I Have Seen the Future And It Sucks

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I don't see it on the website, but I definitely want to get my mitts on a copy of this report by the UK's Ministry of Defense.

The 90-page report comments on widely discussed issues such as the growing economic importance of India and China, the militarisation of space, and even what it calls "declining news quality" with the rise of "internet-enabled, citizen-journalists" and pressure to release stories "at the expense of facts". It includes other, some frightening, some reassuring, potential developments that are not so often discussed.

Such as chip implants and:

"The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx," says the report. The thesis is based on a growing gap between the middle classes and the super-rich on one hand and an urban under-class threatening social order: "The world's middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest". Marxism could also be revived, it says, because of global inequality. An increased trend towards moral relativism and pragmatic values will encourage people to seek the "sanctuary provided by more rigid belief systems, including religious orthodoxy and doctrinaire political ideologies, such as popularism and Marxism".

This is loopy, isn't it? Marxism generally doesn't go on the march unless there's some hyperpower putting it on the march, funding the failed states that adopt it. There are left-wing indigenous movements that are rattling the systems of some weaker nations, and that won't abate any time soon, but a proletariat rising up and taking over the means of production? At the same time that cheaper trade and more available goods are making their lives easier, even as, yes, the "super-rich" earn more money? I'm not sure we should worry about this. And we shouldn't worry about Iran:

Iran will steadily grow in economic and demographic strength and its energy reserves and geographic location will give it substantial strategic leverage. However, its government could be transformed. "From the middle of the period," says the report, "the country, especially its high proportion of younger people, will want to benefit from increased access to globalisation and diversity, and it may be that Iran progressively, but unevenly, transforms…into a vibrant democracy."

In the future, some other country will have to take their lunch money. Has anyone checked in with the Argies?

NEXT: Under the Bridge Downtown

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  1. Heaven forbid that bloggers taint the world renowned UK “news quality”.

  2. Why the scare quotes around super-rich?

  3. Why the scare quotes around super-rich?

    Because the super-rich are evil and need to be despised because they’re… umm… super-rich.

  4. Predictions of an increasingly polarized future, rather than a more dynamic future, always strike me as unimaginative.

  5. If I’m not mistaken, the whole concern about economic inequality spawns from Marxian doctrine about class struggle. But it doesn’t seem to me that this is an issue of particular concern these days. Are people really running around hating the rich because they’re rich? If anything, people seem to hate particular rich people because they are jerks, idiots, pretentious meddlers or all of the above.

    Myself I could care less about how Warren Buffet lives. He’s probably more stressed out than I am, even if he can afford a nicer vacation.

  6. I don’t know any middle class people who could revolt their way out of a paper bag.

    Unless you get credit card points or a Best Buy rebate for attending revolutionary cell meetings it ain’t gonna happen.

  7. Sire, the people are revolting!

  8. Are people really running around hating the rich because they’re rich?

    People who do hate the rich hate them because rich people put rules and mores in to place that make it easier for rich people to make and hold on to wealth than middle class or poor people can.

    Right now most middle class people think that the rules are reasonably fair, on balance. T. is an excellent example of this, satisfied with his healthcare and life, and basically a staunch defender of the status quo, regardless of which political party he supports at a given time.

    Things may stay this way of they may change. If enough people, situated like our T., suffer bankruptcy or foreclosure, then something akin to Marxism may emerge (although they probably wouldn’t call it that). I think it is more likely that there will be some soft relief valves to relieve this pressure before anything violent or revolutionary happens. One possibility is a softening of real-world consequences for personal bankruptcy. Another possibility, more disturbing to me as a libertarian, is that there will be some kind of legislative relief.

  9. The super rich give themselves a higher tax rate?

  10. The super rich give themselves a higher tax rate?

    The super-rich wield their influence so that income is taxed instead of wealth. The super-rich wield their influence so that the wealth taxes they do have to abide (eg, property tax, capital gains) are notprogressive taxes.

    If the middle class could re-write the tax code, it would look a lot different.

    The super-rich endow much nicer magazines and blogs than the middle class do, although the best commenters come from the middle class.

  11. Myself I could care less about how Warren Buffet lives. He’s probably more stressed out than I am, even if he can afford a nicer vacation.

    By all accounts, Buffett lives very modestly and, because he loves what he does, probably doesn’t suffer much from stress, either.

  12. I usually disagree with Dave, but I have to agree that the present tax code seems designed to prevent capital accumulation by individuals, so that capital aggregators like investment banks will remain the gatekeepers of large economic organization.

    It’s practically impossible to earn your way into being an organization of any size. It still happens sometimes, but it’s much more common to gain size by employing an investment bank to aggregate the capital that the tax code would inhibit you from saving.

  13. If the middle class could re-write the tax code, it would look a lot different.

    Oh, iff only there were some way for the vast majority of eligible voters to have some effect on legislation…

  14. I can’t see Iran growing economiclly. You can’t have a government run by totalitarian lunatics and also have economic growth. Yeah, Iran may build nuclear weapons and optain a kind of global importance by threatening people the way a country like North Korea or Russia has, but I can’t see it ever being a important country will real wealth and economic power the way the United States or Japan is and India is becoming.

  15. You can’t have a government run by totalitarian lunatics and also have economic growth.

    The US has had growth in the past several years.

  16. Count de Money! Count de Money!

  17. Oh, iff only there were some way for the vast majority of eligible voters to have some effect on legislation…

    The current tax code is a compromise. The people with votes compromise with the people with money through the medium of politicians. Nobody totally gets their way.

    I don’t think the particular compromises reflected in the tax structure are particularly wise ones, but I do like this idea of compromise.

    As I have written on other threads (posts wiped probably), I would like the tax structure to be rewritten so that wealth taxes pay for the government expenditures that benefit the wealthy (eg, military) and income / consumption taxes pay for the things that benefit the middle class and poor (eg, social spending). When the same economic class that benefits pays the tax, then the spending is more disciplined and efficient. The particular political compromises of the current system don’t really do this.

  18. I love my people!

  19. “The US has had growth in the past several years.”

    Yeah we are a real totalitarian country all right Thoreau. Have you really turned into that big of a troll? If you have, I won’t feed you and dignify something that stupid and is not even particularly funny with a response.

  20. Dave W,

    The middle-class will never give up its home mortgage interest deduction even though it makes no economic sense at the macro level. The middle class do have some clout in how tax laws are written.

  21. If we’re going to impose taxes, it should be on consumption. Doing away with wealth and income taxes will encourage saving and career/class mobility.

    and Dave W, just out of curiosity, what is it that the military does for the rich that it does’t do for me?

  22. Sire! We look alike!

    Mon semblable!

  23. Does anybody know if this report was created by using a Ouiga Board or a Magic 8 Ball?

  24. and Dave W, just out of curiosity, what is it that the military does for the rich that it does’t do for me?

    Defends the US against Communism.

    Keeps the oil from being nationalized and/or attempts to privatize the oil where it is nationalized.

    Provides business opportunities in the field of government contracting.

    Arguably some of these positive economic effects trickle down, just as some of the benefits of social spending trickle up, but I am of the opinion (and I don’t expect anyone here to agree) that who bears the tax in the primary instance matters more from the twin perspectives of efficiency and justice than the trickle ups & downs.

    Then there is what the military does not do:

    Prevent attacks on American soil.

    Ensure compliance with immigration laws at the border.

  25. I’ll only start disliking the rich when the poor poeple start providing jobs.

  26. In the long run, the future will kill you.

  27. Very well, John. A more serious response: the USSR had considerable economic growth between 1930 and 1940, despite the handicap of the purges and forced collectivization. The Third Reich increased its industrial production by a factor of sixteen between 1942 and 1945 despite the handicap of Allied bombing and a near-total blockade of Europe. Even Myanmar’s economy continues to grow fitfully.

    You are racing to a conclusion based on your personal feelings rather than evidence, which is not surprising to those of us who still read your posts. Lot of that kind of “analysis” going around these days, I guess, but the MoD has to view the situation more objectively.

    Incidentally, I take issue with the statement that Marxism only marches forward when it has a hyperpower backing it up. How does Mr Weigel believe Marxism captured a hyperpower in the first place? A more likely scenario has Marxists taking advantage of a global crisis that hits one country or region unusually hard.

  28. “thoreau | April 9, 2007, 9:19am | #
    Predictions of an increasingly polarized future, rather than a more dynamic future, always strike me as unimaginative.”

    WELL SPAKE!!!!!!!!!

  29. “How does Mr Weigel believe Marxism captured a hyperpower in the first place?”

    In a sealed train, courtesy of the Germans?

  30. The super-rich wield their influence so that the wealth taxes they do have to abide (eg, property tax, capital gains) are not progressive taxes.

    Almost. There’s still one tax that bothers rich people, the estate tax.

  31. John-

    We aren’t a totalitarian country, but our leaders are lunatics with totalitarian visions.

  32. Almost. There’s still one tax that bothers rich people, the estate tax.

    I am not a rich person and it bothers me too. Even when I was less “comfortable” than I am now I did not like it.

  33. Almost. There’s still one tax that bothers rich people, the estate tax.

    Sure thing. I would love to see the estate tax “earmarked” for military spending, and only military spending.

  34. WELL SPAKE!!!!!!!!!

    Thus Spake Thoreaustra?

  35. I am not a rich person and it bothers me too. Even when I was less “comfortable” than I am now I did not like it.

    So which taxes do you prefer? Are you itching to pay more income tax, or what?

  36. Defends the US against Communism.

    I don’t want to live under communism, so the military works for me, too.

    Keeps the oil from being nationalized and/or attempts to privatize the oil where it is nationalized.

    If you mean foreign oil, it doesn’t do it very well. Most Middle-eastern oil fields were nationalized out from under the western companies who built the infrastructure. Venezula is following suit. And as far as privatization efforts, you must be referring to our rousing success in Iraq. So the benefits the rich see from this one are dubious.

    Provides business opportunities in the field of government contracting.

    You’ve got a point there. But then, most gov’t agencies are little more than excuses for interest-group welfare. The FDA, DOA, DEA, OSHA, DOE all act dually as cash machines for respective interest groups and gatekeepers against unwanted competitiors. So thats not
    inherent to the military.

    Then there is what the military does not do:

    Prevent attacks on American soil.

    Ensure compliance with immigration laws at the border.

    It has probably deterred any number of attacks by foriegn powers, which is part of its function. The intelligence agencies failed to prevent 9/11 and the ’93 WTC attacks, which are the only ones I can think of after Pearl Harbor.

    And as for preventing people from seeking an honest and fruitful living in America, yeah, its not doing so well. Let me just get outraged about that real quick.

  37. Marxism generally doesn’t go on the march unless there’s some hyperpower putting it on the march, funding the failed states that adopt it.

    I guess now we know what the UN is going to do with their carbon tax revenues.

    After the villa on the Mediterranean gets paid for, of course.

  38. In the midst of all the mocking, it would be nice if someone – anyone – stopped to recollect that considering the awful scenarios is the professional obligation of a MoD. I believe it would be the FCO’s job to show how everything in the future will be a delightful fairyland of free candy and snuggable bunny wabbits.

  39. chocolate bunny wabbits?

    (and would chocolate chips suit as an ample patch for these holes I’ve acquired in the past few days? Also, I have candy cane rash from the confectionary “Big T” – does butterscotch help with the bum rash?)

  40. Then there is what the military does not do: Prevent attacks on American soil. Ensure compliance with immigration laws at the border.

    Neither of which is desirable. The military is an excellent tool to prevent an invasion by an organized military force before it reaches U.S. soil, and a desperation measure thereafter. It is not trained or equipped to prevent terrorist attacks within U.S. borders, or particularly prevent illegal border crossings by individuals.

    The Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force are designed to go places, destroy infrastructure, and hurt people. Do you really want that happening “on American soil?”

    An excellent example: The last time a U.S. military unit was deployed as a border security element a squad of soldiers followed their training and blew away a (legal) teenage shepherd. Do you really want such units, with tanks, grenades, assault rifles, and bayonets, patrolling the streets of your neighborhood?

    Homework: Review the history of the Posse Comitatus Act.

    considering the awful scenarios is the professional obligation of a MoD

    True. And remember, this is the U.K. MoD. Given recent trends in Britain, I’d guess that the conclusion of the report is, “The middle class is not sufficiently under government control.”

  41. Defends the US against Communism.

    I don’t want to live under communism, so the military works for me, too.

    That may be true, but you would lose a lot more under Communism than Warren Buffet. People poorer and lazier than you would actually stand to gain. The military is helping Warren Buffet to a much, much, much greater degree than it is helping you.

    Keeps the oil from being nationalized and/or attempts to privatize the oil where it is nationalized.

    If you mean foreign oil, it doesn’t do it very well. Most Middle-eastern oil fields were nationalized out from under the western companies who built the infrastructure. Venezula is following suit. And as far as privatization efforts, you must be referring to our rousing success in Iraq. So the benefits the rich see from this one are dubious.

    1. Oil infrastructure is also present in Afghanistan. North Korea, not so much.

    2. I was also referring to Iran.

    3. Dubious compared to what? Also, this “dubious” thing flags one of the problems of the current system. that is, wealthy people will go to a war with dubious benefits if that war is being paid for with middle class money. This will not happen if the wealth have to pay for the war themselves.

    Provides business opportunities in the field of government contracting.

    You’ve got a point there. But then, most gov’t agencies are little more than excuses for interest-group welfare. The FDA, DOA, DEA, OSHA, DOE all act dually as cash machines for respective interest groups and gatekeepers against unwanted competitiors. So thats not
    inherent to the military.

    No, but the military budgets are bigger. If you added up the budgets of all those agencies you mentioned, and put that number next to the budget for, oh, say, the air force, how do you think those numbers would compare?

    By the way, I don’t necessarily think the military would shrink if it were funded by wealth taxes, as I propose. However, I do think that the military would take on a size that reflected its economic benefits. I wouldn’t care so much if the military was big in that case, anyway. cause I wouldn’t be paying for it.

    Then there is what the military does not do:

    Prevent attacks on American soil.

    Ensure compliance with immigration laws at the border.

    It has probably deterred any number of attacks by foriegn powers, which is part of its function. The intelligence agencies failed to prevent 9/11 and the ’93 WTC attacks, which are the only ones I can think of after Pearl Harbor.

    Yeah, just like our old family cat Tommy kept away the elephants. How many times has France been attacked since WW2? Sweden? Did you know that Tim McVeigh was a combat veteran? Did you know that the anthrax in 2001 ultimately came from the US military? Do you think Flt 93 was shot down?

    And as for preventing people from seeking an honest and fruitful living in America, yeah, its not doing so well. Let me just get outraged about that real quick.

    Exactly! Like I said, the military helps some economic classes a lot more than others.

  42. Neither of which is desirable. The military is an excellent tool to prevent an invasion by an organized military force before it reaches U.S. soil, and a desperation measure thereafter. It is not trained or equipped to prevent terrorist attacks within U.S. borders, or particularly prevent illegal border crossings by individuals.

    The Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force are designed to go places, destroy infrastructure, and hurt people. Do you really want that happening “on American soil?”

    An excellent example: The last time a U.S. military unit was deployed as a border security element a squad of soldiers followed their training and blew away a (legal) teenage shepherd. Do you really want such units, with tanks, grenades, assault rifles, and bayonets, patrolling the streets of your neighborhood?

    Homework: Review the history of the Posse Comitatus Act.

    I don’t think I am making the thrust of my argument clear. I am not arguing here that the military should change what it does (although I do think Flt 93 should have been shot down).

    Rather, I am saying that based on what the military does do, that it is primarily the wealthy who most directly benefit and who should most directly pay.

    Having the wealthy pay for the military would make it more likely that the mexican border stays de-militarized. Having the wealthy pay for the military would make it more likely that the next war will be against Iran, rather than North Korea.

    If you share these policy objectives, then you should like my proposal.

  43. Larry and Hugh:

    What use do the middle class have for military force projection? Take the very expensive Trident-launching subs and aircraft carrier groups: These systems just aren’t necessary for homeland defense. I will acknowlege the deterrent value vs the USSR with the subs (and similarly, ICMBs). Why are they laying down a new nuclear missile sub in this era? The carriers served a non-defensive projection role through the Cold War. Who does force projection work for? I see that it works much better for “titans of industry” who are in a position to make huge geopolitical bets and actively seek conditions for payoff, either in the form of no chaos for existing business (“stability”), or big-stick diplomacy leading to deals and concessions. The middle class will certainly get some trickle-down effects, in cheaper goods and natural resources, but the big money accrues to the multinationals.

  44. “The military is helping Warren Buffet to a much, much, much greater degree than it is helping you.”

    Uh, so… maybe that’s because he has more stuff, and not because there’s a grand conspiracy to keep the poor man down?

    If a meteor was going to smash into the earth, Buffet stands to loose a lot more than me, but I’m not going to vote against the blow-up-the-meteor plan because I want us all to be Gloriously Equal Piles of Magma.

  45. If a meteor was going to smash into the earth, Buffet stands to loose a lot more than me, but I’m not going to vote against the blow-up-the-meteor plan because I want us all to be Gloriously Equal Piles of Magma.

    1. Communism is not about killing people. It is about having the government confiscate all the property and redistribute it. What you lose under Communism is your property, not your life. If you have more property, you lose more. if you have less property, you lose less. Simple, really.

    2. This morning out in the hall I heard a co-worker ask an immigrant from the Soviet Union (Russia, I think) if she had a TV in her bedroom under Communism, in addition to the one in her living room. She laughed and said, “of course.”

    3. This post will probably be misinterpreted as some kind of support for Communism. If you are replying to that effect: please, don’t.

  46. Communism is not about killing people.

    Yeah, the mass murder is just, you know, incidental. Call it collateral damage.

    What you lose under Communism is your property, not your life.

    100 million corpses would disagree.

  47. What exactly is “popularism”? That sounds scary.

  48. Yeah, the mass murder is just, you know, incidental. Call it collateral damage.

    I would call that resistance to Communism, rather than Communism. the only thing more deadly than resistance to Communism is resistance to Capitalism.

    I prefer Capitalism, but I would prefer it a lot, lot, lot more if I were Warren Buffet.

  49. I would call that resistance to Communism, rather than Communism.

    Blame the victim much, Dave?

    In any event, I believe that the vast majority filling those mass graves weren’t so much “resisting” Communism as simply surplus to its requirements.

  50. Dave, you’re not factoring in the massive quality of life decrease the middle class would suffer under Communism. Sure, Buffet would lose more, but that’s because he has more to lose. Everyone would still suffer greatly. The point about the meteor striking earth is aprapos.

  51. In any event, I believe that the vast majority filling those mass graves weren’t so much “resisting” Communism as simply surplus to its requirements.

    By that token, you could also say that they were not so much murdered as allowed to perish.

    But remember, this discussion is not about whether Communism is good or bad. It is bad; we agree; end of discussion on that. This discussion is about who should pay to fight the bad thing.

  52. keith and Dave W,

    I’m not defending the military-industrial complex. Rather, I maintain that bloated military spending is a symptom of the general malaise of the government handing out economic favors in exchange for increased power.

  53. 1. Communism is not about killing people…

    2. This morning out in the hall I heard a co-worker ask an immigrant from the Soviet Union (Russia, I think) if she had a TV in her bedroom under Communism, in addition to the one in her living room. She laughed and said, “of course.”

    3. This post will probably be misinterpreted as some kind of support for Communism. If you are replying to that effect: please, don’t.

    As somebody who just returned from living 2 years in a former Soviet state, I can assure you that the majority of people in the Soviet Union didn’t have separate bedrooms to have a TV in.

    The number one cause of home fires in the Soviet Union was exploding TVs. Ignoring all the deaths that were caused by purges, famines etc. we know that communism killed people with their exploding TVs that invariably sat in a room that people slept in (because most living rooms were also bedrooms).

    I don’t think your post is some kind of support of communism but it seems to get the reality of communism all wrong.

  54. we know that communism killed people with their exploding TVs that invariably sat in a room that people slept in

    Actually, that isn’t because of communism. It is lack of a tort system. Same thing would have happened here in North America except for fear of product liability suits.

    it seems to get the reality of communism all wrong.

    The reality is that the Soviet Union got the theory of Communism all wrong. China was getting it wrong for a while, too. Now they seem to be doing a better job with it. I would still prefer not to live under Chinese rule, but they seem to have back on the purging and killing pretty good.

  55. Actually, that isn’t because of communism. It is lack of a tort system. Same thing would have happened here in North America except for fear of product liability suits.

    No, in the US, exploding TVs wouldn’t be sold because nobody would buy them when non-exploding TVs offered a much more enjoyable experience.

    While it would have been great if all those Soviet citizens could have sued for their TVs exploding, their TVs never would have exploded if a competitive marketplace resulted in TVs on the market that managed to not explode.

    It’s kind of the brilliance of capitalism.

  56. As I read Weigel’s doctrinaire reaction to this mildly plausible speculation, I first had an image of St. Igantius, but it was quickly replaced by that of Alfred E. Newman. I propose that the new libertarian slogan be “What, me Worry?” God, ideologies really do make people stupid, don’t they?

  57. While it would have been great if all those Soviet citizens could have sued for their TVs exploding, their TVs never would have exploded if a competitive marketplace resulted in TVs on the market that managed to not explode.

    No, because that assumes a competitive marketplace in TVs. It was the (potential) lawsuits.

  58. Oh god, yet another asinine “tastes great – less filling” argument.

  59. China was getting it wrong for a while, too. Now they seem to be doing a better job with it.

    Here I thought Communism was all about getting rid of private property and capital markets. And it turns out that (re)introducing these to your society is “doing a better job of getting Communism right”?!

  60. Here I thought Communism was all about getting rid of private property and capital markets. And it turns out that (re)introducing these to your society is “doing a better job of getting Communism right”?!

    No, Communism is about the government controlling the property. It works better when the property is allocated in an economically efficient manner than when it is allocated in an economically inefficient manner. Market mechanisms can help, but this should be mistaken neither for free markets, nor for an absence of Communism.

    China is a better place for a guy like Warren Buffet than it was when I was born in 1967. Still he is better off living under US law and using Chinese labor. He will pay good money, if he has to, to make sure he can continue in this way.

    I hadn’t known that China had capital markets prior to the introduction of communism there. I am not sure the standard of living was that good there either then.

  61. No, Communism is about the government controlling the property.

    So how is the ChiCom government incrementally giving up control of property to private individuals and limited markets the perfection of Communism, again?

  62. Dave W,

    The Shanghai Stock Exchange began in 1891 and was suspended after revolution in 1949.

  63. So how is the ChiCom government incrementally giving up control of property to private individuals and limited markets the perfection of Communism, again?

    Because the ChiCom gov’t will take the property back if it ever feels that the private individuals are no longer acting in the public interest. The private property privileges may or may not turn out to be temporary and illusory.

    From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs. The earlier Communists seemed to assume that these needs were limited to things like food, water, medical care and shelter. they now understand that the needs of successful businesspeople are a bit more expansive. So they are gradually giving these businesspeople the things they need to do what they do.

    I don’t think the ChiCom government will continue to expand private property rights. the profit motive, such as it is there now, is probably sufficient to attract the capital. On the other hand, I can imagine scenarios where the government would take its property back in a hurry. Which is one reason that Warren Buffet won’t be moving his body or assets there anytime soon.

  64. Dave, dude, give it up, man.

    You’re embarrassing yourself, arguing that Communism is best implemented through private property and free markets.

    The ChiComs aren’t the least bit interested in achieving some kind of Communist utopia any more. What they are after now is crony capitalism. With a fascist face.

  65. There is no state under communism.

  66. What they are after now is crony capitalism. With a fascist face.

    I think this is one of those “you say tomayto, I say tomahto issues.”

    The point in this thread is that Warren Buffet and Bill Gates will be happy to pay for all the soldiers and guns needed to make sure that the US goes not down this path.

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