terry_freeman on August 07, 2010, 10:16:40 pm
Technocrats have this fantasy that, if "the right people" are in government and direct the resources of the economy, everything will be hunky dory.

For some reason, these religious zealots totally refuse to consider the problem of incentives. In a profit-and-loss enterprise, there is a positive feedback ( profits ) for delivering what customers want and keeping costs less than the value to the customers. There is a negative feedback if your costs are higher than the value - you lose money. If you keep on losing money, you go out of business. There is also competition with alternative suppliers and alternative goods, which encourage entrepreneurs to reduce their prices (and profit margins) to attract business from other alternatives.

Government bureaucrats do not have the advantage of these feedback loops. In fact, the incentives are perverse. The worse our schools get, for example, the more money we throw at the problem. Customers are offered a "free" good, but must pay a very steep price by the indirect route of taxation. Demand is higher than it otherwise would be, and there is little or no price discipline to increase the efficiency.

Contrast the USPS, where prices have been rising and service has declined for decades, versus the computer industry, where performance has improved and prices have fallen. 

jamesd on August 08, 2010, 12:48:09 am
the incentives are perverse. The worse our schools get, for example, the more money we throw at the problem. Customers are offered a "free" good, but must pay a very steep price by the indirect route of taxation. Demand is higher than it otherwise would be, and there is little or no price discipline to increase the efficiency.
Which incentive system has been extended to the health care and finance sectors.

J Thomas on August 08, 2010, 11:50:28 am
Technocrats have this fantasy that, if "the right people" are in government and direct the resources of the economy, everything will be hunky dory.

For some reason, these religious zealots totally refuse to consider the problem of incentives. In a profit-and-loss enterprise, there is a positive feedback ( profits ) for delivering what customers want and keeping costs less than the value to the customers. There is a negative feedback if your costs are higher than the value - you lose money. If you keep on losing money, you go out of business. There is also competition with alternative suppliers and alternative goods, which encourage entrepreneurs to reduce their prices (and profit margins) to attract business from other alternatives.

Profit and loss is not the only possible incentive system, but it's one that can expose activities which are not worth doing. Like, if you make a lot of ethanol to extend the gasoline but it turns out that the ethanol uses more oil to produce than it saves, profit-and-loss should tell you to shut that down. That feedback is definitely worth having. We should look for ways it gets subverted and prevent them.

Consider our giant government bureaucracies that function almost entirely without profit to the bureaucrats. They get the same salary no matter what a good job they do, they don't even get bonuses for superb work. They can get promotions into better-paying job categories where they might not do as well or they might eventually get fired.... Imagine that they could profit from their jobs. Say that the drug enforcers could get a slice of everything confiscated from convicted drug dealers -- cars, houses, ships, bank accounts -- imagine how they might behave in that case. No thank you.

But then, I talked to a woman who worked on Social Security cases. Her performance was rated by her throughput, by how many cases she completed per day. So her office had elaborate attempts to grab the easy fast cases and pass the difficult or slow ones off on somebody else. People tried every method they could to return slow cases to the pile without being held responsible for them. Wouldn't it tend to work the same way with a profit system? If they were paid by the completed case, they would preferentially work the easy cases and leave the unprofitable ones until there was nothing better to do. So the citizens who had complicated problems would receive late treatment or no treatment.

We could handle that with a market. Citizens put their cases up for bids, and see how much it costs to get a federal bureaucrat to look at it....

Now consider that giant private or publicly-traded corporations have their own bureaucracies, that mirror the government ones. It's sometimes possible to get year-end bonuses for great work, and it's sometimes possible to get special perqs if your supervisor likes what you do for him -- free xeroxing, sick leave when you aren't sick, etc -- but mostly the rewards are far distant from the behaviors rewarded. It doesn't take government to set up bureaucracies. Some people argue that the giant corporations compete the best so everything's fine. Some argue that it's only government which makes them competitive. I don't know how to test that without setting up a society without a government and see whether it develops giant corporations anyway. I would expect them to form around bottlenecks of all sorts, and to dissipate when each bottleneck is somehow widened despite them. But that's just my guess.

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Contrast the USPS, where prices have been rising and service has declined for decades, versus the computer industry, where performance has improved and prices have fallen. 

The computer industry has continuing new technology. Some companies make a whole lot of money while others go under. Because the new stuff is so much better we have a fairly high ratio of investments that do well compared to those that go bust, but it's still a crap shoot.

The Post Office is required to deal with old technology. They've innovated with cheap things like zip codes and more expensive things like OCR to sort mail. Some of their innovations came a little too soon and turned quite expensive -- I don't know how much that was because they were before their time and how much it was that USPO R&D contracts were too much like military R&D contracts. They weren't particularly allowed to go into email service etc.

Rather than compare the post office to the best capitalist industry, wouldn't it be better to compare it to a single bureaucratic corporation like, say Union Pacific or IBM? Or Delta?

Bob G on August 08, 2010, 01:09:32 pm
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Imagine that they could profit from their jobs. Say that the drug enforcers could get a slice of everything confiscated from convicted drug dealers -- cars, houses, ships, bank accounts -- imagine how they might behave in that case. No thank you.

As opposed to today when our drug warriors are given a cut of assets seized from *suspected* drug dealers - unless and until the suspects in question can prove said assets are NOT proceeds of illegal activity?
Whatsoever, for any cause, seeketh to take or give
  Power above or beyond the Laws, suffer it not to live.
Holy State, or Holy King, or Holy People's Will.
  Have no truck with the senseless thing, order the guns and kill.

The penultimate stanza of Rudyard Kipling's MacDonough's Song

J Thomas on August 08, 2010, 07:15:52 pm
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Imagine that they could profit from their jobs. Say that the drug enforcers could get a slice of everything confiscated from convicted drug dealers -- cars, houses, ships, bank accounts -- imagine how they might behave in that case. No thank you.

As opposed to today when our drug warriors are given a cut of assets seized from *suspected* drug dealers - unless and until the suspects in question can prove said assets are NOT proceeds of illegal activity?

Yeah. I don't like it. I'd strongly prefer those guys be on straight salary, or salary plus yearly bonus. You need them not to care too much about money -- if they're doing it for the cash, how can you possibly hope to pay them as much as the most profitable drug organization would?

jamesd on August 08, 2010, 08:02:48 pm
Now consider that giant private or publicly-traded corporations have their own bureaucracies, that mirror the government ones. It's sometimes possible to get year-end bonuses for great work, and it's sometimes possible to get special perqs if your supervisor likes what you do for him -- free xeroxing, sick leave when you aren't sick, etc -- but mostly the rewards are far distant from the behaviors rewarded. It doesn't take government to set up bureaucracies. Some people argue that the giant corporations compete the best so everything's fine.

Giant corporations are joined at the hip with government - when you see these thousand page bills, a big part of the reason they are so long is because the big corporations were writing rules for their competition to obey - observe the revolving door between big companies such as Goldman and Sach, and the government's ever growing team of regulators.

terry_freeman on August 08, 2010, 08:11:12 pm
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Imagine that they could profit from their jobs. Say that the drug enforcers could get a slice of everything confiscated from convicted drug dealers -- cars, houses, ships, bank accounts -- imagine how they might behave in that case. No thank you.

As opposed to today when our drug warriors are given a cut of assets seized from *suspected* drug dealers - unless and until the suspects in question can prove said assets are NOT proceeds of illegal activity?

Yeah. I don't like it. I'd strongly prefer those guys be on straight salary, or salary plus yearly bonus. You need them not to care too much about money -- if they're doing it for the cash, how can you possibly hope to pay them as much as the most profitable drug organization would?


JThomas, now you know why there are two types of drug warriors: the corrupt who re in the pay of drug lords, and the zealots who do it for fun. Is this really something government ought to be doing?

You somehow, bright as you are, found a way to totally miss the point. Let's put it this way. If the goal is to, let's say, ameliorate the negative effects of drugs, a profit-and-loss system would either have shown results or gone out of business. Many different organizations would try many different approaches. Some would fail; some would succeed. Over time, those negative effects would be ameliorated more and more effectively. That's how markets work.

On the other hand, this great War on Drugs has been going on as long as I remember - which is about 50 years. In fact, it started even earlier, make it about 80 years. Can you say it is a successful program? You can drop someone into a city where he has never been before, and knows nobody, and he'll have some drugs within 24 hours, if he wants. This is in spite of the US of A having more people behind bars - largely for drug-related offenses - than any other country in the world.
This is an example of how government programs work: the worse they perform, the more money they get. As Reagan put it, we have discovered the secret of immortality: any government program.

How many times do you have to read the same simple, incontrovertible evidence, before it gets past your kong-sized mental filters?

Regarding the USPS - you know not whereof you speak. They do implement new technology. I have a brother who works for the USPS and keeps me up to date on these things. Nevertheless, they keep getting more and more expensive. The problem isn't the technology; it's the fact that the USPS will never die, no matter how much money it loses. Nobody has the power to pull the plug.

I forget who said that capitalism without the prospect of mortal loss is like religion without sin; there is no incentive to improve.


dough560 on August 08, 2010, 10:21:49 pm
J Thomas.  Regan has been called the "Great Communicator" for a reason.  He took his arguments directly to the people in order to get his message out.  Even then the "Big Three" news agencies and the national "News" magazines insisted on telling people what he said, was not what he said. The disinformation he endured, did the socialists proud.

The Regan Recession?  Yes he inherited one from Carter.  Regan gets a lot of blame for the spending during his administration.  Did he raise government revenues while in office?  Yes, by shaming congress into lowering tax rates.  They got their thirty pieces of silver though.  In order to get the rate reductions, Regan agreed to expanded social programs and the elimination of many individual tax deductions.  Example: before this deal, you could deduct interest you paid on personal loans. 

Our military equipment of the time; leftovers from WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  New technologies were on the horizon but there was no money for production.  As a result we faced a very real probability of a land war in Europe.  The Soviets were outspending us 10 to 1 in development and production.  Without Regan's military rebuilding, we would have lost that war.  Regan not only shamed congress into rebuilding the military, but reinvigorated the civilian economy.  This resulted in the available industrial capacity to build new military equipment.  Result, the soviets went broke trying to match our technologies.  We did not have to fight a ground war that would have been extremely destructive and vastly more expensive.

Bush Sr. couldn't stop playing, "Let's Make a Deal".  Republicans were doing the best they could to give away the store.  While the Democrats were doing all they could to rob it blind.  As a result, we suffered. Government controls expanded.

Clinton gave us the largest tax increase in our history.  (Until the coming of the Obama Administration.) And a massive expansion in social spending and government control.  We also had massive suppression of civil rights, highlighted by Ruby Ridge and Waco.  Clinton and the Democratic party in general moved to open the door of our national security.

Bush Jr, with a country wanting change and real reduction of government; also played "Lets Make a Deal", Instead of getting out in front and leading.  Bush and the Republicans spent money hand over fist.  Also expanding government controls.  Yes we were fighting two wars, but the money spent went over and above what was needed.  Much of it to new social programs as Republicans tried to buy votes.  Again people wanted change.

The old saying, "Be careful what you wish for, you might get it."  With Obama, "We", "Got It", all right.  Banking, Automotive and Health Care takeovers.  Reductions and Restrictions on energy and trade still pending.  The pending reinstatement of the Clinton taxes and taxes associated with the new controls.

Fewer government controls without the current potential for abuse, sparked the revolution.

There are a great many other posts in these threads, covering these subjects and worth your time to look up.


J Thomas on August 09, 2010, 01:04:35 am
The Regan Recession?  Yes he inherited one from Carter.

There's a saying that you're entitled to your own opinion but you're not entitled to your own facts. I get that you like Reagan (Regan worked for him) but you have your own facts here to the point that it's hard to communicate.

Maybe you could discuss this with your fellow Reagan fan Jamesd. He says that Reagan eliminated price controls with a stroke of a pen and immediately the problems went away. Who's right? Well, you come a lot closer.

There's a problem that under Reagan they changed the reporting. For example unemployment statistics pre-Reagan versus post-Reagan are not comparable, because they changed the rules for what it takes to be counted as unemployed. Now it's plausible that during a long recession the unemployment rate and the employment rate will both drop at the same time.... To talk meaningfully about economic statistics that cross Reagan's time you pretty nearly have to be a PhD economist who's specialised in that topic. Which I am not.

Here is a general background that tends to fit what the professionals say.

We had a lot of inflation. This had multiple causes. We had largely paid for Vietnam with deficit spending because people didn't want to be taxed for it. And there were the oil shocks. Pay more money for oil and you wind up paying more for everything. We had foreign trade issues beyond oil; Japan was eating our lunch. It can be argued that they were doing something stupid. It was something stupid that hurt them badly later, but first it hurt us and there was no good response for us to make. So, inflation. That didn't start with Reagan or Carter. It started with Johnson, and 8 years of Nixon did little to help.

Reagan wanted a great big military buildup. That was popular with voters. He also wanted extra money for social programs. That was popular with some voters and unpopular with others, so he tried to tell both groups what they wanted to hear. He claimed to believe in the Laffer Curve theory, which claimed that the US economy as of 1982 would grow so much from reduced taxes that tax revenues would go up. It was wrong, but tax cuts were very popular. So Reagan wanted to increase federal spending while decreasing taxes, with an economy that was already quite inflationary from previous expansion of the money supply and also from higher oil prices etc. Congress was always happy to increase spending, and Reagan telling them to spend more and tax less was like calling the hogs for dinner.

Meanwhile the Fed tried to stop inflation by reducing loans to US businesses (and consumers too, of course). Ugly.

Eventually we pulled out of it. Professional economists argue about how that happened, there's no consensus. I think a lot of it was the Iran/Iraq war which resulted in low oil prices. Reagan can take some credit for that war. Also the Japanese mistake stopped hurting us so much, they had a recession around 1984 and they pretended to get out of it with financial sleight-of-hand and an asset bubble. Lots of our bad debts got foisted off onto S&Ls etc which failed, and that cleared the books somewhat. Unprecedented deficit spending, and a lot of the military spending had to go to US companies because foreign companies would (and did) sell our secrets to the USSR. The Fed let interest rates fall.

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Regan gets a lot of blame for the spending during his administration.  Did he raise government revenues while in office?  Yes, by shaming congress into lowering tax rates.  They got their thirty pieces of silver though.  In order to get the rate reductions, Regan agreed to expanded social programs and the elimination of many individual tax deductions.

Oh please don' trow me into dat dere briar patch.
 
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Our military equipment of the time; leftovers from WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  New technologies were on the horizon but there was no money for production.  As a result we faced a very real probability of a land war in Europe.  The Soviets were outspending us 10 to 1 in development and production.

The Soviets had themselves an expensive Quaker cannon. There was no way in hell that they'd have invaded western europe, but back then you had to have access to secret intelligence to know that, since common sense is notoriously unreliable. Outspending us 10 to 1 in development and production? Like Kennedy's missile gap? You believe that?

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Without Regan's military rebuilding, we would have lost that war.

From every early we depended on tactical nuclear weapons to "defend" western europe. Our own theory said that tactical nukes would gradually escalate into global destruction. The russians promised they would never be the first to use nuclear weapons, and they said that the first time we used any nuke against them they'd immediately hit us with everything they had. Both sides officially believed that war in europe would result in extinction. Adding more conventional weapons would not have changed any of that, unless we got so strong we invaded eastern europe on the chance that the USSR would choose to lose a conventional war.

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Bush Sr. couldn't stop playing, "Let's Make a Deal".  Republicans were doing the best they could to give away the store.  While the Democrats were doing all they could to rob it blind.  As a result, we suffered. Government controls expanded.

This is vague and I agree in general.

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Bush Jr, with a country wanting change and real reduction of government; also played "Lets Make a Deal", Instead of getting out in front and leading.  Bush and the Republicans spent money hand over fist.  Also expanding government control.

Yes. I'm afraid this probably isn't anything new. For a long time politicians have made campaign promises and then did whatever they wanted and later blamed the lack of progress on their political opponents. "I didn't get everything we wanted. But I did bring home the bacon. Look at all this pork I got you!" The differences now are that it has gotten easier to see it, and that we're more at risk than we've been since roughly the war of 1812, and they're scraping the bottom of the pork barrel.

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With Obama, "We", "Got It", all right.

Yes. I voted for Obama because we needed a fundamental change and McCain looked tired, he looked like the status quo. But now Obama takes the path of least resistance every time. We can't keep going the way we've been, so I was ready to try something else, whatever he was ready to do. And instead he's like Bush. In spades. Just without the talk. I feel like a Johnson voter. They voted against Goldwater and then got the exact Goldwater policies from Johnson that they had voted against, without the good parts.

terry_freeman on August 09, 2010, 10:34:06 am
The Soviet threat was vastly overstated. As for Reagan, he sang a great tune about smaller government, but he brought us bigger government, including bigger military outlays.

I totally do not buy the nonsense about the Soviets outspending us. That never happened; it was a figment of the government's imagination, a deliberate disinformation campaign.

Anyone who is not obsessed with defending the idea of the American Empire can look at the numbers: American military spending exceeds that of almost all other countries in the wold combined. That means that Americans could fight against the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Mexico, China, France, Russia, North Korea, and the whole Middle East, and it would be a fair fight. We greatly outspend any conceivable enemy or combination thereof.

The Military Industrial Corporate Welfare Racket needs an external enemy to justify its expensive upkeep; the more nebulous and widespread and mysterious the threat, the better. Reagan swallowed that hook, line, and sinker. He may think he brought down the USSR, but it was already teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and the American government is likely to follow, at the rate it is taking on debt.

It isn't external enemies who will destroy the American government; when they do arrive, they'll merely be administering an act of assisted suicide, aided by the colossal hubris of the Beltway Bandits.

 



jamesd on August 09, 2010, 09:16:20 pm
The Soviet threat was vastly overstated.

The theory had been that if we abandoned Indochina to the Soviet Union, they would be appeased.  Instead the reverse happened.   The dominoes were falling.   The Soviet Union boldly and rapidly spread Soviet domination further and wider.  This is what had people alarmed.

With containment discredited and unsuccessful, the only effectual strategy to deal with the Soviet threat was that which Reagan proposed:  Rollback.  As long as containment had seemed to work, it had been electoral suicide to advocate rollback.

Containment failed in Indochina.  As predicted, failure of containment set of a wave of falling dominoes. 

Momentum has significance.  The appearance was that the Soviet Union could win at any one place it chose.  So every nation sucked up to the Soviet Union for fear that they might be the next one place.  They all kissed ass in the hope that they would be the last to be devoured.

Suddenly rollback became popular among the voters.

The left claimed the Soviet Union was strong and winning, and that to confront it would be suicide.  Reagan claimed that the Soviet Union was weak and winning, and that confronting it would be easy.  As events proved, confronting it was easy.

The Soviet threat was the core of Reagan's campaign and program, and the center of his policy once
elected.

Rollback is what shattered the illusion of Soviet might, broke the will of the Soviet Union, and caused people to cease to fear it.  And when they ceased to fear it, that was the primary cause of the collapse.

The disaster in Vietnam had led to a world wide crisis of expanding Soviet power.  The bloodbaths had happened as predicted, the dominoes were falling as predicted, Soviet troops were now stationed on the mainland of Latin America.

Reagan proposed a solution to that crisis:  Rollback, instead of containment.

The people voted for it, Reagan implemented it, it worked.

Democrats were in denial about Reagan's campaign program, because they in denial about Soviet world domination, and the consequences of  the failure of containment.

Reagan was campaigning on the basis of what was actually happening in the world.

Carter and the democrats were campaigning as if things had actually turned out the way the opponents of the war in Vietnam had erroneously predicted they would turn out.  They were campaigning in the world that they wanted to imagine that they lived in.

I still today hear people in this newsgroup making scornful remarks about bloodbaths and dominoes, as if the bloodbaths had not happened, and the dominoes had not fallen.

By the standards that everyone had accepted and taken for granted in the period 1950-1970, what happened during 1976-1979 was a catastrophe, a cataclysm.

For twenty five years, for a generation, the US government had regarded any substantial Soviet advance as intolerable, as cause for spending vast amounts of blood and treasure to prevent.

In the four years 1976 to 1979 there were numerous major Soviet advances, any one of which would have been held to have been a major defeat, a crisis worthy of vast amounts of blood and treasure, during the period 1950 to 1970.

The seventies, were the high point of Soviet dominance, when it seemed that the Soviet Union was indeed riding the forces of history to a predestined triumph, and all the governments of the world were kissing up to them.

By about 1968 it became obvious to the most intelligent and best informed that the Soviet Union was going to win in Vietnam, and that following its victory many dominoes would fall.  In Australia, many thought this process would run right up to the shores of Australia, probably taking Indonesia, though probably not New Guinea.

By around 1970 it also became obvious that the attempt to transform humanity by non violent means -- voluntary communal living, participatory democracy, and consciousness transforming drugs, was a dismal failure -- that each one of these projects was an utter failure and complete disaster.  At the same time the world triumph of the Soviet Union appeared imminent.

This change in the hope for transforming man caused a change in the nature of the western left.  During the seventies treason, always a strong point of the movement, became the defining and critical element.  A grim and rigid ideological conformity became required.  Orthodoxy and utter humorlessness came to be required.  The internal organization of the left manifested a loss of faith in voluntary means for transforming mankind for the better, and the acceptance of harshly authoritarian program whereby the best people, ourselves, would make everyone else as virtuous as we were, by violent means.

In 1975 the dominoes began to fall, more slowly and less of them than many had feared or hoped, but still a tremendously impressive process, not at all disappointing. What we had long imagined was finally becoming real.   And as it became real, it became necessary to discard certain hypocrisies and double think -- for example it became obvious that the process was one of external conquest, not internal revolution,  The NLF were insignificant in the takeover of South Vietnam, and when their  usefulness as a propaganda tool for maintaining the pretense of revolution ended, they too were ended, were executed or imprisoned in camps from which few ever returned.  With perfect unanimity, the entire left, from moderate to radical, from supposedly non socialist to flaming socialist, defended the abrupt disappearance of a group they had a short time before loudly identified with and enthusiastically praised, and with glib confidence explained that external conquest really was internal revolution, for external conquest was what the people really willed.  With perfect unanimity we loudly focused on the quite genuine good intentions of those engaged in mass murder, and the benevolent purposes that regrettably required the wise and good to terrorize the entire population -- an argument that rapidly became distinctly unconvincing, particularly as some of those terrorized were distant relatives of mine.  The confident unanimity rapidly began to break down, particularly after George McGovern broke ranks, but while it held, it had a tone of extravagant certainty, the tone of confidentlyspeaking what everyone knows.

Because the process was of conquest and terror, not revolt, the dominoes fell more slowly than expected.   The process started to run slow, because each terror absorbed and held down a lot of troops and consumed lots of resources that the Soviet Union could ill afford.

By1980, five years after the fall of Vietnam, it became apparent that the Soviet Union had bitten off more than it could chew -- that world Soviet domination, though still perhaps inevitable, would take considerably longer than
expected.

By about 1985 those who were paying attention began to see that it was the Soviet Union, not the west, that was going to fall, and with that change in the perception came a change in the intellectual climate among the small but rapidly increasing number of people that were aware of what was happening, what was going to happen.


jamesd on August 09, 2010, 10:04:35 pm
I totally do not buy the nonsense about the Soviets outspending us. That never happened; it was a figment of the government's imagination, a deliberate disinformation campaign.


It is now apparent that the Soviets were spending about sixty percent of GDP on warfare and the military - which was not outspending us, since they were a lot poorer than reported.  But even though they were spending less than us, the important fact was that they were spending a lot more than they could afford, which meant that anything that upped the ante was likely to stress them to breaking.

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The Military Industrial Corporate Welfare Racket needs an external enemy to justify its expensive upkeep;

The Soviet Union really was our enemy.  After the Soviet Union fell, the case for a large military became a lot weaker.  We now have an external enemy, Dar al Islam, but it is not the kind of enemy that a large military is much use in dealing with.


J Thomas on August 10, 2010, 12:04:04 am
The Soviet threat was vastly overstated.

The theory had been that if we abandoned Indochina to the Soviet Union, they would be appeased.  Instead the reverse happened.   The dominoes were falling.   The Soviet Union boldly and rapidly spread Soviet domination further and wider.  This is what had people alarmed.

There's a saying that you're entitled to your own opinions, but you aren't entitled to your own facts.

You have your own facts, and you aren't entitled to them. But I don't see how anybody can take them away from you.

What color is the sun for your planet?

J Thomas on August 10, 2010, 12:15:31 am
I totally do not buy the nonsense about the Soviets outspending us. That never happened; it was a figment of the government's imagination, a deliberate disinformation campaign.


It is now apparent that the Soviets were spending about sixty percent of GDP on warfare and the military - which was not outspending us, since they were a lot poorer than reported.  But even though they were spending less than us, the important fact was that they were spending a lot more than they could afford, which meant that anything that upped the ante was likely to stress them to breaking.

Likely they were stressed past breaking already. Chernobyl was a great big stress on top of that, probably more than our military buildup -- because we weren't going to invade them, so what did it matter how much we outspent them?

Various people believe that Chernobyl was a CIA plot. I have no credible evidence about that. I have only a joke, a riddle:

Question: How do you know that Chernobyl was not a CIA plot?
Answer: It blew up, didn't it?

We had Three Mile Island, Russia had Chernobyl. We had Vietnam, Russia had Afghanistan. Did we need a great big military buildup to finance the Islamists in Afghanistan? Probably not.

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The Military Industrial Corporate Welfare Racket needs an external enemy to justify its expensive upkeep;

The Soviet Union really was our enemy.  After the Soviet Union fell, the case for a large military became a lot weaker.  We now have an external enemy, Dar al Islam, but it is not the kind of enemy that a large military is much use in dealing with.

That competition was kind of like a potlach. One side invades a third world nation and pays ruinous expenses to blow the place up while the other side supports the resistance. Then they switch roles.

And when the USSR had to drop out because they just couldn't afford it any more, we kept playing! Now we've pretty much bankrupted ourselves with no competitor to egg us on. A strange game indeed.

jamesd on August 10, 2010, 03:32:39 am
The Soviet threat was vastly overstated.

The theory had been that if we abandoned Indochina to the Soviet Union, they would be appeased.  Instead the reverse happened.   The dominoes were falling.   The Soviet Union boldly and rapidly spread Soviet domination further and wider.  This is what had people alarmed.

There's a saying that you're entitled to your own opinions, but you aren't entitled to your own facts.

And the facts are that following the fall of Vietnam: Cambodia, Laos, Ethiopia and Somalia immediately fell, and the most savage and dreadful wrath was unleashed upon their defenseless people.  Afghanistan, Grenada, and Nicaragua fell not very long afterward, though with less dramatic and horrifying brutality.

This scared the piss out of everyone, resulting ludicrously one sided votes in the UN as everyone kissed up to the Soviet Union, hoping to be the last to be devoured.

The facts are that the Soviets established a base in the Americas, from which to launch aggression upon the countries of central America, and had started to do so, to which most of Latin America, like the UN, responded by kissing up to the Soviet Union in the hope of being last to be devoured.

 

anything