The pattern of right wing radicals ...

 ... and their route to authoritarian government with oligarch-dominated economies:

I like to comment on the recent scandal that crashed the radical right's leadership in Austria:

This is the modus operandi of many radical right wing parties in Europe. They mix neoliberalism (which garners support by the very rich) with politics of aversion, solve no real problems for 90+% of the people and since they solve almost no real problems they need to exploit hate if not cheat to stay in power. The voters might otherwise try some political alternative in hope for better results.

The tendency to get in bed with the super rich leads to the rise of oligarchs who get unfair competitive advantages by their connections to law-disrespecting politicians.

The threat of losing elections leads to aggressive attacks on the non-aligned news media by right wingers (this already begun in Austria and is a well-known story in Hungary, Poland, Russia, Turkey, U.S.) while oligarchs provide a radical pro right wing "news" media alternative (Rupert et al/Sinclair, also Media control established in Russia, Hungary, Turkey) to support their political allies.

Later, the judicial branch begins to prosecute the corruption or at least to get in the way of unconstitutional laws and governance. This leads to radical right wing  attacks on the independence of the judicial branch and the radical right attempts to politicise the judiciary branch in its own favour (see U.S., Turkey, Poland, Russia etc.).

A terminal stage for democracy strangled by right wing radicals is features that political opponents are getting jailed (usual excuses are corruption or terrorism), gerrymandering, vote suppression, election fraud and sometimes when they misjudged how much they would achieve by cheating, they refuse to recognise election defeats and deny the orderly and peaceful transition of power to the political opponents.

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Some of those right wing radical governments benefited from rapid economic growth as their well-educated populations caught up in GDP per capita by modernising and enjoying capital influx. This was particularly true of Turkey, to a lesser extent Poland. Russia recovered economically by mere export commodity price luck. These largely unearned or unsustainable economic successes sometimes stabilise such far right governments long enough to enable them to dismantle the rule of law and establish an oligarchy with an unhealthy marriage of right wing radical politicians and billionaires.

The problem with this is that without the protective rule of law and political attention on developing the middle class and lower class (education, health, opportunities, security of  businesses against the oligarchs' foul play) the nation's future economic growth potential suffers badly. The nations eventually begin to stagnate economically (just look at Russia's inability to build competitive industries outside of arms and gas turbines). Additionally, economic successes that were partially bubbles (such as in Turkey's debt-dependent development) threaten to collapse, which leads to frantic efforts by the right wing radicals to subjugate the remnants of democracy in order to stay in power.

The pattern is astonishingly universal. What differs between countries is merely the order of events and whether and how the right wing politicians achieve economic policy success for a couple years. 

The variety in regard to economics shouldn't surprise, as neoliberalism isn't really a growth-inducing ideology unless the previous economic policy was truly awful in terms of making markets rigid and access to capital for investment scarce. Most cases for neoliberal policies depend on incomplete (kind of naive) analysis of the consequences (example; privatisation of postal services) if not on outright wishful thinking (voodoo economics). The U.S. government these days use simple fiscal expansionism becuase its voodoo economics never work, and that's despite the very same politicians vilifying fiscal expansionism a few years ago when macroeconomics actually offered a good case for it due to the then depressed private demand.

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Well, it appears this cup passed away from Austria this time.
The Austrian right wing radicals got caught by some sting op (and it really doesn't matter by whom - what matters is their behaviour on the undisputed tape) at the "cuddling with oligarchs and plotting illegal favouritism (tilting the playing field in favour of oligarchs instead of rule of law)" stage.

Similarly, the judicial branches in Italy (Berlusconi), Spain (Correa), Israel (Netanyahu) and the U.S. (Trump) were or are being challenged very much by corrupt right wing politicians and those countries have not fallen completely to authoritarian radical right wing political systems with oligarch-controlled economies yet.


P.S.: It should be noted that neither CDU nor CSU are right wing radical parties as described in this article. (The AfD is such a party, though. It already employs neoliberalism ideology and began with the cuddling with rich people, illegal party financing and most of all attacks on non-aligned news media outlets.)
I still think of both CDU and CSU as awful. The CSU is awful because of the kind of politicians it brings to power (too many very poor character individuals) and the CDU is awful because it's a true conservative "reform nothing, only administrate" party, and we've had too much of that in the past 40 years. Merkel herself is not a true conservative; she does occasionally reform in order to vent problem pressure that built up and could become a risk to continued political dominance of the CDU. Her refugee policy was a most untypical attempt to make actual policy (and a poorly-devised one at that).
Both CDU and CSU fiddled with rigging the government in their favour together with industry captains a long time ago, but the young Western German democracy resisted this seemingly for good more than fifty years ago already. The CDU has since adopted neoliberalism, passes laws that benefit most of all a reliably right wing publishing house and had its party financing/corruption scandals, has always an ear for billionaires and industry captains, but it does nothing really in regard to straight march into authoritarianism.

About Czech Republic:
I don't know enough about its politics to put ANO into the radical right wing category. It does partially fit my description of those, and there are similarities between Babiš and Berlusconi.

added next day: This BoingBoing article is related.


The rot of Pax Americana (I)


I disagree completely, and I do so from the perspective of someone who appears to have normalized American foreign policy much less. The real end to Pax Americana didn't come in 2016-2019.

We seem to agree on the starting point; the foundation of the United Nations in 1944. One could trace back American efforts to establish a peaceful, rule-based an prospering world to much earlier dates, but they were of little consequence.

Back in 1939-1944 the United States' "greatest generation" did the most they could to establish a peaceful post-war (or at least post-WW2) order based on rules and diplomacy. 

The problem is that they strayed from that path soon, just the United States did after the First World War, when it let the League of Nations fall well short of its potential by not joining it in the first place.

As early as 1953 the United States turned towards the evil side by supporting an anti-democracy coup d'état in Iran. That one was really about big oil interests (which aren't nearly as often behind American policy as the stereotype suggests). Their turn away from being a champion of a rules-based peaceful world was completed at the latest with the overt support for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. That one was at least in large part about the red scare.

Ever since, international law, treaty obligations and the desire for a peaceful prospering world were pushed away by even slight desires to manipulate, disrupt, destroy, punish or kill. I'm talking about subverting democratically elected governments (example Chile 1973), about supporting tyrants, about covering up murder, about abductions, about torture (support for and doing it), about habitual bombing of countries, about supporting a war of aggression with military force (Gulf War) and about illegal invasions of countries (Laos, Grenada, Panama, Iraq) here.

I understand American readers are not really accustomed to see those historical actions described this way, but the preceding two passages are solidly supported by historical facts. Whether ends justify means is another question, but the means used were not in support of a rules-based international order for peace and prosperity.

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The Pax Americana wasn't sabotaged  post 2016 by Trump. It had already been turned into a myth by the 1960's. Peace wasn't mostly maintained in the Western world by some American grand strategy, but by the common enemy Warsaw Pact and by European reconciliation and unification efforts since the mid 1950's.

Writers used to blather a lot about "global policeman", particularly in the 90's. That, too, ended in 1953. There's only been a couple global bullies of varying sizes since. UN blue helmet troops come the closest to 'global policeman' role, but they're rather some object security guards or border guards than policemen.

So in the end, I think Krugman looks at the history of the past sixty years through a rosy mythology lens and his partisanship only recently allowed him to see some shadows. Other authors and scholars (such as Bacevich) have a much more complete field of view and offered much better observations and opinions about American foreign policy. Krugman is worth having our attention in regard to trade economics and many other macroeconomic topics, though.



Public debt after a war with conscription

Wartime profiteering is a disgusting affair, and it's linked to the extreme burden of wartime debt that's typical for major wars.

It has bothered me for years that states accumulate a huge debt in time of war even if they use conscription. Something didn't seem to fit in that picture.

Such states took away the liberty of up to several million men (still only about a tenth of the population), paid them and provided for them just a little more than margin of subsistence and yet these states accumulated huge debts? How? Isn't a (total) war an effort of the whole society?

One perfectly justified source for such debt is the net import of goods and services for the war effort and state services. You pay for what you buy or you accumulate debt for it - that's simple. The British bought many industrial products from the U.S. in 1940 and that naturally added a substantial debt.

The domestic debts are not so easily justified.
Why should anyone in the nation have a better income than the conscripted soldiers during wartime? I just don't get it, I see no justification for it. Millions of citizens are reduced to survival at best, and others actually gain wealth? How is that supposed to work, why, and how did it happen that it appeared to be natural?

A graph that shows U.S. federal debt - including the spikes of Civil War, WWI and WWII.

70 y.o. millionaires sitting at home should not be allowed a higher income than soldiers who risk their lives IF the war is a full national effort. All justifiable wars should be national efforts, because they would be defensive wars against peers or worse. Military adventures abroad are not easily justifiable, but they don't require a full national effort either.

The protection of many non-conscripts from the hardships of war certainly increases the readiness to enter major wars. In fact, it's even worse; the prospect of war profiteering can even create a strong pro-war lobby based on such partial interests!

How could this be avoided?
I think instead of a full wartime conscription that conscripts just about everyone age 16 or older who's not seriously retarded:

The completely (military service and work) unfit citizens would not be called upon despite the conscription (but their names would be made public to make sure the unavoidable dodgers live in shame). Those fit for military service would serve as soldiers unless they're needed more for their professional expertise in the economy. Those who are just fit for work would need to work, and a public system would need to make sure that they work in jobs that are of maximum utility for the society. Juristic persons (corporations) would get their equity capital reset to the original value at the end of the conscriptions and would not be allowed to hand out equity capital to shareholders during mobilisation.
The state would work hard on corrections of mistakes and avoidance behaviour that happened during the conscription.

In the end the net increase in public debt could be at most equal to the interest payments and national trade balance deficit sum during the conscription. That would only be a fraction of the public debt increases that we saw during both World Wars.

The greatest problem would likely be the loss of the economic key motivator in market economies; greed. This is probably not a killing blow to the idea because Western nations tend to turn towards much centralised planning when they fully mobilise for war anyway.

Does this sound extreme? I guess so, because it's not how things are usually done.

What's more extreme?
(a) Compulsive labour to force citizens into the military where they risk their lives, lose liberties and are at times supposed to kill humans?
(b) Compulsive labour to force citizens to work for the war effort at no better income than subsistence?

What's more gross?
(a) Not allowing companies to have any net profit during times of war and conscription (and thus capital owners no capital income)
(b) corporations (and thus their shareholders) making huge profit with rushed wartime orders - profit that's paid for with public debt that needs to be paid off by the general public after the war (= a wealth transfer from the poor to capital owners because of war)?

The actual implementation of a nation-wide general conscription would be a huge challenge because of many problems (especially the problem of pushing the economy to maximum output for the war effort despite gutting the capitalist incentive structure), of course.

Nevertheless, it's in my opinion an interesting exercise for the mind; how to get rid of the orthodox concept and to think about how things should be done in the interest of the whole society.

P.S.: I wrote this back in October 2013 when discussing public debt issues was fashionable, but it was still in my drafts list. Maybe it was published before and accidentally reverted to draft status (though it has no comments) - I honestly cannot tell. It's published now because I didn't get to write a new text amid several distractions.


Link dump May 2019

military innovation

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"strategy of limited actions" = "small wars"
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Since I recently touched on the topic of SAR radars in naval affairs:
SAR imagery for ship identification (a pretty good resolution example)

related to:

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Reminder that these days no treaty with the U.S. is worth its paper:

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 I overlooked this when I wrote (repeatedly) about the merge between field artillery and air defence:
Well, I can't know everything. Still, I'm a bit disappointed that nobody pointed at this in comments.

This was written published by me mere days after the Polish article:
At least some of my writing about the merge was earlier than the article above:


 I suppose now I can wait till I find official references to my other air defence favourites; RCWS for the dispersed low level counter-drone fight.

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I wrote a while ago about how much Western military equipment isn't meant to function well at -30°C, and how this could open a window of opportunity for successful aggression. Colder than -20°C is actually rare in the relevant areas of NATO, though. The question remains whether the 'more extreme weather' facet of climate change / global warming will push this issue more to the forefront, and will Western armed bureaucracies respond well?

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[for Germans]:
Der Wahl-o-mat für die Europawahl ist veröffentlicht: