2013 October 23 Wednesday
As America Declines In Importance So Do Its Intellectuals

America's intellectuals will make less impact on the rest of the world as American per capita income declines in world rankings and the total GDP of the US continues its decline as a percentage of world GDP.

Domestically American intellectuals will become less powerful as well. The conservative intellectuals won't be able to influence many conservative elected officials because the big demographic shift due to immigration is making the Republican party into political road kill. Can a conservative think tank exercise much influence in California state politics. Nope. The same will happen with Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and other states.

Liberal intellectuals will become less powerful as well. The US government will be too cash strapped to execute on new liberal spending initiatives. The size of designated victim classes will grow too large for any of them to get really big slices of the tax pie. I expect big acts of symbolic policy initiatives as an attempt to compensate for inability to do big substantive things.

America's foreign policy intellectuals will become less important as well when the US starts pulling back from foreign bases and cuts foreign aide budgets that the US government uses to buy influence.

I expect some American intellectuals to try to become global intellectuals. But trying to influence the people of many countries in order to change policies in many less powerful countries is much harder and offers far less probability of success. It made sense for British and European intellectuals to move to America and try to make a mark. There is not an obvious next destination for American intellectuals.

Look at China. China is on the way up. But it is not an open market for ideas from American and other Western intellectuals. Its government does not want a lot of deep probing and debate about the nature of society and its government is quite willing to suppress foreign ideas. Plus, the language, character set, and culture are additional obstacles.

The return on investment from being an American intellectual is already stunted by political correctness. It is not like American intellectuals can drill down on all problems to get to root causes. So American intellectuals are already seriously hobbled in their attempts to sell ideas and make a big impact. They are running out of ideas worth selling and increasingly face both domestic and international markets hostile to what they are selling.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 October 23 09:12 PM 

Kudzu Bob said at October 23, 2013 10:27 PM:

Peak egghead.

Michael L said at October 24, 2013 8:27 AM:

I dunno, crisis of overproduction may indeed hit the leftists because they had quite a media and government spending fueled bubble. If the "industry" of paid Conservative opinionating is pretty small, then nobody will notice the layoffs.

Then again, Ludwig Mises saw his Austria lose WW1, get screwed by foreign enemies and domestic Socialists and gotten on the brink of economic collapse and full blown Communism. He seems to have managed it (as discussed in autobiography http://mises.org/document/4249/ ) though perhaps many of his lesser contemporaries didn't.

WJ said at October 24, 2013 2:53 PM:

"Look at China. China is on the way up. But it is not an open market for ideas from American and other Western intellectuals."

God, the Chinese have all the luck.

It may be that another major reason American "intellectuals" are losing influence is because they fucked up. Our intellectuals are destroying the West. Why the hell would anybody wanna listen to them?

Paul S. said at October 24, 2013 3:11 PM:

WJ, it was Henry Kissinger who destroyed the west, not our intellectuals.

Sam said at October 24, 2013 6:49 PM:

I wonder if there's anything that can pull us back from collapse? I've often thought that the direct election of Senators was a serious error. From what I've read it wasn't a big contentious problem with the electorate but was put in by the elites. Seems that even though Senators could be bribed when appointed if they went too far they could be recalled by the States. Also it would give Governors of the States more power to resist the concentrating power of the Federal Government.

There was a series of books I read that had a powerful effect on me by James Dale Davidson and Sir William Rees-Mogg. They are based on the idea of Meapolitics. Namely that power and politics are based on the Technology of defense and offense. Mao, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." An example; gunpowder brought about the rise of large states due to cost of cannon. It also destroyed castles which collapsed smaller states. It lowered the power of defense. Followed by "the Right of Kings". The main idea being until the technology supported it "the Right of Kings" was just so much nonsense. The authors claim the microprocessor is decreasing the power of offense which decreases the power of large States. During the World Wars you needed a large population with lots of guns to prevail. Now a small group armed with advanced weapons can attack at will hitting their targets every time. From this they concluded the welfare state and the USA was doomed. The books are also investment books. They did not do so well on this because they were just too soon. Who knew the US could stay afloat in such dire circumstances. They're well worth reading. I'm like probably most of the people here, a book worm, and these are some of the best books I've read ever on BIG ideas with far reaching ideas. The books are old so most only cost a penny plus shipping.

"Blood in the Streets: Investment Profits in a World Gone Mad" (1987)
The Great Reckoning: How the World Will Change in the Depression of the 1990's (1994)
The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age (1999)

Another good book "The Squeeze" by James Dale Davidson (1980) that is good. From a long time ago talking about how we got into this shape.

Why did I write all this? China. I don't believe China will become the great all encompassing SuperState. I believe the forces that are tearing apart other states will do the same to China. Doesn't mean they won't go out with a bang just that times have changed and what they want to be is incompatible with the present.

The biggest worry is that the elites will use the new technology to exterminate or mentally control everyone but a few of them. It could happen. Look at the robot by DARPA that walks around independently. Give this thing twenty more years of development and what would you have? Of course it's mostly software, could independents fight them off with the same tech? Probably not if the government, with it's financing, were to take total control first. I do hope you'll read the books I listed. I believe if you're intellectually curious about society and history they will be of great profit to you. A caveat, a lot of the info about finance is only for very wealthy people but they do give you a heads up on what could happen.

James Bowery said at October 24, 2013 7:29 PM:

When the appeal of last resort in dispute processing is words, words become weapons. There are no "intellectuals" -- merely warriors wielding words of mass manipulation.

Recovery is possible for the West, but it has to get back to basics, and that means recognizing that Davidson and Rees-Mogg are clueless about the "sovereign individual".

Randall Parker said at October 24, 2013 10:48 PM:

Sam, We aren't going to alter course to avoid decline. The forces pulling down society will continue. We've had decades to reverse course. The odds of a course reversal are even lower now. The delusions of our elites ensure this. We aren't going to see much discussion of the real root causes of our decline.

Technology, offense, defense: I recommend William H. McNeill's The Pursuit Of Power for survey of how successive technological innovations shifted the balance of power between individuals, tribes, local rulers, and rules of larger states.

The Great Reckoning: I read it. The main prediction turned out to be wrong.

Toddy Cat said at October 25, 2013 9:27 AM:

The last real chance we had for a meaningful course correction was immediately after the end of the Cold War, and we blew it. Wait for the crash, pick up the pieces.

Sam said at October 25, 2013 4:51 PM:

I guess it's just wishful thinking on my part. It's so disturbing to see so clearly the decline. I've been bitching about our trade policies since the 1980's and everything I complained about has come to fruition. The bad thing is I'm not that smart. I read a lot but I'm not a genius and if I can see this so easily what does that say about the rest of country?

I fairly sure that I've read William H. McNeill's "The Pursuit Of Power". If it has a section that talked about a Chinese industrialist that was mass producing iron then I have. He got too powerful and the State clamped down on him. Possibly this short circuited the Industrial Revolution from starting in China.

Randall said,"The Great Reckoning: I read it. The main prediction turned out to be wrong." I agree that the prediction was wrong but was the framework that produced the prediction wrong? I don't think so. I also don't believe that "the sovereign individual" is wrong. Every day I see confirmation of their basic premise of technology changing the state of politics.

As an aside on technology a really entertaining and educational video is Industrial Revelations. There are copies of it on youtube.



James Bowery said at October 26, 2013 2:06 PM:

Davidson and Rees-Mogg are not clueless about the role of technology. They are clueless about the "sovereign individual" when they think that mobile capital can buy an individual sovereignty. It can certainly buy the illusion of sovereignty. Sovereignty is an essential trait of the individual and the individual loses his sovereignty only when the individual loses his individuality to the group -- money merely represents a particular kind of group. Money is essentially group-based. The individual can act in the absence of money through the willful direction of one's own body. Force under one's own will is the defining feature of sovereignty.

Randall Parker said at October 26, 2013 4:24 PM:


I am still shocked that our elites did not opt for a course that would have prevented the decline. But they didn't and I see no sign they'll wake up now. The bad policies have caused changes that would take decades to reverse their damage even if the media and academia came around to admitting the value of necessary changes. But a wake-up would take at least a decade to play out, probably two decades and they haven't started the wake up phase yet.

When I tell people they've got to do more to protect and buffer themselves I'm not kidding. It is your only option. Get more skills. Move if there is a big opportunity to be had from moving. I've done all that. What I'm stuck on: what would be good long term investments at current stock prices?

Sam said at October 27, 2013 2:40 AM:

"What I'm stuck on: what would be good long term investments at current stock prices?"
Really super tough question. In order 1. water 2. food 3. ammo 4. uuhhh...
Materials might be good because of increasing global middle class but China seems to have bid these up to ridiculous prices. The stocks like Apple and Google are absurd.

What is it that people have to have no matter how bad it gets? That's what you need. Maybe you don't make a fortune but you don't loose it all either. Health care. Some folks still have money. Medical equipment. Oil drilling equipment. Got to have it. Since we're not building nuclear coal is a good long term bet. Power company stocks have always done well. This may sound silly but if you had some good grass land raising grass fed beef would be good. Some people will still have money and they want the best. Just thinking out loud.

Here's a guy who's all into materials and has experience in areas where all civilization has broken down.
He's really into carbon fiber but I think that carbon fiber will be out done by Nanocellulose. Why? It's unbelievably strong and cheap. Yeah carbon fiber will last longer and won't decay but good enough and cheap always wins.

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