

If you call that progress, you are delusional.

Correspondent Mark G. summed up the reality of this era in one sentence:

I think historians and economists a century from now will regard this era as one of stagnation and steady decline rather than unalloyed progress.

If we call stagnation progress, what have we accomplished?

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  • Welcome back Carter. Jimmy Carter that is, and with the ‘Banksters’ who pulled his strings in government they know what they are doing all of the way make no mistake about it!

    Stagflation Explained

    How a supply shock can cause prices to rise and the economy to stagnate

  • May 31, 2014 How Inflation Helps Keep the Rich Up and the Poor Down

    The production of money in a free society is a matter of free association. Everybody from the miners to the owners of the mines, to the minters, and up to the customers who buy the minted coins — all benefit from the production of money. None of them violates the property rights of anybody else, because everybody is free to enter the mining and minting business, and nobody is obliged to buy the product.

  • Hp B

    How about this?

  • Brockland A.T.

    Mr. Hugh Smith is reflective of the latent ‘yellow-peril’ sinophobia of the Democrat American left.

    Eric Zuesse certainly cannot be called a Russophobe, because he evenhandedly portrays the whys and wherefores behind the actions of Vladmir Putin and Russia and demonizes the deserving.

    China, on the other hand, is always some sort of villain with Mr. Hugh Smith, a threat to themselves or the West. Its all in the spin.

    Western corporations go to China to do there what they could not get away with at home, and in so doing, gain entrance and influence over Chinese society to leverage their stake in the Great Game. They reward and promote with economic success those who will be complicit and remove as best they can anyone who is an obstacle.

    For example, if Chinese manufactured power tools – especially when still sold under the great American brand names that used to signify quality – are poorly made… well, who places the orders, set the specs, and accepts the final production models? China does not appear to have bought out the great tool manufacturers. Those companies sold out to multinationality, but are Western multinationals.

    Most people only remember Tiannamen Square as a government massacre. What they don’t realize, is that CIA-types effectively destroyed the indigenous resistance to irresponsible modernization using the pro-democracy movement. The supposed pro-dems went from preaching anti-corruption to preaching overthrowing the government, tanking the careers of their reformist but still nationalist government sponsors to whom getting rich was not necessarily glorious. Most of the student leaders then escaped and comfortably retired to the U.S. as Chinese dissidents. Whether or not China disintegrated some version of what Ukraine today has become, didn’t matter to them.

    Its hardly a surprise Premier Li Keqiang’s government is disliked, when mentioned at all, in the Western media since his somewhat successful anti-corruption drive disrupts the corruption Western dark ops rely upon to get things done. That was progress, not as much as needed, and certainly not anything Mr. Hugh Smith would write about unless it could be given some sinister cynical spin.