Friday, June 17, 2005

Peak Empire: Introduction

We are the Empire. We have military bases in 120 countries. We spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined. We have the largest nuclear arsenal.

We are less than 5 percent of the world population but use over 26 percent of the world resources. Our use of energy resources is unprecedented: 100 million BTU per capita per year, about 500-fold more than the yak-driver living in Outer Mongolia. There are individuals and corporations that have more wealth than entire countries. Out of a small office in Shen-zhen, Walmart runs the Chinese economy! We have the Midas touch: General Pervaiz Musharraf was making about USD 10,000 a year before he became the billionaire president.

However, the production of energy, mostly oil and gas, is peaking within a few years, if not already. According to Rex W. Tillerson, President of ExxonMobil Corp.(2004), use of oil has continued to increase by 2 percent per year over the last 30 years, innovations and use-efficiency notwithstanding. By 2030, 120 million barrels per day (mb/d) will be required to sustain the world economy, about 50 percent more than what we produce today. Expect the all time peak oil production to be right around 85 mb/d.

Does this mean the Empire is peaking too? Now? Jeb Bush, 2008? The decadent behavior at its height today may not but last the current generation in power. Expect the teenagers of today to use the guillotine on the aged to avenge for their misfortune.

The economists and the politicians believe in the science to save the American Empire once again. They expect the much-abused scientists to discover the moonshine to feed the dragons of the information age when the world runs short of the oil and gas.

Combine this shrinking kitty of oil and gas with the free-market capitalist bounty-hunting, euphemistically called the economy, that thrives on year over year growth. It gobbles up energy to produce fertilizer to produce corn to produce beef and gasohol to make the empire tick.

The physics of the gobble-gobble capitalism is simple: energy in, garbage out. En route, the human population goes up and so does the disparity between the rich and the poor: the wealthy beget wealth; the poor beget poor children. Every abortion means one less sharecropper.

There are interesting times ahead as humanity readjusts to sunlight and its principal raw product, the biomass. Expect slavery and serfdom to make a big comeback to sustain the local and national oligarchs. Expect the world population to correct itself to pre-oil economies. In the large cities, expect an explosion of Hannibal Lechters, wolfing down their liver but without fava beans and Chianti.

The capitalism has provided the inexorable engine for the osmotic accumulation of wealth and power. Democracy, equality, and justice for all are simply big Goebbelistic words to make the dog-eat-dog realities palatable for the poor sods abroad and at home.

When the poor sod in the land of Oz in poll after poll says he is against the war in I-Raq or elsewhere but does nothing to stop it, you know what he is thinking. He is neither stupid, nor innocent, just clever like a dog with an attention span of 10 seconds and a hefty mortgage. Better them Iraqi children than his SUV. He knows his lifestyle is threatened. He worries about it over his fat-pill breakfast and every time he goes to the gas station. The dog in him is clawing and scratching and hoping his masters in Washington will come up with something. But knows full well in the far recesses of his Pavlovian brain that only a golden pipeline direct from the sun to Dorothy's Kansas can meet his family’s energy guzzling habit.

Under his very glazed eyes, the empire is embarking on its final journey. As foreign resources become scarce and unavailable, industrial skills lost to China, and the global village begins to look vast and insurmountable like dark space, the oligarchy in America shall look inward to realize further accumulation of wealth and power.

The osmotic concentration of wealth has intensified in recent decades: In 1960 the gap in terms of wealth between the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent was 30-fold. Four decades later it is more than 75-fold. Expect the ratio to get even more astounding in the coming years. Expect the peaking empire to squeeze its own citizenry.

The true-blue armed with corporate power are already preparing for the coming class struggle. The tools are all legal, their morality sanctioned by the Lord himself: FCC rule changes to control the media, SEC rule changes to control the markets, the Drug Laws and big prisons to hold the poor derelicts, bankruptcy law changes to squeeze the middle class, Patriot Act to control the would-be unruly terrorists at Kansas State, the quacking courts stuffed with corporate sludge. You name a freedom, and I bet there is a law to squash it.

Karl Marx may yet have the last laugh, but not if the Emperor and his National Guards are vigilant.


At 6/23/2005 10:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is no history that bad became better!

At 7/11/2005 06:51:00 PM, Blogger Kevin Carson said...

This looks to be a good blog.

The British Empire in 1914 also had the most of this and that, and the biggest navy, and yada yada yada, and (like the U.S. under the neocons) had a foreign policy focused on preventing the emergence of any rival power that might challenge their hegemony. In the ensuing war, they successfully aborted Germany's attempt to emerge as a competing world power--and in the process exhausted themselves financially and demographically.


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