Krugman, Trump and Geopolitics

In an article published in the New York Times on 5 September („Trumpism Is Bad for Business“), Paul Krugman sharply criticized the economic sanctions imposed on China. Not only do they cost the consumers of his country dear because it is they who pay the added tariffs, but American agricultural suffers too because China does no longer by its products. The international „supply chain“ cannot be damaged without all those involved suffering severely. The result is already obvious: Instead of making America „great“, Trump is producing the opposite result.

From the perspective of Trump and his voters

things looked quite different at the beginning. America’s industrial landscape was – and still is – marked by rust belts: the ruins of abandoned industries that disappeared in the US because they were relocated to China. Hundreds of thousands of relatively high-wage jobs were either completely destroyed or replaced by lower paid ones. Moreover, polls revealed that a majority of Americans considered China to be the greatest threat to their country. The American population had been seized by a diffuse uneasiness about the policies of the two major parties. Trump brought about a turnaround in that he was clearly aware of this protest. He dared to change direction embarking on the path of protectionism with his own undiplomatic recklessness.

The cause for the dismantling of the United States

as a major industrial power could, of course, already be felt in the late seventies. During the first three post-war decades, the US had still been the world’s undisputed military and economic superpower. The war had bled Europe and Japan to death, and other states had not yet emerged as threatening competitors. But already at the beginning of the eighties the tide began to turn: Germany and Japan became more and more important as serious industrial contestants. In this situation, an epochal turnaround began in the US, which was to fundamentally change both its economy and society and ultimately even threaten its rank as the leading world power.

American companies recognized,

that technologically simple processes could be outsourced to developing countries – even to those with hostile ideologies such as China – thus significantly reducing manufacturing costs. This decision must be called an epochal one because it forced America’s main competitors, Germany and Japan, to follow the US if they wanted to assert themselves on the world market against US products that were soon becoming much more competitive. In other words, since the beginning of the nineties at the latest, all industrialized Western countries had been forced to outsource ever larger parts of their own production – especially to China. This process was further facilitated by the fact that it received its official blessing from renowned economists. At that time Robert Reich wrote his famous book „The Work of Nations“, where this „international division of labor“ was openly recommended.

For the economic development of non-Western world,

especially for China, outsourcing was, of course, a tremendous opportunity. Development aid (which was not granted to communist countries anyway) could never have changed a country, still completely underdeveloped under Mao. But capitalist investors did so within a few years setting up their factories in Shenzhen and along the entire coast of China. China’s rise is even more impressive than that of Germany at the end of the 19th century when it had not only successfully imitated the industrial revolution initiated by England, but had already surpassed its former teacher. Unlike Germany and Japan, the Far East did not need a century for this exploit, but not more than three decades. China managed to copy and digest Western knowledge and skills so to speak overnight. As of now, it can already boast of having overtaken its original teachers in a number of areas or of being on the verge of doing so.

The terrible poverty in China was thereby substantially reduced

– a very desirable development. At the same time, however, the ecological footprint has increased dramatically and will continue to do so in the future – a very dangerous process indeed. China prefers to put on a green coat, pointing out that it has built the world’s largest wind farms on its territory. But this has to do with the fact that everything in China is big – including the addition of new nuclear power plants and more and more coal-fired power stations.

As Friedrich von Weizsäcker and Kurt Biedenkopf once said, the Western industrial model cannot be generalized leading the planet to ecological destruction. This is, of course, what mankind is busy doing at present. Ever larger parts of the world – including now the African continent as well – are being industrialized, and most of the energy needed in this process is being generated from fossil sources.

As far as the USA is concerned,

it was smart businessmen like Donald Trump, who in the eighties eagerly seized the opportunity to outsource production in order to save costs and thereby significantly increase international competitiveness. This fact is mostly forgotten when Trump and his followers blame China for the industrial decline of their country. Yes, it is true that until recently the USA was still the world leader in the fields of information technology and artificial intelligence, both having been mostly invented by Americans in the first place. Today, however, Chinese competitors like Huawei are not only sitting close behind them, they are on the verge of surpassing them. Even Boeing’s supremacy (like that of Airbus) is unlikely to last for much longer.

The trade war launched by Trump is nothing more than an expression of a feeling of panic. Everything indicates that the USA – unlike the Soviet Union under Gorbachev – will not let itself be pushed voluntarily and peacefully from the pedestal of the leading superpower.

We are used by now,

to see players purchased from other countries in most national football teams. World championships tend to be decided by money, i.e. by the financial clout of a national club when buying top athletes from abroad. The outcome of world contests would certainly look quite different if such practices were not possible and common. Likewise, the global economy would look completely different if the global trade chains existing due to outsourcing were to be torn apart. Can Donald Trump’s America really benefit from such a measure?

Certainly not at in the short run

Entire industries can easily be transformed into rust belts within a couple of months, but rebuilding them requires years or decades and the necessary skills must be furthered by a functioning educational system spread over the whole population. But America, though possessing some of the World’s top universities, has criminally neglected lowlevel general education.

Trump wants to get the lost jobs back to his country – a project for which he certainly deserves praise and for which we find no recipe in Krugman’s aforementioned article. Unfortunately, we can be certain that he will not be able to do this in the one or two terms of his presidency.

In the long term too, this project is bound to encounter great difficulties. If jobs were really to return to America, if, for example, Apple were to produce its iPhones only in the American homeland, the company would have to raise prices to such a degree that it would stand no chance against Samsung and other competitors. In other words, those American companies that today still dominate the world would quickly lose their position as globally dominant corporations even if remaining dominant on their home market (since the latter would be protected by customs duties). Even the transition to automated production with a minimum of manpower would not defuse the situation, because jobs would then be performed by machines.

China, on the other hand, would be only marginally

hit by this problem. As it continues to produce cheaper than most other countries, its products remain the most competitive everywhere. But, of course, if other countries follow the American example to protect their industries, China too would have to be more and more content with its home market.

For globally successful corporations

protectionism naturally amounts to a radical shrinkage, which some of them would hardly survive – free trade between the three major economic areas USA, Europe and China is already suffering heavy losses. This trend could intensify over time. Just as free trade in toxic waste from industrial to developing countries is no longer tolerated by the latter, it seems quite possible that more and more nations will no longer accept the dominance of cheap suppliers like China – world trade could then be substantially reduced.

The dominant paradigm,

that is, the accelerated industrialization of the entire globe at a pace that threatens to ruin it ecologically – will then undoubtedly be slowed down. That is the good news; the bad news is that free trade restrictions would particularly affect states like Germany. While American economic output is only twelve percent dependent on exports, the figure in Germany is a staggering forty-eight.

But the paradigm is being shaken in several ways. It is not just outsourcing that has given the top one percent of Americans fantastic riches, while at the same time making most of the rest of the population poorer by losing well-paid jobs of the past. In addition, this process meant that the wealth of Western industrial nations flowed in large streams to Asia because profits there were so much higher.

This is, of course, an old story, the supremacy of the once great English Empire was undermined in just the same way: English capital was looking for investments on the continent because it was attracted by larger profits. In other words, the richest Englishmen were busy eroding the supremacy of their country by financing future competitors. Since the eighties, the top one percent Americans, to whom Trump undoubtedly belongs, followed the same practice but instead of now blaming themselves for their country’s industrial decline they prefer to look for offshore scapegoats. On this point, they could have learned much a lot more from their Communist foe. Lenin once remarked that capitalists would still sell him the rope with which he could hang them.

In the face of the often unconsidered,

not to say stupid anti-Americanism, which is so widespread among European intellectuals, some may perhaps think that an abdication of the US as the world’s leading power is long overdue and even desirable. Shouldn’t everyone looking at American presidents like George W. Bush or Donald Trump necessarily conclude that a future hegemon China could hardly be more frightening even when led by an autocrat like Xi Jinping?

I take the liberty of quite firmly contradicting this objection. Without the military presence of the US, Putin would already have pushed through his cherished project to resurrect the Soviet Union not only in Crimea, but in other countries with strong Russian minorities – in Ukraine, war has been fermenting for years. Moreover, we should not forget that the „Slavic brother peoples“ enjoy Putin’s special attention.

Of course, one can endlessly argue about expansionist desires

In my view, it remains perfectly clear, however, that the departure from the bipolar world of the former superpowers US and Russia holds existential risks for the planet– much greater risks, I think, than during the 1960s when the nuclear confrontation between the two powers was at its height. For the new polycentrism of a growing number of industrialized states amounts de facto to the multiplication of nuclear-filled powder barrels. In the coming decades there will be even more North Koreas – states perfectly able to contaminate entire nations with nuclear radiation or even wipe them out completely. If Iran succeeds in equipping its existing missiles with nuclear heads, Saudi Arabia will, of course, want to follow suit. The situation resembles outsourcing or the purchase of top athletes. As soon as a single state starts the process, others follow it in order not to be left behind. Polycentrism is the worst thing that can happen to our children and grandchildren, perhaps even to ourselves. Not only do we need a United Europe, we even need a United World if we want our species to survive the 21st century. *1*

1 See Peace, War and Climate Change – a Call for New Strategies (Amazon)

Philosophy of life enhancing madness

A short story of lovable, life-giving, foolish, idiotic and dangerous mental confusion concerning oneself in particular and the human species in general

In our time, almost every mentally sane person willingly admits that no madness is greater than that of war, where people treat each other as if they were born with the purpose of ending up slaughtered for the sake of political gamblers who in this way live out their need for power and glory. Just because there are still wars even in our allegedly so progressive times, I would suggest that our kind should be denied once and for all the right to be called „(Homo) sapiens“. A realistic self-assessment as „Homo stupidus“ – or even „stupidissimus“ would be more to the point. Let’s not forget that wars have become much more murderous in the course of the past centuries.

At the time of the Renaissance,

an armed confrontation between Pisa and Florence still could be ended with a few mercenaries falling from the back of their horse. Since mercenaries wanted to profit from war but not to die from it, such an accident was enough to decide the battle and hence to conclude a peace treaty. This is what war looked like in the age of humanism in happy Italy. But meanwhile we may look back at half a millennium of progress! The surface bombings of World War II pursued the goal of exterminating people en masse, only that was considered real victory. But the still more progressive warlords of the present time are still not satisfied – they look scornfully at such backwardness. For them real progress consists in nothing less than comprehensive bacterial, chemical and nuclear warfare. In Japan, atomic bombs had already wiped out the entire populations of the two large cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But do not not believe that Homo stupidissimus considers this the final goal to be reached. Progress craves for a still more ambitious aim. It aims at the ultimate destruction of our species. And with some confidence we may assert that for the first time in history, man can boast that he has indeed come very close to this goal. No doubt, the war against man and nature has now entered its final stage – humanity is preparing for its collective end. Homo stupidissimus is about to live up to his name. Has he become tired of his own superfluous existence? That is how it looks. Despairing of his wisdom, he abandons himself to endless progress, that is to his longing for death and self-extinction.

Regarding our apparently relentless endeavor 

for the final destruction of man and the environment that supports him, we cannot but be amazed by human madness in its purest, most perfect, one might even say, it its most beautiful form. But please beware of drawing the all too trivial conclusion that madness in a less pure, less spectacular shape were something not to be found in times of peace. No, on closer look homo stupidissimus proves to be mad all the time, even when our leading scientists do not happen to work on a new generation of even more lethal bombs.

As you know, competition is a civil variant of war,

it is a mutual trial of strength, with the aim of rushing ahead of other people, to be better and to surpass them, or to throw them off course driving them into bankruptcy. If rules did not ensure that competition is kept within boundaries, companies would no longer improve their goods in small, often very laborious steps in order to find more buyers, but would send saboteurs and murderers against their competitors – as the Mafia does up to the present day. In other words, competition would turn into open and bloody war unless the state guarantees that it does not trespass the limits of civilized interaction.

But the rules of civilization apply only within a state and only as long as it is able to enforce them against the private interests of its most powerful subjects.Between states, these rules and regulations may be repealed at any moment. There is a continuous transition from trade to war, the first of its stages being appropriately called „trade war“. In this process, competitors are removed, currencies get into a race of devaluation against each other, unabashed dumping – initiated by strong states against weaker ones – unsettle the industries of competing countries. To be sure, international treaties are able to temporarily tame the predatory nature of homo stupidissimus, but so far this has never been possible in the long run.

Is a „better world“ therefore impossible?

We are wont to regard as unforgivable madness that people fight each other even in times of peace – if not with the weapons of bloody and direct destruction, then at least with economic weapons. These too enrich some but plunge many more into poverty. Is there really no other world possible, a world where no one would be obsessed with being better, smarter, richer, more powerful than his neighbor? Do we always have to live on the brink of war, a world where the state, with an enormous apparatus of justice and police, has to ensure that we do not cause our neighbor any physical pain when triumphantly pushing him aside – but still do not refrain from causing mental agony and insult?

Competition necessarily causes a few people to win, while most are losers. Does not such mental injury resemble a mass epidemic that makes entire societies mentally unhappy? After all, competition remains akin to war even if tamed – do we have to endure this madness forever only because modern society has made competition its ideological cornerstone and perfected it to the point of excess in modern neoliberalism?

Yes – it does exist: such a different and better world

Beware of asserting that a world without competition never existed and cannot possibly exist – this objection is simply untrue. It does not apply to our present time and certainly not to history as we know it. Almost everyone has experienced a completely different world when he was very young: the world of the family, where we gave according to our abilities, while we could take according to our needs. In the best of cases, there was not even a trace of competition. A mother cares for her child not because she expects any return from it, but for the simple reason that she loves it and it deserves her unselfish love because of its mere existence. This world of unconditional devotion and love marks the beginning in the life of almost every human being; it does, of course, stand in the greatest conceivable contrast to the world of competition, where nobody is allowed to take according to his needs and give according to his abilities, but must prove the latter if he wants to satisfy the former.

Probably, every utopia has its origin in this glorious past,

because everyone enjoying the privilege of being raised by a loving mother preserves this memory of what we may call the golden age of any personal biography. Yes, it seems hardly exaggerated to assert that the whole of humanity keeps this memory alive whenever it reflects on its own destiny. For in all utopias relating to a happy original state or a future paradise, neither competition nor, of course, open war may be found. In the utopian dream, happiness is granted to all people solely because they exist. The mere fact of being born gives them a right to happiness. Against this background, competition appears to be a sad aberration that leads people from happiness to misfortune. In other words, it is regarded as unforgivable madness. Even an enlightened, modern thinker like Karl Marx dedicated himself to such an utopia. To each according to his abilities, from each according to his needs– that was the type of paradise he wanted to establish.

Classless society

was meant to end the madness of competition for all time to come. Karl Marx’s fantasies of a classless society which would be a worldly paradise differs from similar utopias only by its pretension to bring utopia from heaven to earth. Marx thought that this lofty ideal could be realized even if the state were completely abolished as an organ of sovereign violence. Yes, according to Marx the state necessarily disappears for the very reason that classless society has eliminated all interpersonal conflicts. If people no longer have any reason to argue and fight with each other, what do they still need the state for?

Karl Marx understood the art of logical reasoning

Unfortunately, however, logic is often based on assumptions that condemn it to be nothing better than madness in the seductive guise of intelligence. Reality refuted the radical thinker from Trier not only during his lifetime, but with even greater evidence after his death. Under the bloody regime of an almighty state, then embodied in one single person, namely Mao Zedong, millions of people had to die in order to temporarily create a nation of little blue men who, at least from an external point of view, could be viewed as equal. Under Mao, the ideal of a classless society seemed to have been realized for the first time in a populous mass society. However, even idealists soon had to admit that its implementation required the use of murderous violence and even then, it could be upheld for a few years only. Far from dying, the state proved to be more powerful than ever. Indeed, classless society could only be realized by a state with the all the brutal strength of Leviathan.

Marx should have known

that his beautiful utopia, was, historically speaking, a building constructed on quicksand. As long as we are satisfied with a cursory glance on society, competition may indeed appear as deplorable madness. Without a doubt, it represents a form of war, albeit one that is bloodless and governed by rules. And it is also true that despite all taming it always and even inevitably creates wounds, because only winners are happy, but it always offends a lot more losers.

All of this is correct,

and yet when carefully weighing up pros and cons reason sees itself compelled to conclude that competition is indeed madness, but a life-promoting and in this sense a quite indispensable one. No healthy society can live without such madness.

At this point, the historian is bound to assist

the philosopher. After all, it is solely thanks to competition that since the eighteenth century a majority of people were able to free themselves from their slave-like subservience for the first time since the Neolithic Revolution! After about ten thousand years, even the masses were allowed to aspire to happiness!

To be sure, competition means struggle, and struggle is the opposite of inclination and love. But it would be a fallacy to believe that love and inclination prevail when and where competition is absent. After all, it is a historical fact that competition played only a marginal role all over the world until the rise of industry. In all the old major cultures, such as India, China, Central America and the leading countries of Europe, about ninety per cent of the population were condemned to serve as quasi-enslaved food suppliers for the top ten per cent. They were farmers when born and remained so until death because there was no competition that would have allowed them to prove their abilities and rise from their serving position. It was not competition that decided which privileges a man enjoyed or which miserable fate he had to endure until death, but the status conferred on him by his birth. For ninety percent of the population, this resulted in a „life sentence“ of undeserved toil or happy privilege. Furthermore, in the majority of all cultures (especially the most populous ones), the food suppliers – the lower ninety percent – were so squeezed by both their secular and their spiritual masters that what was left of their work was a bare minimum for survival. Peasant uprisings – the very opposite of harmony based on the absence of competition – were endemic all over the world, but even these uprisings never really changed the peasant’s miserable condition. Even in Luther’s day – and with his blessing – they were suppressed with unrestrained brutality by the top ten percent.

And peasants all over the world

used to be excluded from what counted as the high culture of their respective countries. Apart from very few exceptions, they could not and were not even allowed to read or write. What use would such knowledge bring them if their only purpose in life was to give the top ten percent a carefree existence, unworried by the hardship of daily toil? Until the 18th century, the books of history used to be written almost exclusively by those who belonged to the lucky few at the top of the social pyramid.

So, this is what society looked like,

before competition was allowed to emerge. Between the lower ninety percent and their masters competition was out of the question anyway. People died in the same position they had been born in. But even among the disadvantaged majority competition was virtually out of the question, because as a rule it only caused harm. If due to better methods or more individual endeavor a farmer succeeded in producing a better harvest than his neighbors, the tax collector immediately became aware of the surplus, and the next year the hapless farmer was forced to pay higher taxes. For this and no other reason – certainly not because of a lack of intelligence – farmers used to be arch-conservatives. They regarded every innovation with utmost suspicion, as they were required to pay for every additional yield. This was the merciless reality in societies bereft of competition. Freedom from competition far from creating a lucky and harmonious society was the real cause of its misfortune.

Only in the 18th century

did the world gradually came to change. Through industrial revolution, an overwhelming majority that in all large states had led a slave-like existence, was now exposed to competition. Not immediately – conditions at the first stage of industrialization proved to be even more brutal than previous conditions (here Karl Marx was perfectly right). But this was a transient evil. After some time the toiling masses found themselves liberated from the life-long impotence imposed upon them for several thousand years. In developed countries, three percent of farmers now suffice to produce the food for the remaining ninety-seven percent. And even these three percent enjoy a free choice of occupation. They are no longer condemned by birth to pursue this or any other profession. In an almost symmetrical way, history’s previous model was turned downside up.

The first step

of this greatest turning point after the so-called Neolithic Revolution consisted in the introduction of a general system of education. This was the necessary prerequisite for giving all people the opportunity to prove their abilities in competition. From now on, birth was no longer allowed to play a major role, in principle it should play no role at all. Social positions should be conferred on the basis of proven abilities. Thus, the most visible outcome of this institutionalized revolution were schools and universities. Now people were selected on the basis of ubiquitous competition.

Was this but rejuvenated madness

that was to put all people against each other, while before they had lived in comparative peace without competition? We have seen that such an assertion diametrically contradicts all historical evidence. Previously there had been far more cruel struggles: the struggles of a tiny minorities at the head of states against the overwhelming majority of rural populations, who were forced by threat of arms to work for the luxury of their masters. These were relentless struggles, reflected in permanent lamentations of the oppressed, but they were rarely recorded, since the masters wrote history and not their illiterate servants and slaves. Of course, uprisings now and then led to the overthrow of princes, but as long as no new sources of energy other than the muscles of humans and animals could be used on a great scale, i.e. until the 18th century, such coups d’état did not alter overall distribution. Only in states with quite small populations, it could happen that resources were more equally distributed. But in all major populous cultures, only heads were exchanged, without the relationship between a serving majority and an exploiting minority being at all modified. Indeed, there was no way out of this predicament. As long as most if not all physical work had to be carried out by means of human and animal muscles, there could be no real change. If ten per cent were to be released from work in the fields, then it was inevitable that a total of about ninety per cent would have to produce the food to maintain these and themselves.

Skeptical Philosophers

have a hard time with utopias – even if they would like them to come true. Of course, they are well aware that competition has never produced an ideal society. Nor will it succeed in doing so in the future. But competition has certainly inflicted far fewer wounds and injuries on its victims than the nearly competition-free regime of inherited privileges and handicaps mankind had to live with during the past ten thousand years. As long as a serving position or a title of nobility was simply placed in people’s cradle, an overwhelming majority were forced to remain lifelong losers.

There is no way to deny or embellish this evidence. Historically, it remains an undeniable fact that the great cultures and their masters ruthlessly exploited the serving majority. For them, the latter represented nothing more than human cattle or what today we use to call „human material“, destined to provide the lucky few at the top with the wherewithal of splendor and luxury.

But this evidence should not tempt the philosopher

to commit the opposite mistake of glorifying competition. The latter is always in danger of turning from its tamed, life-promoting function into open, unrestrained war. Much more serious, however, is the fact that competition, if not constantly kept within limits, always and indeed inevitably leads to an ever greater predominance of the victors, because in the course of time the latter infallibly manage to channel a steadily growing portion of social wealth into their own pockets, so that the gap between rich and poor becomes successively wider. This is the real danger inherent to competition and which up to now has never been overcome. In time, this advantage confers to the originally most competent players so much power that their descendants no longer have to be competent in order to maintain their position and even to fortify and extend it. The result soon becomes obvious. The privileges of birth, which competition had so successfully destroyed at the beginning, now creep back through the back door. Soon, the new monopolists of money and power again form a very small layer at the top of society. In the US they represent just one percent of overall population. This new aristocracy – a plutocracy – replaces the old one behaving just like its predecessor – it increasingly stifles competition for the highest available social positions.

In emerging countries such as China and India

this danger is hardly perceived, because the majority still enjoys its liberation from immemorial subservience. So, people pay little attention to the fact that the number of billionaires is constantly rising too. But the old industrial nations are all the more in the grip of wealth concentration, because the poor no longer increase their material well-being, but on the contrary begin to lose it – that is, relative to the rich top. Hence the ever louder protest against neoliberal capitalism.

This dangerous development, which through social unrest threatens to destroy all previous achievements, should be the main topic among social theorists and reformers – not Karl Marx‘ dream of a classless society, which against all historical evidence creates paradise on earth without competition.

Even if history were not to provide us

with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, such a dream could have easily been exposed as what it really is: well-intentioned madness made digestible only because of its highly complex and intellectually seductive theoretical overhead. We need only look into the individual history of almost every human being in order to hit at a convincing proof that competition plays a crucial role in the very biology of our species. While the infant still lives in inseparable symbiosis with his mother because his own self has not yet been fully developed, three-year-old children already tend to assert their ego with amazing stubbornness. There can be no doubt that even at this early age they start to compete with other persons for attention and praise. Later on, puberty and the years following it lead to an even deeper break. The adolescent often consciously rebels against his own parents and sometimes even against the rest of the world. This competition between generationsis a biological fact, and so is the resultant rebellion against traditional rules and teachings. Silence, cowardice, anxious restraint – i.e. harmony bereft of competition – are by no means put into our cradle, but are almost always forced upon us by the powers that be. We have seen that this has happened for nearly ten thousand years after the Neolithic Revolution.

Certainly, it would be just as much madness

to constantly oppose one’s own ego to those of all others – there must be refuges where man can find a rest from his militant inclinations – but it would be just as unforgivable madness to stifle the life-promoting, socially enriching and invigorating power of competition that results in the maximum development of all the talents slumbering within us. Among the enemies of a healthy society we find the extremists of both opposite camps. On the one hand, neo-liberalism, which has been given a great boost since the collapse of socialism at the start of 1990s. In ancient Rome already, its excesses led to the rich being first put on proscription lists and after that being physically murdered. However, for the reasons mentioned above, the cutting of heads did not produce any lasting change – the old plutocracy was merely replaced by a new one. The two great revolutions of modern times, continued this game without basically changing it. First of all, and in a very short time, civil war did indeed lead to greater equality, but quite soon refeudalization – the victory of the strong over the weak – reversed the trend and again made the rich still richer while the poor were left farther and farther behind – a trend which provoked social unrest.

This was to remain the blueprint of human madness

right up to the present time. Not competition was to blame for it, but the inability of Homo stupidissimus to tame competition in such a way that it would really be exercised for the benefit of all. It would be a mistake to assume that a temporary victory of the strong over the weak would produce lasting damage. Since intelligence and ability tend to be distributed among different individuals in each generation, competition has, on the contrary, the potential to completely prevent the formation of social classes – in other words, to produce a truly classless society. Only when wealth is acquired by birth and not by the selection of the best and the ablest, does it inevitably lead to social classes and even to social castes.

By means of redistribution

from top to bottom, trade unions succeeded up to a certain degree in slowing the process, but they were never able to stop it. The rich very much surpassed the poor in increasing their share of wealth. In order to really contain this process, the state should have chosen another point of attack, namely all those assets that do not grow due to individual performance but due to privilege.

However, economists as well as politicians were not really concerned with these ups and downs, becausein the short term deregulation often has an invigorating effect, especially in developing countries. The liberation of the individual and his abilities through competition is likely to multiply all individual energies that up to then had been frozen. Adam Smith was absolutely right when he said that the egoism of the baker and other individual economic actors had beneficial effects not only for himself but also for the common good. Only in a long-term perspective does it become obvious that, without the regulatory intervention of the state, wealth becomes increasingly concentrated, until finally, with the one percent of the super-rich at the top of a society, the rule of people (democracy) has become the rule of wealth (plutocracy). Even in a time-honored democracy like the United States of America, the process of refeudalization has been carried to new extremes. No wonder the country has at its head a president who bears the greatest resemblance to a soldier emperor of imperial Rome.

Let us be clear, those who appeal to egoism,

rarely win our sympathy because it is hard to regard egoism as a virtue. Rather, those utopias can count on a large following that refer to what they believe to be man’s innate benevolence. The demand for the suppression of competition may therefore count on much emotional resonance, although there has never been a large society (unlike small religious sects) which has been able to achieve equality without a murderous pressure from above. But, under such pressure, very few people are encouraged to mobilize their latent abilities – given that they are not supposed to derive any advantage from them. Hence economic activity becomes dead and petrified. Talent and inventiveness are not encouraged, instead they are nipped in the bud.

The extremists

of the right ultra-liberal camp, as well as the utopists of the extreme left, show in their own way how blind they are to human nature and history. Let us conclude that almost every kind of human madness prefers as its permanent place of settlement the heads of radicals – whatever their political color. They constitute the true and eternal avantgarde of Homo stupidissimus.*1*

1) These and similar considerations are discussed in more detail in the following books:

Peace, War and Climate Change – A Call for New Stragtegies

The meaning and purpose of history – The destiny of mankind in the 21st century.

Philosophy of Feeble-Mindedness

A short story of lovable, life-giving, foolish, idiotic and dangerous mental confusion concerning oneself in particular and the human species in general

Every speaker knows how a malicious listener may with one single sentence put in jeopardy all favorable impression produced so far or even destroy it completely. For example, by asking him the following question with a threatening overtone.

„Now please define what you mean by feeble-mindedness!“

The lecturer is taken aback. Helplessly he will proceed to find all kinds of synonyms for „feeble“, such as powerless, nonsensical, absurd, etc. But he gets himself even more in trouble when he tries to define the mind that is supposed to be so feeble, because centuries have labored in vain to find its true nature. In other words, an insufficiently trained lecturer is easily fooled because he has forgotten or perhaps does not even know that every definition is made of terms to be defined in their turn too so that he would engage in an endless undertaking, while the questioner has long ago taken to his seat laughing up his sleeve.

Wait and see!, a well-prepared speaker should have said to such a malicious interferer. Wait, how I use the term in my lecture, then you will see what it means.

So far as I am concerned, let me stick to this advice on the following pages. I simply throw out the term „feeble-mindedness“ assuming that every intelligent reader – that is all who are not affected by this disease – will conceive a sufficiently clear idea.

Of course, it is much easier to understand the opposite of feeble-mindedness, let us simply call it with due reverence full or strong-mindedness. Everyone knows that year after year the most accomplished specimens of Homo Sapiens are honored with the greatest awards by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm. People in full possession of the strong-mindedness are, so to speak, the topmost specimens of our kind. That is why they are celebrated by a king in flesh and blood in front of the entire world.

All of us, you, dear reader, as well as I, are required to take these great men as examples. But, of course, I only need to point to these strong-minded few to make you understand that I certainly do not belong to them, nor do you – most probably. In other words, among our seven billion compatriots nearly all belong to the camp of the not quite full-minded, the camp of the unfortunate many whose brains only inadequately exhaust the full potential of evolutionary possibilities.

What do we have to conclude from this premise? I think there can only be a single reasonable answer. If we want to get a realistic picture of man as he really is, we must not turn to the few celebrities presented to us by the Nobel Committee, instead we should stick to people like you and me, that is to the average of all not quite full-minded. Then we will learn far more about our species than we would from studying the few elect who make up no more than a miserable dozen out of seven billion. Let me be clear about it right at the beginning: It is not the few full-minded who are representative of our kind, but the idiotic or all those simply feeble-minded.

And I will immediately add a second warning to the first one. The study of human inadequacy almost inevitably holds the temptation that we both agree to seek it exclusively among our neighbors and fellow creatures. Wherever you are – at a regular’s table, in a political meeting, even while chatting on the street – someone only has to start blaspheming about some Mr. X or Mrs. Ypsilon, and already they all purse their lips and ears and you will notice the comfort with which everyone is now making a common front against the defenseless absentees. It is so satisfying, it gives such a tremendous pleasure to get a feeling of superiority by looking for the mistakes and the stupidity of others, because then you put a comforting veil above your own.

The mere fact that I order another person into the courtroom of my brain provides immense satisfaction. After all, we feel somewhat inhibited as long as we face him in person. In this case, we have to reckon with hard answers, perhaps even hard blows, supposed we were to express our judgment too openly. However, as soon as we treat other people in absentia, they are helplessly at our mercy. We are free to utter any opinion about them without incurring any resistance.

Let us be honest, dear reader, such a temptation is hard to resist, after all both of us we are but human beings and therefore susceptible to feeble-mindedness, i.e. to the central theme of the present book. That makes it all the more important that we pull ourselves together! If we were really tempted to attack defenseless people possibly inflicting a terrible massacre on them, we would act like the countless idiots who, since the beginning of human history, were a disgrace to Homo Sapiens. For one of mankind’s greatest vices, possibly the greatest of all, lies precisely in this presumption. Once you or I quote a dead person or an absent person before our inner tribunal, we have, of course, the final word and the upper hand. This makes us believe that we must be somewhat wiser, better, superior and what you have. Just look around the pubs and see how Meier and Müller behave like God when ordering all the celebrities of the world before their Last Judgment condemning them at their will to the depth of hell, as soon as alcohol loosens their tongues. Nobody feels himself so small or so insignificant that he would not indulge in pronouncing with utter conviction his wretched little verdict even on the greatest of the great.

So, let me send this warning to myself and also to you, dear reader, right before we are embarking on our common way. We are not wiser simply because we pass our know-it-all judgment on other people – the dead and the defenseless absentees. Nay, we even have to reckon with the not so theoretical possibility that our report about imbecility will in the end only expose ourselves as those actually affected – meaning that in the end we attract all ridicule and laughter on ourselves. Don’t forget: Everyone knows why he‘ s picking up a book. He hopes to get information about a certain object – let’s say about the boxwood borer, a journey to the back of the moon or the healing of goiters. The expectant reader always assumes that the author knows at least a little more about the subject in question than he does himself, that is to say, that at least in this area he should be ahead of him in terms of expertise and wisdom. Any reader with the same or greater knowledge, would certainly not think about reading a book from which he learns nothing.

Accordingly, the author of this book about stupidity has to reckon with readers who are convinced that he belongs, so to speak, to the strong-minded few who judge with sufficient expertise and authority the spiritual ailments of other humans.

No, that’s just not the case! That would be the trap and the greatest error to which the subject could mislead us. We would climb the pedestal of presumption, only to be struck immediately by fatal dizziness so that with an outcry of horror we again plunge into the depth. No, human brains cannot cope with such a claim, not even the highly developed ones of the strong-minded few chosen by the Swedish Academy.

This road is closed, we must be content with dedicating ourselves to a much more modest but at the same time much more difficult task, where nobody is likely to doubt our competence: namely the investigation of our own imbecility – here at least nobody may dispute our authority. And what a broad and, as we shall see, nearly unlimited field stretches before our eyes! Only indirectly – since we are all human beings and thus belong to the same species – will we include in this our survey the rest of mankind as well, but in a casual way and at any time ready to apologize.

In other words, the author of this book assumes that everyone – he himself, but also you, the perhaps no longer so inclined reader – constitutes an inexhaustible source of idiocy and that no philosophy even deserves its name if it does not assign its due place to this chief human characteristic. The almighty Lord, nature, evolution, or whatever we want to call it, may have endowed each of us with a little bit of full-mindedness – how else would we otherwise be able to even talk about its opposite – but in lavish generosity we have above all been endowed with an inexhaustible supply of stupidity. Only because each of us dances his whole life on both weddings: on that of strong and of feeble-mindedness, may we assume the right to talk about both with some competence.

But perhaps even such modesty would not help us much in the eyes of the most merciless critics if we did not from the outset make still one more concession. No particular stupidity is ever the same as any other. To begin with, there is apocalyptic stupidity that not only leads mankind ever nearer to the abyss, but threatens to plunge it right into it. There will be plenty of talk about this, for these pages are not meant to be a place for intellectual sweet-talking. They are meant to open the eyes of the naive – and even of the feeble-minded – to all those dreadful dangers our time is bound to confront on a hitherto unprecedented scale. But to open our eyes to such elementary threats is perhaps not particularly difficult. We really need not to be philosophers to achieve such insight. Much more mental effort is required if we want to see the other side of the medal. Because, yes, there is this other side – although you did perhaps not discover it up to now. In the strange world that is our home, not only the most dreadful stupidity can be found, but the most amiable as well – and the latter is even so universally dispersed that we should perhaps see in it the fountainhead and original form of all feeble-mindedness. So, let’s make our start with amiable stupidity.

To be continued with very concrete, very unsettling examples

The hand on the trigger: How an American president wantonly prepares the next war

The great world powers slipped into World War I without really wanting it. But they had been arming themselves for years, so all that was needed was but a spark – such as the assassination of the Austrian heir to the throne – to detonate a powder keg filled to the rim.

A lot of explosives had accumulated

not only in the arsenals of the military, but in the hearts of the people. In the first moment of the declaration of war, many people throughout Europe were seen to be overwhelmed by enthusiasm. “… the war of 1914… was still serving a delusion, the dream of a better world, a world that would be just and peaceful… That was why the victims went to the slaughter drunk and rejoicing, crowned with flowers and wearing oak leaves on their helmets, while the streets echoed with cheering and blazed with light, as if it were a festival”(Stefan Zweig).

Quite a few military men and politicians at the head of states did, of course, suspect the calamity that the war would bring all of them, but there was no turning back for anyone without losing face. The politicians more or less willingly let themselves be driven and they in their turn were the ones that drove their peoples into annihilation.

Today the world is being driven again,

but nowhere in the world is the impending war greeted with enthusiasm, neither by the United States nor by its rivals. Not even by the American President. It is difficult to believe Donald Trump, because he mixes truth and falsehood at his own discretion, but we may trust that he does not want to start a war with Iran, because until now he has largely kept his promises to his electorate – and one of these promises was the reduction of US-military presence outside its borders. So why is the current American President showing the world such an unpleasant face? Why has the US since George W. Bush ceased to be what it has been for so long, namely a shield for Europe, to which it owed its freedom and prosperity during the second half of the past century?

After completing his ten-volume history

of human civilizations in 1961, Arnold Toynbee remarked that the „American Empire“ had two characteristics that distinguished it from its predecessor the British Empire at that time already extinct for about two decades: abundant military bases and an emphasis on generous economic aid for its allies. In a policy “unprecedented in the history of empires,” America was making “her imperial position felt by giving economic aid to the peoples under her ascendancy, instead of… exploiting them economically.” Yes, the USA was by and large a milder hegemon than all previous great powers.

The Pax Americana created at the end of the Second World War was soon to prove an advantage for most of its satellites in the first three to four post-war decades. US-historian Alfred McCoy notes that “at the end of World War II, the United States invested all its prestige and power in forming nothing less than a new world order through permanent international institutions — the United Nations (1945), the International Monetary Fund (1945), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (1947), predecessor to the World Trade Organization….“

We should emphasize the role

of the United States as a force for peace and order before we talk about its current president and the danger that he so massively and so wantonly conjures – doing away with the reputation of a great nation in the eyes of world opinion. Immediately after taking office, the new lord of the White House committed the unforgivable stupidity of counteracting almost all of his predecessor’s rulings. Obama had gone to great lengths, with the help of his allies, to negotiate a treaty obliging Iran to use nuclear power exclusively for civilian purposes and to submit to monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Trump tore the treaty apart and, in this way, frivolously gambled away the prestige of the United States as a contracting partner that could be relied upon. How can we believe a state where each president cancels the commitments of his predecessor?

And still worse the incredible naivety

of transferring business practices to international politics! The predominant criterion when concluding commercial deals is the benefit each party derives from it. No competitor, even if seeing a pistol aimed at his chest, will risk his life for a few dollars less.So, the real estate agent Trump believed he could transfer this insight to politics. „They will give in as soon as I scare them to death – and then we’ll make a deal,“ that is the simple philosophy of the currently most powerful man on earth.

The pistol, in this case,

does not just consist in measures to make the Iranian economy collapse. The export of oil, to which the country owes its modest standard of living, is by now largely curtailed, and any embargo breakers must expect heavy penalties. That is why Europe is no longer fulfilling its obligations towards Iran, and has largely broken off its business relations in order not to risk the US boycotting its own companies.

But now, Trump has still gone

one step further. It was not enough for him to choke the economy of Iran. Since the beginning of this year, he uses the military in order to ensure that his message is understood correctly. Two aircraft carriers have recently been stationed off the coast of Iran, plus strategic bombers B-52, together with stealth bombers F-35 and a rapidly growing number of US soldiers. They are currently being relocated to the Persian Gulf.

Only a politically blind, highly egocentric

businessman like Trump could seriously believe that it would be enough to play with aircraft carriers and bombers off the enemy’s coast to make him aware that he was no match for a man like Donald Trump. Militarily, Iran has become the strongest state in the Near East. According to experts, it is quite capable of eliminating in a first strike all American military bases in the Gulf with highly efficient missiles from its own production. The country cannot be compared to Iraq, Libya or Syria. The mullahs are now well aware of their strength, especially since Trump’s approach is once again driving the population into their arms, after having almost lost them. As several previous uprisings have shown, the regime has by no means enjoyed undivided support among its own people. On the contrary, it was only able to maintain its rule with the help of police-state repression.

But just as Donald Trump knew

how to drive once again the people of Venezuela into the arms of their incompetent autocrat Maduro, he now unites the people of Iran behind their leadership – even though the country and its inhabitants have never been as badly off as they are today. Trump is a master at not making America the number one country, as is his avowed intent, but at making enemies all around. Abe Shinzo, the Japanese prime minister, is still a rare exception. On June 13, he tried to putty the broken porcelain, but he had no more success than Heiko Maas, the German exterior minister. Ayatollah Khamenei expressly declined to negotiate with the American President as long as the latter continues economic sanctions and threatens his country with military deployment.

Now the enemies are facing each other

with loaded pistols. No one can retreat without losing face. How is Trump going to recall his aircraft carriers without being ridiculed by the world as a paper tiger? And how can the regime of the Ayatollahs give in without losing the support of the population and being laughed at as a weakling? Unlike business, it is about honor and national prestige that nations are driven to war. These notions have never gone out of fashion between them – neither in the US nor in Iran. Trump steered his country into this stalemate not because he wanted this war, but because he makes rash decisions and is therefore unfit as a responsible leader of the world’s greatest power.

I think that war is inevitable, but that is of course no more than a personal opinion – fortunately history has never allowed prophecies to become true with absolute certainty.

For the time being, each of the two opponents

is still waiting for the stupidity of the other, i.e. for the first act of aggression, so as to have a pretext for striking with unmitigated power: the Iranians with simultaneous rocket attacks on all American bases and ships; the Americans with immediate strikes by their stealth bombers on all Iranian military positions and radar stations. As of now, acts of provocation are already occurring. Today, on 13 June, two oil tankers were fired upon in the Gulf of Oman. We may assume that there are quite a lot of war mongering groups that long for a conflagration and even want to bring it about at any price. After all, we should not forget that many people in countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, which for years were exposed to terrible devastation, have nothing to lose. If war is inevitable let it be transferred to the rest of the world.

America’s military will, of course,

win the war against Iran in a few weeks, but Donald Trump will not be able to win peace. Up to the present day, peace has neither been won in the Near East nor in Libya. Iran has left no doubt as to what will be its first measure after the outbreak of war. It will immediately block the Strait of Hormuz, which could be barred for years afterwards due to permanent terror in the region. In this case, the main artery for oil supplies to Western countries will be severed indefinitely. We should have no illusions about what is really at stake: nothing less than the current prosperity of Europe, Japan and many other countries. But let’s not dwell on our losses only. Iran – like Syria and Iraq another country famous for some of the greatest testimonies of human civilization – will sink into rubble as has already happened in large areas of the Middle East. And this happens for no other reason than that an ill-advised American president is frivolously experimenting in big politics with business practices that may succeed among brokers.

Trump has issued the slogan „America First“

We may find it hard to blame him for that. Every statesman is obliged by his oath to benefit above all his own country. True statesmen, however, always refrained from shouting this intention from the rooftops but wisely concealed it. This is not the current president’s way; in fact, he could do more harm to his country and the world at large than any previous one. Only a miracle may still prevent the fire of war from flaring up in Iran, the Strait of Hormuz from being mined, and Europe from plunging into chaos due to severed oil supplies.

Miracles are not at all impossible,

a kind of miracle is visible even at this very moment as hardly anyone seems to suspect the demons that are ready to pounce on us. Indeed, many will reject these lines as pure scaremongering. Hopefully, these people are right!

Dr. Goldsmith‘ deplorable Debacle while fighting his „Battles in the Mind Fields“

The intellectual jousting of scientists – let’s call it with Dr. Goldsmith „Battles in the Mind Fields“ – may certainly arouse some interest among curious bystanders as it reveals both the open horizon of scientific discourse and its obvious limits. Dr. Goldsmith‘ deplorable Debacle while fighting his „Battles in the Mind Fields“ weiterlesen

The Freedom without which we won’t be able to live

The harsh contradiction that will dominate the politics of the 21st century manifests itself in the opposition of two equally necessary, equally indispensable tendencies. The globalization of opportunities and fateful risks will force all states to renounce part of their sovereignty. The Freedom without which we won’t be able to live weiterlesen

The Hallpike Paper – Universal and Generative grammar – a trend-setting idea or a mental straitjacket?

It is Noam Chomsky’s merit to have significantly influenced (if not created) a prominent area of modern linguistics by asking the right questions. The Hallpike Paper – Universal and Generative grammar – a trend-setting idea or a mental straitjacket? weiterlesen

The Goldsmith Paper (Prof. John Goldsmith, University of Chicago, and Dr. Gero Jenner, author of “Principles of Language” criticize Chomsky’s Universal Grammar)

When it comes to Universal and Generative Grammar – undoubtedly a central topic of the modern science of language – the prevailing attitude of linguists – even that of its American representatives – is best described as hagiographic prostration vis-à-vis its prominent author: an attitude stifling to the critical mind and that furthermore stigmatizes all those as heretics who dare to proffer their “ceterum censeo”. The Goldsmith Paper (Prof. John Goldsmith, University of Chicago, and Dr. Gero Jenner, author of “Principles of Language” criticize Chomsky’s Universal Grammar) weiterlesen

Psycholinguist Steven Pinker: How a great scientist turned into an enemy of himself – and of truth

Steven Pinker’s book „The Language Instinct“ is certainly still one of the best books ever written on the rather elusive subject of language: comprehensive in its wealth of facts, intelligent in its argumentation and fascinating in the refreshing wealth of ideas. Psycholinguist Steven Pinker: How a great scientist turned into an enemy of himself – and of truth weiterlesen

Did the Nazis have a conscience?

… the existence of a universal human conscience may be demonstrated even on a more elementary level, namely in the vilification of other humans, a practice that has undergone little or no change at all since the beginnings of human history up to the present day.

Disparaging ones fellows as an indication of the existence of a universal conscience?

Did the Nazis have a conscience? weiterlesen