Barack O-Boondoggle

He’s technically smart, especially compared to the Texas Vegetable now in office, but he does NOT get it.  He talks of the historic nature of our present socio-economic crisis, but has zero understanding of where we stand in history.  Parroting the usual one-sided self-flatteries about American hard work, optimism, and creativity that pass for mainstream history, he can only imagine finding new ways of doing more of the same.

The core goal and promise is also the core impossibility: “fuel[ing] long-term economic growth.”

That simply ain’t gonna happen, and would be a complete disaster if it did.  The planet is past Peak Oil, Peak Water, and Peak Farmland.  It is also past the point where slight changes can make a difference in climate change, species loss, pollution, etc.

The only way forward, the only way to preserve political progress and modern society’s primary benefits is to create an economy capable of not just tolerating but leading toward economic contraction.  And that ain’t capitalism, which must always grow, without end.

Instead of acknowledging the dire need for public industry, Obama is going to do what Dmitry Orlov observes all leaders sponsored by decrepit and outdated overclasses do: promulgate new and expanded elite boondoggles.

This, of course, is insanity writ large:  Using the most powerful office in the world to do the same old things, while expecting different results.

A great many Obamaniacs are going to be massively disappointed…

4 Replies to “Barack O-Boondoggle”

  1. Well, dermo, it’s a complex enough topic that nobody can be 100 percent sure what’s happening. Nevertheless, Mills bills himself as a geologist, but is clearly much more of an economist than a geologist. In the Peak Oil debate, that usually tells you something.

    He also draws his undoubtedly handsome salary from the state oil company of Dubai, meaning the unelected “royal” dictators of that city-state, whose economy is based on tourism and real estate investment by oil sheikhs. They are unlikely to be asking for realistic advice on the ultimate basis of their disgusting power and privilege, or to be prodded to think about what will happen to their majestic persons once the game slows down and ends.

    But the real problem with Mills is that he’s a spinner. Consider what he says about oil supplies: namely, that we are not running out soon.

    Well, the Peak Oil argument is not that we are running out soon. It is that we still have half our supplies left, but that this is the difficult, more expensive half. So, when Mills says we have enough oil left for several more decades, he’s not contradicting Peak Oil, despite his book’s title.

    Mills is also a technological optimist. He says, “Oil is merely one convenient source of energy. Opportunities exist to decrease the global consumption of oil radically while maintaining a healthy economy.” That’s a huge, cavalier, and thoroughly unproven statement. It’s also based on heightened use of things like coal and tar sands, which are environmental nightmares waiting to happen.

    He also “surveys” political and industry leaders in the oil states to derive his guesstimates of remaining supplies of conventional petroleum. What oil exporter is going to reply with worry to that question, even if they know the true answer?

    Mills is also a terrible sociologist, arguing that radical energy saving and a cessation of war are both easily doable if we’d all just stop and think. Hah! And the moon is made of cheese, too!

    There are these people called capitalists, you see, and they aren’t so keen on losing money or non-automotive transportation facilities.

    I don’t know why Doug Henwood thinks this belongs on his program. Perhaps it’s his focus on finance that attracts him to the idea that wonders never cease. Or maybe he’s just trying to keep people looking at both sides, to facilitate critical thinking.

    But the fact remains that the odds of corporate capitalism being able to survive this century are very low. The planet won’t permit it. Mills doesn’t contradict that. Instead, he attacks a straw man — the idea that we’re almost out of energy now. Nobody serious says that.

  2. One more thing, dermo: Look at the weasel-wording of this key claim by Mills:

    “Oil is merely one convenient source of energy. Opportunities exist to decrease the global consumption of oil radically while maintaining a healthy economy.”

    It’s almost certainly true that we have enough energy left to maintain “A” healthy economy. But do we have enough left to maintain the EXISTING world economy?

    We could probably build a pretty kick-ass kind of socialism 2.0, if we play our cards quickly and correctly. That would be A healthy economy. It ain’t THIS economy, though.

    Working for a state-owned conglomerate seems to have desensitized Mills to the larger capitalist context of his labors, and of his bosses’ thrones.

  3. thanks for your input michael. i didn’t necessarily agree with mills to begin with, but was just wondering what your take on him was (and why henwood is so taken with him) i actually think doug henwood is a pretty typical economist when it comes to evaluating environmental problems. i was very sad that his book “after the new economy” included the kind arrogant dismissals of environmental issues that were staples of the rightist economics discourse at my university (i was a envi-sci major)…

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