A Potent Nostalgia: Chapter 1

Once upon a time we nomads settled down and created agriculture. The efficiencies of that agriculture released labour for both trade and the trades which in turn evolved centres of production and consumption which we know as rural villages, harbour towns and market towns. I’ll leave aside the influences (usually malign) of power in the simultaneous creation of walled cities, fortresses, trade blocs, dukedoms, ring roads, cloned towns, retail parks, gated communities and distorted and perverse social systems.

The Twilight of Investment

One of the more intriguing features of the current economic debacle is the way that remedies that have often worked in the past have failed so thoroughly this time around. Another is the way that remedies that have failed every time they have been tried in the past have failed this time, too. Behind the inability of central bankers to deal effectively with the crumbling of the global economy, though, stands a major shift in the shape of economic activity — one that promises to leave few aspects of modern economic life untouched.

Eating our way to a better world? : A plea to local, fair-trade, organic food enthusiasts

The organic and fair-trade industries are booming, Farmers Markets are the new norm, the word “locavore” was added to the Oxford Dictionary, and Michelle Obama even planted a White House garden. But agribusiness continues to consolidate power and profit, small farmers worldwide are being dispossessed in an unprecedented global land grab, over a billion people are going hungry, and agriculture’s contributions to climate change are increasing. It’s not just that change is slow, but we actually seem to be moving in the opposite direction than alternative food movements are trying to take us.

Review: Jeff Rubin on The End of Growth

Jeff Rubin is currently touring his new book, The End Of Growth. As the former Chief Economist for CIBC World Markets he brings an intimate knowledge of financial markets and how they work to the peak oil/end of growth community populated by other venerable thinkers such as Richard Heinberg, Chris Martenson and John Michael Greer.

Withdrawing from the global village

The world’s elites don’t want to admit it. But the kind of global village that they have insisted on building–a vast free-trade paradise run by an ever more complex and opaque system of logistics and finance–isn’t working, not even for many of them. The cost of maintaining this brittle, complex system and keeping the huge imbalances it creates at bay is becoming dizzyingly expensive.

America: The Eagle and the Lion

Critics of today’s American empire too often seem to believe that it’s something unique in world history. It’s hard to think of better evidence for the pervasive historical illiteracy of American intellectuals, for nearly all the charges leveled against America’s empire today were made, with even better justification, against the British Empire that preceded it. The interaction between these two empires — the British lion and the American eagle — defined much of what we now call the modern world, and set the stage for the decline of American empire now looming in the near future.

America: The Two Empires

There’s a fascinating parallel between the rise of America’s first overseas empire and the emergence of her petroleum industry. The age of oil, in fact, can be seen as an empire of time — the exploitation of the distant past for the benefit of the present — just as empire in the usual sense is an empire of space, the exploitation of distant countries for the benefit of one imperial nation. The two patterns would emerge together to drive a new mode of imperial expansion — one with a sharply limited shelf life.

America: crossing the line

Understand the economics of empire, and you understand what drives the rise and fall of the imperial trejectory America is following right now. That understanding requires a willingness to let go of the economic notions of the mainstream as well as those of the alternative scene, to test received ideas against the touchstone of history, and to pay close attention to the gap between what industrial economies are supposed to do, and what they do in the real world. The late 19th century, as America moved toward global empire, offers a clear test case.