Governments are advised to go out of their way to make sure that back-up systems in terms of medium-to-long-term food supply, fuel supply and medicine supply are in place so that the consequences of a breakdown in the system of global trade can be minimised.
President Barack Obama may have quietly placed the United States on a war preparedness footing, perhaps in anticipation of an outbreak of war between Israel, the West, and Iran. A newly-propounded Executive Order, titled “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” renews and updates the president’s power to take control of all civil energy supplies, including oil and natural gas, control and restrict all civil transportation, which is almost 97 percent dependent upon oil; and even provides the option to re-enable a draft in order to achieve both the military and non-military demands of the country, according to a simple reading of the text.
Intriguing. When I started writing this blog, I didn’t expect my (frankly rather obscure) subject matter to spread to the Oval Office. Certainly, this suggests that the executive branch of government is considering topics of resource security, food security and energy security. At least they are aware of the fragility.
But government officials warned that bin Laden was about to strike in Summer 2001. They were aware of a fragility then, too. But that was not enough.
Western nations should have long ago employed philosophers versed in Heraclitus, Seneca and Sun Tzu to determine national policy, instead of quants, wonks and statisticians versed in obscure non-reality-based masturbatory mathematical models. Mathematical and computational modelling is totally captive to its input parameters. It only deals in known knowns and known unknowns, never the problems of unknown unknowns (i.e. black swans) or unknown knowns (i.e. incompetence). Models also always generalise to an extreme degree, brushing over the beautiful synergistic and unique complexity of reality.
Everything changes and nothing remains still and you cannot step twice into the same stream
The real question then, is whether these late and frankly emergency measures will be sufficient. Of course, there is no time like the present to address the problem of Western weakness to global trade fragility and external resource dependency, and the fact that we are extremely vulnerable to energy shocks, resource shocks, and manufacturing shocks. It should be noted, though, that we shouldn’t be in this place at all. Our dire position today has been built slowly decision by awful decision, over decades.
So is putting the U.S. on a war economy footing really addressing these problems? Frankly, it strikes me of panic. And Obama’s people are absolutely right to panic. With Israel seemingly getting ready to hit Iran (although I am still very sceptical that Netanyahu favours this course of action) and infuriate the Eurasian powers who will instantaneously blame America for this incursion into their sphere of influence, a disastrous trade shock or energy shock could be with us any month now, unless America can convince Israel to express their (relatively real) national security concerns in a more peaceable fashion.
But I do have a problem with the document’s rationale:
The United States must have an industrial and technological base capable of meeting national defense requirements and capable of contributing to the technological superiority of its national defense equipment in peacetime and in times of national emergency.
That’s the document’s centrepiece. Maintaining the military-industrial complex. Maintaining the crux of American imperial power. No, no, no. It is this approach that got us into this mess in the first place. We need to jettison imperial largesse.
Centralised control and central planning is always and by definition fragile. In order to really address the problem Obama needs to address the nation’s inbuilt economic immune system: private enterprise should be set free to develop organic supply chains based not on the whims and fancies of central planners, but instead based on the needs and demands of the complex and multi-dimensional marketplace of society (a thing that cannot be fully expressed by any partial differential equation, graph, or meta-analysis). Only through this approach can we get to a place where international trade shocks do not damage the United States’ economy.
In an ideal world this would be an economy composed of robust, artisanal and seasonal manufacturing, artisanship, and craftsmanship (e.g. 3-D printing). Agriculture which not only produces enough to feed the local population but also treats the land with proper care. Energy networks, resource networks and transport networks that can withstand shocks and natural disasters, and keep the nation and free marketplace of society flowing through testing times. And yes — a national defence program that neutralises external threats without having to occupy foreign lands, or engage in nation building (I still believe mutually assured destruction fits these criteria rather well, but not if we are dependent on foreign oil). Jobs programs that deliver workers and ideas to where the market and society need them, not to where central planners or technocrats see best fit. And a currency and financial system that is based on value creation, not hyper-fragile multiplicative debt where one large default can obliterate the system.
The problem is that such a transition takes time. The problems that we are facing built up and metastasised over decades of deeply, morbidly flawed policy. I understand the need to move rapidly and purposefully to address the problems of a breakdown in resource, energy and transportation infrastructure.
I ask only that the President make upholding the above principles of economic robustness — as well as those liberties enshrined in the Constitution which he swore to uphold and defend, and which the National Defense Authorization Act trampled into the mud — his highest goal.
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