Wealthy republics do not last long

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Jerry Pournelle wrote Mercenaries and Military Virtue as a preface for a David Drake novel and then rewrote it into a standalone essay for There Will Be War:

A nation which despises its soldiers will all too soon have a despicable army.

The depressing fact is that history is remarkably clear on one point: wealthy republics do not last long. Time after time they have risen to wealth and freedom; the citizens become wealthy and sophisticated; unwilling to volunteer to protect themselves, they go to conscription; this too becomes intolerable; and soon enough they turn to mercenaries.


For mercenaries are a dangerous necessity. If they are incompetent, they will ruin you. If they are competent there is always the temptation to rob the paymaster.

Why should they not? They know their employers will not fight. They may, if recruited into a national army, retain loyalty to the country—but if the nation despises them, and takes every possible opportunity to let them know it, then that incentive falls as well—and they have a monopoly on the means of violence. Their employers won’t fight—if they would, they needn’t have hired mercenaries.


As Montesquieu put it, “a rational army would run away.” To stand on the firing parapet and expose yourself to danger; to stand and fight a thousand miles from home when you’re all alone and outnumbered and probably beaten; to spit on your hands and lower the pike, to stand fast over the body of Leonidas the King, to be rear guard at Kunu-ri; to stand and be still to the Birkenhead drill; these are not rational acts.


On the evidence, peace is a purely theoretical state of affairs whose existence we deduce because there have been intervals between wars.


When Appius Claudius told the Senate of Rome that “If you would have peace, be thou then prepared for war” he said nothing that history has not repeatedly affirmed. It may be wrong advice. Certainly there is an argument against it. But I think there is no argument at all against a similar aphorism: “If you would have peace, then understand war.”

Which is to say, understand armies; understand why men fight; understand the organization of violence.


We lost in 1965, when we defeated the guerillas, but failed either to take North Viet Nam or to isolate the battlefield. We tried to defeat hornets by swatting them one hornet at a time, a tactic that cannot possibly work. You must either burn the nest or retire behind window screens.


History has never been kind to wealthy republics. We can hope we are an exception.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    I am a big fan of Dr. Pournelle’s fiction, and I regularly read his blogs while he was alive. But he really didn’t understand war, despite his long service in the Pentagon.

    He persisted in his delusion that the Viet Nam war was winnable, when it plainly wasn’t. We had around 550,000 troops in-country plus another 1,000,000 or so ARVN. Plus we had a large naval fleet sitting off the coast, usually containing two or more carrier strike groups, plus B-52 bases in Thailand and Guam. We had absolute air and naval supremacy. All to no effect.

    We used to claim that the VC and NVA never won a battle. That was a pathetic lie. Beginning in Ia Drang (We Were Soldiers), the US Army abandonned one battlefield after another after claiming victory. Ia Drang set the pattern.

    There were two battalions at Ia Drang. Moore’s 1st Battalion (unit of the film) at LZ X-Ray and Cornett’s 2nd Battalion at LZ Albany. Moore’s unit suffered 79 killed and 121 wounded out of about 400. Cornett’s unit suffered 155 killed and 124 wounded out of a similar number. That’s a combined casualty rate of about 60% with a death rate of about 30 %. Both battalions were nonfunctional after the fight.

    More importantly, after the fight the NVA, although suffering thousands of casualties was in control of the battlefield. And we never again contested that one.

    The scenario was repeated endlessly for eight more years. A heavy battle with a very large kill ratio in our favor leaves us momentarily in control of the field. We leave quickly, as soon as we can evacuate our dead and wounded, and the NVA or VC reoccupies the area. That is the dictionary definition of a defeat. We lost almost every battle.

    The kill-ratio strategy adopted by Westmoreland destroyed the morale of the US Army and broke it as a fighting force. The Marines also suffered, but being a volunteer unit, and suffering from teenage delusion and romanticism, they were not so badly damaged. It took 20 years to rebuild the US Army into the excellent fighting force they were in the first Persian Gulf War.

    People too young to remember the horrors of Viet Nam, and the utter corruption of ALL politicians in Washington, may get their own chance at enlightenment if Pompeo and Bolton railroad Trump into invading Venezuela.

  2. Graham says:

    One of these volumes introduced me to the poem, “Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries” by A.E. Housman.

    It was many years before I became somewhat familiar with Housman’s other work, including his main work, “A Shropshire Lad.” The former poem is both of a piece with and different from his other work.

    But it was long before I learned that it was about the British Expeditionary Force of 1914, or the semantic value of the word “mercenaries” being applied when the Kaiser called them “a contemptible little army of mercenaries”. This also gave rise to the BEF vets’ self-designation “Old Contemptibles”. An early instance of owning the insult, before anyone was degraded enough to coin that expression.

    You’ll have to take me on faith that this is off the cuff, not googled, but it goes something like:

    “These in the days when heaven was falling,
    the hour when Earth’s foundation fled,
    followed their mercenary calling,
    and took their wages and are dead.

    Their shoulders held the sky suspended,
    they stood, and Earth’s foundations stay,
    What God abandoned, these defended,
    and saved the sum of things for pay.”

    I don’t entirely subscribe to the idea of the Great War this implies, and I’m of the wrong era to think the word “mercenary” applies to a professional regular army serving their own country, but that poem has certainly stuck with me. I can’t remember that Reginald Bretnor story I mentioned that well, or more than the bare scenario of Marius, His Truth Goes Marching On, or any of the Falkenberg stories save the bit where he mimics Belisarius crushing the Nika revolt on a planet called Hadley.

    Hmm. These books had some influence on me…

  3. Kirk says:

    Bob, you’re delusional.

    Vietnam was won militarily, and lost politically. The Tet Offensive was a total defeat for the Viet Cong, and left the NVA with the only option of a conventional invasion–Which they first attempted in 1972 Easter Offensive, resulting in their defeat. It took until 1975 for them to rebuild their military and invade again, only this time with the full support of the Teddy Kennedy faction in the US Congress. Had we fulfilled our treaty obligations in 1975, the ARVN and South Vietnamese government would still be there, and the North Vietnamese would have been defeated, yet again.

    You’ve fallen for the BS put out by the leftoids in the US media and academia, none of which was true then or now. Vietnam was not lost on any battlefield; even the North Vietnamese recognized that fact. It was lost in Congress and in the US media, both of which were run by the utterly depraved assholes who got us into that mess in the first damn place.

    Your grasp of history and military reality is warped and inadequate. Had we “lost” in Vietnam, the US military would have been driven out of Vietnam by the Viet Cong, and a band of guerrilla insurgents would have been what brought the South Vietnamese government down. Instead, it was a conventional military invasion from the North Vietnamese Army that included nearly as many armored vehicles as the Wehrmacht took into the Soviet Union during Barbarossa. Or, did you fail to note all those tanks, not something traditionally fielded by guerrillas?

    Reality is not what the media portrays, nor is it what the jackass academics teach in their college courses. Our last combat troops left Vietnam before the Easter Offensive, and aside from air power and advisers, took little part in defeating that effort.

    Kennedy, whose brothers were instrumental in getting us involved in that mess in the first place, is who truly created the North Vietnamese victory when he led the effort to cut off the military aid we were obligated to provide the South Vietnamese. It’s an imponderable, but had we fulfilled our treaty obligations? It’s entirely possible that the resultant economic damage to the Soviet Union would have ended the Cold War twenty years earlier. The economic stress that the Vietnam War was putting on their system was nearly as bad as Reagan’s Star Wars would later be, and the defeat of the 1975 invasion would have led to similar issues for their economy. As it was, Kennedy and his coterie of traitors gave them an unearned victory and handed millions over to the abuses of a regime that promptly killed or drove them out of the region, creating misery on a scale that should have seen Kennedy and his left-wing mass of assholes thrown out of office for malfeasance. Instead, the ignorant electorate of Massachusetts kept re-electing the bastards, calling him the “Lion of the Senate”. What he actually was is unprintable; Kennedy’s later actions with regards to trying to oust Reagan from office by betraying the nation to the Soviets was equally reprehensible.

    You might want to actually analyze the information you were fed by the liars of the left, instead of regurgitating it like a good little apparatchik. The “facts” you spout are irrelevant; the reality is that the US was in control of the battlefield in South Vietnam, despite all the self-imposed constraints that it operated under, right up until the day that Kennedy decided to piss away the sacrifice of 50,000 lives of better men than he would ever be, and which his brothers had committed us to, against the advice of the military.

    The real history of the Vietnam war goes back to Ridgway, who advised against intervention after the French lost at Dien Bein Phu, correctly forecasting that victory would require the massive resources the US would later actually commit and expend under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Kennedy got into office by claiming that Eisenhower was allowing the so-called “Domino Effect”, and then was forced to ineptly engage in the theater against military advice because of his political stupidity. The real story of the Kennedy administration is inept stupidity after inept stupidity, from the Bay of Pigs through to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Vietnam was just another example of it, and then having created the problem in the first place, his baby brother then betrayed his nation in throwing away everything those 50,000 dead men had earned with the cost of their lives.

    Never ceases to amaze me that people still term Vietnam a military defeat, when there was a three-year lag between the departure of US combat troops, the defeat of the NVA during the Easter Offensive, and the final fall of the South Vietnamese government in 1975. Raw fact refutes the claims, yet they are still made, and apparently believed whole-heartedly by the stone-ignorant.

  4. Vietvet says:

    Kirk, thanks for your erudite education of those who fail to understand the reality of (((oligarchic))) expenditure of our blood for their enrichment. My experiences long ago red-pilled me to seek further enlightenment of the true enemies of western civilization, as spelled out in our Bible.

  5. Candide III says:

    But he really didn’t understand war, despite his long service in the Pentagon.

    I think you’re wrong. Half of Prince of Sparta is devoted exactly to “low-intensity conflict” and shows a very clear understanding that this kind of war can be won, but not with Pentagon’s Vietnam tactics and not if there is no way to interdict the “guerillas’” sanctuary. E.g. I believe Pournelle would have agreed with Luttwak’s evaluation in “Counterinsurgency as military malpractice”, and he would likely have agreed with what you wrote above starting from the second sentence of the second paragraph.

  6. Sam J. says:

    Kirk’s right. When the North final attack came their tanks, trucks, troops were all strung out on a line on the very limited highways going South. If we would have have given the South promised air support the North could have been completely destroyed in a massive turkey shoot. Not to mention we still had many naval gunships at this time that could have further pounded the North. The loss would have been so catastrophic it’s very likely that it would have been the end of attacks on the South. They would have run out of Men to fight. It’s even possible that this horrible defeat would have led to the overthrow of the North’s government. Every single mass attack they made on the South had ended in compete disaster.

    As it was Pres. Ford was told if he used air power he would be impeached and they would have done it. They had just got rid of Nixon and had the power. In the midst of the attack on the South the Congress voted funding for a few rounds of ammunition and a couple grenades for the South. They literally ran out of ammunition.

    After the Democrats had repeatedly said that we couldn’t win they cooked the situation such that it was made true.

    Vietnam vets are demonized for fighting a useless war and that’s a total lie. Anyone with the most minuscule geostrategic sense can look at Vietnam and see it’s large strategic value. The domino theory was correct but fortunately for us our Vietnam vets fought the commies to a stand still while in most all of Asia the countries that are now free fought off their commie guerilla fighters off and most won. Without Vietnam who knows how many lives would have been lost like what happened in Cambodia. Surely vastly more.

  7. Alistair says:


    There’s very much to agree with on your assessment of Vietnam. I was part of a serious cross-campaign COIN analysis a decade or two back and recall how the quantitative coding and sequence of events gave a picture far removed from the MSM version of events.

    However, “politically lost” conceals rather than reveals. By 1972 (and definitely by 1975) the US is no longer willing to pay substantial costs in defence of RSVN. You can (I think forcefully) argue that this was a mistake, but many policymakers didn’t see a return on such investment. They thought the war could not be won by the means they were willing to fight it with. At best, they saw an endless series of crisis to be deferred by an equally endless expenditure. Were they wrong?

    Unfortunately, whilst political defeat was enduring, the US military victory was all too transient. With demographics and Soviet aid, the NVA and VC could, and did, reconstitute their forces in a matter of years. An endless series of assaults on the South was guaranteed until one succeeded. And one would succeed; US patronage had failed to give the South a political system capable of commanding loyalty and marshalling the resources to sustain an indefinite struggle.

    Ultimately, I would say that losing politically IS losing militarily; your opponent has shown he can endure the pain and you cannot, regardless of the count of dead.

    I would add one thing that surprised me at the time of analysis was how many other COIN campaigns ended in a similar way to Vietnam; with the political exhaustion/collapse of the militarily “more successful” side or its senior sponsor. Algeria, Ireland (1919), Afghanistan, Yemen, Angola, Lebanon; there’s a long list of spookily similar endings.

  8. Kirk says:

    The American people, and certainly the Democratic Party in particular, have a better military than they really deserve. Any other institution would have rebelled and put the Democrats up against the wall en masse after ’75.

    Perhaps they should have.

    It’s ironic to observe the ju jitsu political moves the Democrats succeeded with pulling. Eisenhower and his advisers recommended against intervention in Vietnam after Dien Bien Phu, not wanting to compound the errors made after WWII by not telling the French to abandon their colonial fantasies–Only to have the Democrats again stick their dicks into crazy under Kennedy and Johnson. Having involved us in that war, against rational and considered military advice (multiple generals having told Kennedy that involvement was not worth the cost), the Democrats then turned around and blamed the military! And, what’s worse, made it stick, in the popular imagination. Then, having engaged us and lost 50,000 lives in the enterprise, they managed to turn it into a “right-wing war”, and blamed Nixon for it. Had Nixon been elected in 1960 (which he would have been, absent Cook County electoral fraud), it’s very unlikely that we would have been there in the first damn place.

    It’s amazing to observe that the Vietnam War is still seen as a “right-wing conservative reactionary” war against national liberty of the Vietnamese, when the reality is that the Democrats got us into it, kept us there, and then pissed away a hard-won strategic victory. Entirely against the advice of the Pentagon.

    Coupled with how they turned the Civil Rights movement into an anti-Republican movement, when they were the ones who were filibustering it, and who had the KKK in their Congressional delegation, it’s a truly amazing thing to contemplate, over the post-WWII period. The popular belief in all this crap is staggeringly wrong, and when you point that out to the true believers, all they do is stare at you goggle-eyed and deny, deny, deny.

    I actually had a black officer, who’d graduated from a “traditionally black college” with a degree in history, tell me that Abraham Lincoln was a Democrat, that the KKK was founded by reactionary Republicans, that Woodrow Wilson’s segregation of the Federal government and military was a Republican initiative, and that the Civil Rights bills were sponsored by Democrats and filibustered by Republicans…

    Told him to go check his facts, and the next time I saw him, the expression of dull shock on his face was something to behold. Poor bastard looked like he’d been poleaxed, and all he could keep muttering was “They never taught me that in school…”. I think the cherry on top of it all was his discovery that Martin Luther King had been a life-long Republican, something I hadn’t thought to bring up.

    Apparently, this guy had gone all through his schooling (and, he wasn’t a dummy, by any means…) without any of this ever having been mentioned to him, in anything. He’d gone so far as to call home and demand answers from his parents, and they told him the same things I had about the Civil Rights era, which again, had never been mentioned to him or taught in any classes he’d taken on his way to getting a degree in history. It was an amazing exercise in Orwellian operant conditioning that he’d been through, and I think it broke him a little to find out how thoroughly he’d been cozened. He did have the essential integrity and decency to admit he’d been wrong, which I have to admire. I’m not so sure many people would be able to cope with having their entire world-view fall apart under examination, let alone synthesize a new understanding the way he did.

    That had to be one of the stranger experiences of my life, to be quite honest. You could watch the cognitive dissonance taking place, and the real-time loss of trust in those he’d taken as authoritative.

  9. Kirk says:

    Alistair, the thing to remember is that the Soviets weren’t the all-powerful monolith we took them to be.

    Had the US kept up with the support in South Vietnam, the Soviet and Chinese regimes would have been dealing with a bottomless pit of economic loss. As it was, the Soviets flatly admit that they poured most of their people’s prosperity down the Vietnamese rathole, and that the resultant weakening of their economic system contributed massively to the eventual fall of their delusional empire during the Reagan era.

    Having engaged with them in Vietnam, we should have kept up the commitment. Had we done so, the ’75 invasion would have failed, as did the one in ’72. There was not an endless well of military supplies for the Soviets to throw at the conflict, and they would have suffered massive dislocation. As it was, the only thing that brought them victory was their usual excellence at espionage, which largely created the victory.

    Irony is, that victory probably cost them far more than they even realized, at the time. There’s no telling how long the Soviet Union could have lasted, absent all the military adventurism. Had they simply done what North Korea did, and withdrawn within their own borders, minding their own business? Hell, they’d still be around today… Dysfunctional as all hell, in all likelihood, but that’s Russia in a nutshell: A giant fettered by their own backwardness and feckless economic incompetence. They traditionally think that totalitarianism is the only way forward for them, and constantly trip over their own overweening ambitions. The Tsar killed the Russian Empire and his own immediate family with Balkan adventurism, and his Soviet successors did the same. The massive irony is that nobody analyzes it in those terms–Without Stalin, there is no Hitler, no WWII. Because, without Soviet subsidies of the Hitler regime, the economic facts of life would have bitten Hitler in the ass about 1940. He wouldn’t have had the resources to invade the West, without Stalin’s cornucopia of raw materials. The provision of which can only be interpreted as Stalin preparing the ground for a Soviet invasion and conquest of Western Europe–See, he was expecting a recapitulation of WWI in France, and thought that he’d be able to waltz in and take the place after Hitler exhausted himself. Only thing is, he miscalculated massively, and Hitler was able to take France on the cheap.

    Stalin ought to be remembered by the Russians as a massively incompetent boob that turned what should have been a period where Russia realized its potential into a charnel house of horrors. Had Stalin kept his nose inside the Soviet Union, then Hitler likely would have taken Germany on an economic death ride and been out of power by about ’41. By enabling Hitler’s ambitions, he created a monster that destroyed everything that the Communists had managed to ineptly accomplish inside the Soviet Union.

    It’s bizarre to observe how few realize these things, but the facts are irrefutable. Stalin enabled Hitler, to what end we can only speculate, but I think that the intent was to exhaust the West, and take advantage of the situation. Thing was, the German military turned out to be far better than anyone realized they were, and the completely unexpected victory in France unhinged everything.

  10. Graham says:

    Democrats and progressives put a huge amount of semantic and conceptual weight on the idea that the two parties “switched” in and after 1968. Like, a huge amount of weight. The idea is practically the sermon on the mount. hoo boy. Even the slightest variation or nuance, let alone questioning, would get you the stocks if they had stocks. I encountered the notion in university when it was discussed seriously and critically in an academic way, 25-30 years ago. At least up here. Now it’s Writ.

    THere’s not nothing in it- the Southern Strategy was real, and there’s valid assumption that the GOP at no point assumed America would transform into an all minority society. Of course, prior to 2000, there’s little to no evidence the Dems aimed at that either. But I could see where from an early date that idea had more of a home in the Democratic party. ANd the old segregationist tradition died fairly fast in the Democratic party, though it was more that its practitioners gave it up than that most of them switched parties. They hung on as DP office holders into the 90s in some cases, which was when the GOP really cracked the South.

    But the argument also relied on a fairly simpleminded approach to the demographics of class support for Nixon and the GOP, the pervasive 70s and 80s Democratic left assumption that not supporting social welfare was the same thing as not supporting civil rights [this makes perfect sense from a social democratic point of view, less so otherwise], and serious dedication to the idea that everything from criminal justice to not liking hippie culture [not notably African American], disco culture, or progressive values is all code for racism. I mean, they once upon a time characterized Reagan as a ferocious racist. Reagan.

    If you have all those assumptions, and the idea that anything else is code, then bob’s your uncle.

    If you can even get in the wayback machine and characterize all those segregationist Democrats of old, those New Dealers, agrarian socialists, union labour men, in some cases even opponents of established social class, as nonetheless the “conservatives”, then you’ve got the whole package.

    I get it- conservative isn’t just free market, libertarian, gun rights and so on. Sometimes it isn’t any of those, either. But those guys weren’t on the conservative side of their own times.

    I digress. In the end, not my country, pig, farm, clown or circus. But we do catch the spillover up here. I’m still half-convinced the worst thing to happen to Canada was the influx of so many progressive minded Americans in the 1960s who stayed and got, seemingly disproportionately, jobs in fields like psychology and social work. Or education.

    Theatrical sigh. Even more Pournelle material, please.

  11. Kirk says:

    It was a massive propaganda effort, much like the one that turned Nazism into a right-wing thing, rather than the reality that it was only right-wing by comparison to Stalinist Communism…

    It will be an interesting thing for scholars to trace out, in a few generations. Assuming that the Brave New World(tm) allows for such revanchist things as actual scholarship…

  12. Graham says:

    Well, we’ve danced around that one before, so let it be.

    But my favourite Stalinist propaganda designation was to call the Social Democrats of Germany the Social Fascists.

    So you had the Nazis [the Fascist Beast], the Fascists [I guess the Lesser Fascist Beast], Conservative Fascists, Liberal Fascists [heh] and Social Fascists. And Trotskyites [eww].

    Actually, no. My favourite was the need to tread the narrow way between Left Deviationists and Right Deviationists. Even Stalinism claimed to be the centrist path.

  13. Gaikokumaniakku says:

    I am not an expert on Viet Nam, but I am an expert at identifying experts, and I know that Carlton Meyer is an expert on military matters.

    Here is what Carlton Meyer wrote about Viet Nam:


  14. Behind Enemy Lines says:

    Kirk says:
    March 5, 2019 at 10:42 am
    The American people, and certainly the Democratic Party in particular, have a better military than they really deserve. Any other institution would have rebelled and put the Democrats up against the wall en masse after ’75. Perhaps they should have.

    Yes, the military should have done it then. They should do it now, too. I say that, even knowing from direct experience that around 20% of people in uniform are knobheads who shouldn’t be given even a breath of power. But the Constitution has already been thoroughly trashed, and we’ve been living under a soft tyranny for much of my life. If that’s how it’s going to be, I’d rather we were ruled by an administration that doesn’t hate heritage Americans. Besides, sedition and treason deserve their just reward, and the Democrats have a lot of answering to do on that account.

    gaikokumaniakku says:
    March 5, 2019 at 5:40 pm
    I am not an expert on Viet Nam, but I am an expert at identifying experts, and I know that Carlton Meyer is an expert on military matters.

    No. If you want to appeal to authority, you’ll need a better authority. And a better argument.

    Kirk’s point is not that the US won every single engagement. We know perfectly well that the US military had immense problems and suffered some immense self-inflicted failures. The critical issue is that the war in Viet Nam didn’t end with the US being defeated on the battlefield. Whether the war could be won under the political circumstances is necessarily speculation. I suspect not, not at a cost the country was willing to bear. My own view — one I’ve had for decades — is that the biggest enemy is at home, and we need to deal with the enemy at home DECISIVELY before embarking on any fresh foreign adventures. Regrettably, this too seems to be a cost the country isn’t willing to bear.

  15. Kirk says:


    I would never argue that the Vietnam War was fought particularly well, elegantly, or without waste of lives. Nor would I be so bold as to say we won every battle, either.

    However, and it’s a big “However…”, the fact remains: The Viet Cong were defeated as an insurgency and a movement during Tet. Walter Cronkite and Chet Brinkly turned that into a PR defeat, and the war continued. There are some North Vietnamese military officers who’ve gone on record that until the unexpected media blitz in the US happened, they’d been about ready to de-escalate and withdraw until more propitious times. After the US media got done, they smelled victory, and went for it.

    The reality is that the war was lost when Congress decided to abandon a negotiated treaty. Cold-bloodedly, we should have supported South Vietnam, destroyed another North Vietnamese Army invasion, and then offered to keep doing the same until they grew tired or ran out of money. Odds are, that would have shortened the Cold War even more than Afghanistan or SDI did.

    Of course, nobody knew that. The stress the Vietnam War created on the Soviet economy was invisible to us because our intelligence agencies were incompetent and about as bright as a set of burned-out headlights. They were still insisting that the Soviets were an unstoppable military machine as late as 1989, when it became too manifestly clear that it was a vast edifice of incompetence and waste for them to keep up with the lies.

    One does wonder what the world would look like today, had we had competent intelligence services here in the West. I suspect that the Soviet Union would have been pushed into economic collapse during the 1970s, and a lot of the later Cold War would have been obviated. Flatly, the only thing keeping the Soviets afloat was the usual feckless stupidity of our ruling class, that kept selling them goods and buying their resources. Had we played our hand properly, there would have been famine inside the Soviet Union during the mid-1970s. Instead, we propped them up. Like idiots.

    In rational fact, the totalitarian mindset can never prosper. It can make it look like it is, but the reality is that central planning of even the most benign sort, like the Japanese MITI, cannot cope with the incessant change and fluid nature of a modern economy. You’re much better off not trying to “manage” anything, because you simply do not know enough to be at all effective. The more control you reach for, the less you have, and the more likely it is that things will spin entirely out of control.

    That’s actually the lesson to be learned from modern times–It’s all a dance with chaos, and any attempt at control is foolish. Your best bet is to ensure that you’ve got the best dancers, and take care not to get in their way or try to keep your favorites afloat if they zig when they should have zagged…

  16. Sam J. says:

    “…Carlton Meyer is an expert on military matters.

    Here is what Carlton Meyer wrote about Viet Nam…”

    I really like Carlton Meyer, a lot, but I don’t think he’s correct about us losing Vietnam. I suspect the massive drubbing we and the South gave the North had a lot to do with them settling down after the war. I’m also firmly convinced that the intense war in Vietnam lowered the support that could be given to all the other, many other, guerilla commie campaigns in all of Asian. Consequently many of them were crushed before they ever got off to a good start. If we would have defeated the North during the 75 offensive I believe the mass murder in Cambodia would have much less likely. I also believe the cost would not have been to heavy materially. After all the Southern guerillas were mostly wiped out. Invading from the North with a well supplied South would have been suicide.

    SOme are convinced that the North could do this forever but, From Pournelle

    “…And in Viet Nam the North sent 150,000 men south with as much armor as the Wehrmacht had in many WW II engagements. That was in 1973, and of that 150,000 fewer than 50,000 men and no armor returned to the North, at a cost of under 1,000 American casualties…”

    How many times could they do that and stay in power???? If the same happened in 1975 then…would they just try over and over with mass casualties forever??? I doubt it. At some point people would have started killing off the commie cadre that came to gather their Sons for the slaughter in the South.

  17. Kirk says:

    I have to agree with Sam. The opportunity presented by the Vietnam War could have had enormous effect on the rest of the Cold War, but the Western intelligence agencies completely missed getting the economic data right on the Soviet vulnerabilities. Everyone looked at the Potemkin Village they had going, believed, and thought that they were really a superpower. The reality wasn’t seen until the late 1980s, when people started going “Hey, wait a minute… The Soviet forces in Afghanistan are incapable of even keeping themselves fed and watered to the point where they aren’t experiencing typhus and cholera epidemics… This is a superpower?”.

    It’s a sad irony that everywhere the left goes, the ancient scourges of endemic disease soon follow. Witness LA and the typhus epidemic they have going with the homeless, or the nightmare that is Venezuela. They can’t do anything right, whether it’s manage an economy or deal with homelessness. Indeed, the left merely manages to bring more misery down on those they’re supposedly “helping”.

    You have to wonder what the hell Russia would look like, had WWI, the Communists, and then WWII never happened. I’d wager they’d have gotten a hell of a lot further had things progressed without all that BS heaped upon them.

  18. Graham says:

    Everybody always cites Stalin’s role in industrialization by crash program, and fine. But many don’t know Russia was industrializing quite rapidly before 1914.

    The Germans’ entire desperate balls to the wall approach to strategy and geopolitics was based on terror of Russian economic and consequently military and railroad development.

  19. Alistair says:


    Yes, it’s arguable that the US should have maintained it’s commitment post 1972. There will be ongoing Soviet-backed attacks (and these attacks will cost the Soviets less than the countervailing US expenditures) but they will not be free.

    I suppose the long-game plan is, with time, RSVN stabilises, develops an effective tax base, capable army, and probably most importantly a political system which gets sufficient buy-in from the peasantry and middle class to eliminate the VC beyond a northern catspaw. Eventually, you have a South Korea analogue; wealthy and stable enough to fend off its poorer northern neighbour indefinitely.

    One point: military adventurism, or even gross military expenditures, didn’t directly kill the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union collapsed because it’s economic system fundamentally didn’t work. It was, ultimately, irrelevant if the state blew 5% or 40% on it’s military; with collapsing productivity it was going to the wall sooner or later (Soviet investment spending was actually quite high – it was just totally useless/wasted and never generated returns beyond primary material extraction). The Soviet economy is in death spiral from mid 1970s (though its not obvious because of global commodity prices).

    The 1980′s arms race etc didn’t help, of course. If you want my best back-of-envelope estimate, Reagan probably brought the collapse forward by a decade or so from when it would otherwise have happened.

  20. Alistair says:


    I’m not so sure the NV leadership would suffer much popular opposition to repeated military drubbings. But perhaps some resistance from inside the polity; even in the Soviet Union there was a reluctance in military circles to expanding/continuing Afghanistan. No one wanted their children to serve there. So it’s plausible they had a morale limit, just a very high one.

    But I agree there is a practical limit to how often they can attack the south, and a decreasing likelihood of success if the South continues to receive US support and (IF) it stabilises into a more capable polity.

  21. Alistair says:


    Vietnam wasn’t totally wasted. As you point out, other SE Asia communist insurgencies peter out or are defeated in the same period. The US effort in Vietnam “held the ring” to some extent whilst these were defeated.

    Conversely, the most obvious candidate for additional damage is Cambodia. It suffers from, well, if not domino, then “bad neighbourhood” effects. Ironically, the Vietnamese communists later end up almost on the side of the angels when they depose the KR. It says a lot about how screwed you are if the Communist Party of Vietnam are the good guys.

  22. L. C. Rees says:

    Wealthy republics have proven quite durable. Unless they catch a fatal case of Buonaparte.

  23. Sam J. says:

    Graham says,”…But many don’t know Russia was industrializing quite rapidly before 1914…”

    If I remember correctly in “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers” (great book)there’s a lot of data on this. They were growing great gang busters before the commies took over. Very much like other powers did before them using already known technology. Without the Jewish Bolshevik destruction of the country it’s very likely they would be very close if not just as powerful as the US. Their river and transportation system would have held them back a little. The US has been extremely fortunate in that aspect with our nicely laid out river system.

    Now on the following comments. I’m supposed to be the village idiot here. The buffoon, the imbecile who can’t understand anything because apparently I don’t know the (insert many, many various acronyms for various strategies here) and 57-D, quantum chess moves. But if this is the thought patterns of people who are running things and making plans for our country and our defense we’re in much bigger trouble than I thought.

    Alistair says.”..(and these attacks will cost the Soviets less than the countervailing US expenditures…”

    WHAT??? How can attacks cost less than defense in a general war designed to occupy and completely defeat another country?? Now maybe limited attacks but if you plan to completely take the country over attacks are very costly. Also you contradict yourself in the next quote by saying the efficiency of production in the USSR was poor, excessive and wasteful so each attack is in reality FAR more costly than to a capitalist country like the US.

    “…One point: military adventurism, or even gross military expenditures, didn’t directly kill the Soviet Union…”

    I disagree and will say why next comment.

    Alistair says,”…It was, ultimately, irrelevant if the state blew 5% or 40% on it’s military; with collapsing productivity it was going to the wall sooner or later…”

    I can’t believe you’re saying this. 5% to 40% of GNP is a WIDE gap. What if the USSR decided to spend a great deal on the living standards of their people? Even with a commie structure. Keep in mind a basic human truism that most people do not want to conquer the world and just want to have a few nice things, good food and hang out with their friends. Maybe have a drink or two. Now I’m not an expert but I read a fairly decent amount about the lives of the average Russian(compared to the average citizen) and when things were ok most were not that unhappy. It can be argued, most effectively, that the citizens of the USSR had a much richer Social Life than the relentless search to keep your head above water in the capitalist countries.

    One of the reasons I know about some of these kinds of things is I’m interested in Brutalist architecture and the Soviets were super Ga-Ga about this. Not only that, for a while they made it work. Now we look at the housing they built and laugh but a lot of this was built after the war and a huge improvement over what they were living in before. A bunch of it still exist, is used and often modernized. The plan was these were a stop gap for 20 or 30 years and better was to follow. Better didn’t follow because they spent their money on weapons. What if instead of 40% GNP being sent on weapons they made it half of that and spent the rest on housing, better food, automobiles and consumer goods. It’s NOT true that a centralized system can never build anything right. Stuff that’s common and the needs are fairly well known can be built at extraordinary low prices due to mass production and buying materials in bulk,(liberty ships are a great example). The key here is to provide the basics and let the people do the rest themselves. It would not be any great stretch for the USSR to decide that small business that provided consumer goods, like shoes or dresses could operate as long as they never got over a certain size.

    Let’s never forget that for all the triumphs of capitalism we’re told about in a lot cases we’re giving 20%, 30% or more profits to the banks or some other rich person(let’s not even talk about how we give the FED bonds for every single last penny in our economy and they give us not one damn thing for it). This person or entity in a lot of cases, (now anyways), only real benefit is he has access to massive amounts of capital and can grind down anyone who gets in their way. As soon as his competition is gone he rapes you on price. Efficiency be damned you can do a lot with 30% and we have a whole plethora of government-corp. non-profits that do a very good job. TVA power, Pacific Power in California used to be one of the best utility companies on the planet and when the capitalist took it over the prices shot up and the power started going out. They ripped everyone off. Many people have noted that the only reason that capatialist have not utterly oppressed the workers in the, so-called, free world was that they were afraid of being booted out all together like the USSR, Look at their behavior today.


    Alistair says,”…Sam,

    I’m not so sure the NV leadership would suffer much popular opposition to repeated military drubbings…”

    Well you may not be sure but I am. If it’s known that every time you are sent South 75% of you will be killed then eventually all, or enough to make the force ineffective, will run away and give themselves up to the South. Living in a Communist country, no matter how much propaganda, doesn’t mean you lose all common sense. You can take your chances giving up to the South or most assuredly be killed by them in battle. What are you going to do? There was a large program of that actually happening already(Chieu Hoi program)(read about the cost here”http://www.psywarrior.com/ChieuHoiProgram.html”). What if the 1975 attack was a bloodbath with the North being eviscerated,(crushed!!!)? It would have definitely 100% been with US air power and a mass reinforcement of supplies and ammunition. I coyuld see a 1975 crush being at least the beginning of the end of the commie North. Maybe they would have had one more mass invasion but if that were crushed just as effectively I could see the North totally losing all military effectiveness. After all their soldiers could just run away. American soldiers were not the only ones who could fragg their officers if they were blood thirsty idiots who were getting them killed for no reason.

  24. Alistair says:


    The Soviets are bankrolling the NV. Mostly conventional ground equipment and ammunition. The NV provide most of the manpower at very low cost. They have lower defence PPP adjustment than the US anyway.

    Presumably the US is sending a lot of material to RSVN, much of which will be lost or wasted given the limited capacity of that force to absorb it. They will also be directly providing airpower from carrier fleets (Awesome, but very expensive, per unit of firepower). And intelligence from national assets.

    I stand by my comment that the US “defence” here will be quite expensive compared to the Soviet “attack”. This may mitigate with time and ability of RSVN to generate domestic force structure and take more of the burden.

    Of course, the Soviets have much less resources in the first instances. The US might trade $3 to $1 and still prevail.

  25. Alistair says:


    Very Simple explanation (without boring you with Solow growth models). The important numbers are the Return on Investment and total factor productivity facing the Soviet Economy; effectively the multiplier to “savings” into plant etc. For the Soviet Union in the 1970′s onwards, this was close to zero, and may even by negative, with environmental costs added in.

    In an alternative world where the SU spent (say), only 5% on defence than 40%, this could indeed boost civil standards of living (consumption) in the short term. More Ladatronics! Yeah! But it wouldn’t raise their growth rate substantially, if at all. The Soviet economy is in negative growth; real GDP per capita is falling with alongside productivity. All the low hanging development fruit are picked, repairs and renewal costs are rising as poorly-maintained plant becomes obsolete, environmental costs are soaring, corruption and inefficiency absorb more and more whilst the challenges of integrating a more complex economy overwhelms GOSPLAN.

    Basically; the problem is structural; low RoI and collapsing productivity and not a lack of “spending” per se. Having a bucket load more “money” by going butter-over-guns doesn’t help you much here; if your economy is contracting 2% a year it just delays the inevitable by a decade or so until you are where you would have been had you gone guns-over-butter in the first instance.

  26. Kirk says:

    I forget where I read it, but there’s very persuasive piece out there comparing Soviet oil industry investment to what went on in Iraq and Iran, in terms of the regimes sucking the money out of the industries and not re-investing in them enough to keep them productive and afloat.

    Recall reading this back before 2003′s invasion of Iraq, and the striking thing was being a part of the whole “get Iraqi oil industry back online” effort, and recalling just how much this author got right about what the Ba’athist regime had been doing. There were dozens of occasions where our guys found stuff that hadn’t been replaced or improved since the days of British Petroleum back in the 1950s and 1960s, which the Iraqi oil ministry had somehow managed to keep going.

    Basically, the regimes sucked all the money out of the oil infrastructure for short-term benefit, and did not invest in it enough to keep it productive and expanding. Because of this, the resource extraction effort was hugely inefficient and archaic; the oil fields at Baku, for example, were still operating as though they were being run by the people that built them back before WWI. Horribly primitive, inefficient, and wasteful–All because they were run by the Communists who saw no need to re-invest or improve things.

    You can draw a similar set of lessons in Libya under Khadafy, Iran, or Venezuela. That article’s main focus was predicting the likely outcome for Venezuela, and from what I remember, the author got the dates dead to rights about what would happen with PDVSA and the Venezuelan oil industry.

    Economically speaking, the Soviet Union was always living on borrowed time. They would have eventually turned themselves into an ecologic disaster area on a scale which would boggle the mind, just like every other socialist enterprise in history has. It’s just too bad that so many innocents got caught up in the machinery…

  27. Sam J. says:


    I think the fundamental problem is that you are not looking at the situation rationally as a human endeavor. Your looking at it from a systems analyst angle. That manner of thinking is fantastic but bears little relation to the thinking of humans. The GOD of systems analyst, Robert Strange McNamara, was the living embodiment of “the Peter Principle”. After ruining Ford by turning the whole enterprise over to accountants he then proceeded to run the Vietnam war as a systems analyst. He concluded that the birth rate of the North was high enough that we couldn’t kill them all fast enough and therefore assumed that we would lose and he became despondent. Not to mention, but I will, the F-111 fiasco.

    You neglected to read, I believe,the link to the Chieu Hoi program I provided and allowed zero lines in your cost configuration for how much it cost us to just have the Northern troops run away and not fight.


    And somehow, not sure how, every penny the commies send the North gets used in the most efficient manner while the South waste it. The South by 1975 had been for years running a larger and larger part of the war[Remember Nixon...Vietnamization..."Leading the ground force withdrawals, Marine redeployments started in mid-1969...:]. Why the South could not do so, (fight), and the North could is not explained. You also don’t mention the higher population of the South and the seriously lopsided deaths in the North.

    Then you tell me the people funding the North are going broke just by getting up in the morning[negative growth]. Well how is it that they can be going broke and at the same time continue this massive funding? Now this is from your analysis.

    I don’t agree with what you said about the Soviet Union, not that I’m a great fan, AT ALL, of commies but every thing you talk about is “static”. You assume that they in no way could have new factories or new materials or new thoughts about anything. Well China was commie and look at them. For a long period of time the Chinese allowed certain aspects of the economy to be more capitalist while allowing some to remain the same. I suspect the USSR could have done the same if they had not spent so much on arms.

    Using your model “Solow growth model” and the quote from Wikipedia.

    “…Assuming for simplicity no technological progress or labor force growth, diminishing returns implies that at some point the amount of new capital produced is only just enough to make up for the amount of existing capital lost due to depreciation.[1] At this point, because of the assumptions of no technological progress or labor force growth, we can see the economy ceases to grow…”

    How do you prove that the Soviet Union had zero growth??? You can’t say that they had zero technical improvement. They certainly had labor. I say that the massive spending on armaments broke them and I can prove it with your models.

    I can do so by looking at all the inputs and asking “WHAT IS CAPITAL???. The USSR had all the same inputs that the USA had except the USA was and is in much worse shape. Why? Capital! The USSR had massive amounts of capital. They controlled their own central bank so owed no one anything at all. In the USA all money is created with debt to the Federal Reserve so if all debt was paid off, an actual impossibility as we would have no money to pay the interest, we would have zero dollars. So in fact using your models the higher economic growth is, the more cash we have in circulation, the higher our debt is so the best thing we could do, using your models, is to shut the doors and stop while we’re ahead as it can only get worse.

    So using your models and plugging in the actual numbers of both systems proves that the USSR could have never failed as they had so much capital.

    But they did. So there’s something wrong with the model and it’s the undefined phrase “capital”.

  28. Sam J. says:

    Robert Hemphill, Credit Manager of the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, who wrote in 1936,

    “…If all the bank loans were paid, no one could have a bank deposit, and there would not be a dollar of coin or currency in circulation. This is a staggering thought. We are completely dependent on the commercial banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash, or credit. If the banks create ample synthetic money we are prosperous; if not, we starve. We are absolutely without a permanent money system. When one gets a complete grasp of the picture, the tragic absurdity of our hopeless situation is almost incredible — but there it is….”


    Stupid system designed to impoverish the nation and enrich the few. You can bet the next system they have lined up for us, when they crash this one and the nation, will be just as bad for us and good for them. The SDR.

  29. CVLR says:

    Sam: “Stupid system designed to impoverish the nation and enrich the few. You can bet the next system they have lined up for us, when they crash this one and the nation, will be just as bad for us and good for them. The SDR.”

    If we’re making predictions, I’ll wager that the next system is some form of cryptocurrency. Imagine every transaction everywhere recorded in a central ledger for all time. Welcome to the blockchain. And the natural hardware counterpart to crypto is a small chip in the hand. Can’t argue with that convenience! When Aaron Russo talked about this I thought he was barking mad, but that was way back in 2006. The tech didn’t exist and the people still remembered a time before 9/11. Imagine 13 years from now.

  30. Sam J. says:

    “…I’ll wager that the next system is some form of cryptocurrency…”

    Very possible but they’ve put a great deal of effort into the SDR(Special Drawing Rights). Basically they give us nothing and regulate how much capital is allowed. So if you don’t buckle under they just limit your capital.

    It’s likely that this crushing of the amount capital was a major reason for the US revolutionary war. The colonies were printing their own money based on land values. The British heard about this, from Ben Franklin, and stopped it immediately causing a massive deflation and cash destruction. It destroyed the whole economy.

    Hitler countered the big banks by controlling German money himself and within a few years had great prosperity while most of the world was drowning in depression. The former banking system was run mostly by the Jews and they completely destroyed Germany to such a level that people were prostituting their daughters just to eat. They never tell you about that. People loved Hitler he saved them from close to death conditions.


    I can’t prove this, it does seem to operate this way, but I believe they push massive debt then they call in credit to ruin everyone and buy up all the stuff that others built at bankruptcy prices.

    I suspect, but can’t prove this either, that the attacks on Tesla and Musk are so that they can bankrupt him then buy Tesla for pennies. I believe they can short Tesla with naked shorts. They don’t own the stock. Then they financially and in the press attack him. If you read the press he’s on the verge of bankruptcy every single second and he does seem to be under stress but somehow he’s been able to hang in there. Maybe he will this time too. I hope so as anyone who takes over Tesla will likely ruin it.

    I like Tesla but not for eco-reasons. I like electric cars for defense and independence reasons. Solar is coming down in power and if you have electric cars you tell the monopolist to screw themselves.

    It’s hard to debate that without Musk it would have been decades before we had electric cars.

  31. Graham says:

    I’m realizing how ill-equipped I am to discuss alternative monetary systems. For one, still don’t really understand how the blockchain works.

    I’m quite open to the idea that a system that amounts to enormously sophisticated barter can work give the technology for adequate recording and speed. I’m even open to the idea that for all it’s relative sophistication, our current system might be considered only a few steps above carrying around stamped metal pre-coin tokens.

    What I don’t understand is this set of questions-

    How do we manage a vast array of commercial and personal transactions of dizzying complexity without something like a currency, physical or not?

    How do we manage without a portable store of value, physical or not or both?

    Do those have to be the same unit? Does that unit have to have universal fixed value or can it be tradeable in and of itself, and therefore have fluid price?

    How would it be possible to run even a pre-industrial economy without credit and debt? How could anything more modern be run on the basis of [even the digital equivalent of] cash in hand?

  32. Sam J. says:

    “…How do we manage…without something like a currency?…”

    “…manage without a portable store of value, physical or not or both?…”

    “…run even a pre-industrial economy without credit and debt?…”

    I don’t think anyone is saying we don’t need a currency. Certainly not me. The real issue is “who has the authority to issue” currency. That’s the rub.

    Here’s the way the US currency works on the macro scale. The Treasury says it needs currency. The FED says ok give me a bond. The currency you need plus some interest over time. The Treasury does so and gets the money from the FED. THE FED GIVES US NOTHING in return. Nothing. We owe the FED the principle plus interest for them giving us nothing. Here’s where it gets tricky. Over time the principle must be paid back plus interest. Where does the Treasury get the money to pay the interest? They MUST get it from the FED…again…plus more interest. Now a little math will tell you that over time the interest will pile up because you literally can not get any money unless you do so with DEBT. All US money is based on debt. Every bit of it. Over time the FED will, through compounding interest, own every single thing in the country.

    Now I know you will call me a fool and declare that this can’t be so but…it is. Look it up.

    Even worse if all the debts were paid off in the US we would have NO MONEY. That’s right. None.

    This is why the Jews own everything. They own most of the FED. They give preferential loans to Jews compared to Whites or anyone else.

    A practical example of this is all the takeovers in the 1980′s and since. They get a mass of capital at low interest rates from the FED, (to be sure this may be done in a circuitous manner through various banks but the principal is the same). They use this debt to buy a company. Corporate debt is not taxed so they quit paying taxes and then they crush the employees to come up with the payments for the debt. They also charge large FEES for their advice. Romney did this. He took over a paper company with no debt and then charged them $50 million a year fro “consulting”. A lot of these companies went bankrupt. Look up Carl Icahn he did a lot of these. They not only destroyed the companies they stole the pension funds of the employees. A lot of these are responsible for the moving of manufacturing offshore. I see this as a grave security threat to the US.

    Here’s the most important part and it will give you great insight into the wars going on. If a country decides to get rid of their Central bank, controlled by the Jews, they are immediately attacked and the country is ruined. Guess some countries that got rid of their central banks. Germany, Iraq, Libya, Venezuela.

    The profits to the insiders are so great they can not afford to lose their central bank status. After all they can print money for nothing.

    There are various plans for reform but the basic idea is that we issue our own money. If we did so and tied all loans and government spending to some sort of growth index the money supply could be stable. We’re sort of doing this right now. The FED is giving the federal government loans but instead of selling the bonds from the Treasury they just put them in their pocket. It’s over a trillion a year. It cost them nothing as they don’t give us anything anyways. But we still owe them, on paper, the principal and interest. It’s a massive rip off and it’s how the Jews run the world, along with murder, blackmail and child rape.

  33. Kirk says:

    Y’all are quite mad, with regards to the so-called “crypto-currencies”. Those are not ever going to attain what the fevered imaginations of their proponents think they will be, because in the end, they’re really representative of absolutely nothing.

    Modern fiat currency represents a confidence game, backed by big governments and big banks. There’s no specie in a vault somewhere to back it up, but there is the confidence of the public using them to back it all up. No confidence, no value–Which is why the Fed will never, ever get audited. You start looking for the monkey running the machinery, and he won’t be there, so… The whole game comes crashing down. And, in the final analysis, that’s all it is–A game we play with ourselves. Even gold isn’t worth squat, because, aside from a few industrial and decorative uses, what the hell is it good for? It’s only worth what someone accepts it as being worth, and if there was as much bloody gold in our planet’s mantle as there is silica or iron, we’d pretty much be using like we do lead. Local rarity does not make it inherently valuable. It’s a bloody symbol, and that’s precisely it. I agree that a Krugerrand is worth something; so do you–So we can trade it to represent actual goods and labor. Without that agreement on the point of its value, it’s literally worthless.

    Bitcoin and the crypto-currencies don’t even have that going for it–It’s all imaginary money like imaginary numbers are, intellectual conjectures. In the end, they’re only worth what someone says they are, and whatever store of value is in them is there only because there’s an agreement between parties that it exists. No agreement, no value.

    Crypto-currencies are to real money what symbols on paper are to actual sounds and sights–They’re not even the flash to the bang, they’re mere conjectured hypotheticals.

    Of course, you get right down to it, that’s what most money is, anyway.

  34. Sam J. says:

    “…Y’all are quite mad, with regards to the so-called “crypto-currencies”…

    Modern fiat currency represents a confidence game, backed by big governments and big banks…”

    I’m not sure if you’re talking to me but I never said or implied any of these things was worth anything. I wish I had bought some bitcoin a long time ago it went up fantastically in price. I also wish I had bought some Confederate money and bayonets when I was a kid. Bundles of the currency went for a dollar and the bayonets the same.

    “…You start looking for the monkey running the machinery, and he won’t be there, so…”

    I know where the monkey is and what he’s doing. Sorta.

    Modern fiat currency does work perfectly fine if too much is not printed and it can be converted for goods, services and has the backing of the government to pay taxes and debts. If they print too much then…


    I have about 20 of these. They’ve actually gone up in value.

    I think a decent proper currency would be Kilowatt-hours. Always more being made and usually directly related to growth so it would track growth reasonably well. So at 10 cents a Kilowatt-hour you’d get a dollar but it would be called, of course, a 10KW-hr bill.

    Think about it. Instead of money changing or digging shiny metals out of the ground to get more money you’d have to do something useful like make electricity. Could be a serious revolution with super growth as growth tracks energy usage generally.

  35. Alistair says:


    Sorry, think you’re wrong here. Yes, fiat currency is a “confidence game” (technically, a co-ordination game). But…you know….so is gold. Gold has very little consumption value. The world produces far more gold than it consumes in a given year. We’re not eating it.

    80%+ of the demand for gold is “monetary demand”; gold as a store of value. If gold was only used as an industrial metal and jewellery, prices would be a fraction of current levels. Same for silver and platinum to a lesser extent.

    Gold, silver, platinum (the monetary metals) are the ONLY metals (indeed pretty much the ONLY raw materials excepting energy) which have held their values in real terms over decades. Nearly all of their price is due to them being monetary instruments.

    The attraction of gold as a monetary instrument is, firstly, that we agree on it as a monetary substitute (the “confidence game”) secondly, that it cannot be debased in infinite quantities by a government, and thirdly that it is relatively easy to handle and move.

    Good Cryptocurrencies have all of these properties. There is no reason why, in the long run, they should not capture a share of the market for stores of value not under government control. This may not change the world, but the capitalisation is not to be sneezed at!

  36. Kirk says:

    Alistair, I don’t think you actually read my post. I did say that gold was only worth what we say it is, as you say I did not.

    As a store of value, crypto-currencies are sub-optimal, particularly once the power and other infrastructure goes away. Physical representations of wealth don’t tend to evaporate once the electricity goes off.

  37. Alistair says:


    Apologies; appear to have missed a critical paragraph were you cover much the same thing. Seems my reading mode was off last night.

    To be fair, you now have me thinking about varying degrees of apocalypse when it comes to currency viability in the aftermath.

    4th Order. “Business as normal”; Fiat currency holds value in aftermath.
    3rd Order. Normal fiat currency worthless. Crypto, gold, and barter goods ok.
    2nd Order. Crypto-worthless. Gold and silver and barter goods ok.
    1st Order. Gold worthless. Food, fuel, drugs and weapons only!
    0th Order. No trades possible (no contactable trade partners?)

  38. Graham says:

    Fairly convincing. But in any scenario in which power and technology become less reliable, or less universally accessible, wouldn’t crypto become less viable than paper currency?

    I’m open to complete loss of trust in the paper, the pieces for that are all there in society, but if there is any sense the US government is still around in this scenario, I could see lingering assumptions about the paper lasting a while longer. We also have a fair degree of built in social habit regarding the [fake] solidity of physical cash. Even our habitual usage of phrases like “cash in hand”, hard cash, and so on, when compared to credit, for example.

    I’m not saying long, or for everyone, just suggesting it isn’t obvious it will die before crypto. Installed base alone might be an advantage.

    By 2nd order, yep. Down to metals and barter.

    FTR, I appreciated your earlier noting, as so many metal advocates don’t, that even gold and silver money is still much the same as fiat money in the sense of being theoretical value. It’s a more robust and longer rooted theoretical value, but some gold bugs don’t seem to remember.

  39. T. Greer says:

    America was a wealthy republic that despised its soldiers by 1835.

    We’ve done ok since.

    This guy needs to read a history book.

  40. Graham says:

    There’s an interesting thought. That really would make America a new order for the ages, as such republics have gone.

    But it does inspire some counterthoughts and a bigger question. Further comments welcomed.

    1. There wasn’t much threat of invasion to the US after 1815, if that. And not again until the 20th century, and that’s generous to what might have been possible for Old World powers. Easy to neglect the army.

    2. It’s still only been 243 years. Some of earlier republics lasted longer, albeit none so large or powerful.

    3. Britain, though the possible symbolism of monarchy may have played its role, was in practice an oligarchic commercial republic run first by landowners and latterly by merchants for a solid century during its heyday, and treated its soldiers as disposable on a good day. I don’t know if that British experience is a supporting example for the thesis that America has nothing to fear, or a counterexample, or the systems were still not similar enough to compare.

    Bigger question- America’s shifting attitudes to its soldiers, to military power in general, to those symbols that might be called “militarism” [I think my place for drawing the line on that word is a bit old fashioned now]- flags, parades, military bands in public, and so on.

    I can see that America took an almost British “Tommy left behind” attitude to its soldiers in the pre-1861 era, given the army’s role was actually pretty similar to the British army’s role- long service regulars policing scattered frontiers and occasionally aggressing a far off neighbouring state. And officers mostly living in an insular society of their own, and not all that upwardly mobile. Hmm. Maybe even worse than Britain’s relationship with its army.

    But the Civil War, while far from turning the postwar US into anything but a booming commercial republic, seemed to institute both the celebratory cult of the veteran and the cult of a military education, at least for some. I remain mildly fascinated by the prevalence of military prep schools that mostly sprung up in those years, and seemed to thrive more than just lingering until the post-Vietnam era. Some still around of course.

    I am aware to a degree that attitudes to both veterans and military trappings had their ebbs and flows even in the century from 1870-1970 or so, but they seemed to live on a higher plateau in that time than before or since.

    And the sheer number of those schools still amazes me. The English had cadet forces at a lot of schools, but one doesn’t get the sense that the military ethos played nearly as much of a role.

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