September 18, 2007 (the date of publication in Russian)
A NEW AMERICAN DICTATORSHIP
After the liberal myths collapse
Can the political system of the United States develop into a military technocratic, anti-liberal dictatorship? This suggestion, recently sounding rather fantastic, is becoming today a practical question.
The view that the crash of postindustrial mythology, becoming a most serious challenge to the American dream, is going to inevitably result in collapse of the US statehood warms a lot of hearts today. However, a responsible analyst should look back at the whole background of America's history, which is not identical to the history of economic liberalism – moreover, in case that was true, the United States would have never emerged as the world's strongest military power.
The technocratic tradition, closely related to the Keynesian economic school, is deeply rooted in America. Its legacy should not be underestimated in forecasting the reaction of the US political system to the self-imputation of the postindustrial utopia.
SLAVES INSTEAD OF ROBOTS
The times of the triumph of the radical liberal approach in economy, based on the ideas of absolute economic freedom in the modern interpretation of Friedrich von Hayek, was closely associated with the geopolitical agenda of the "cold war". This agenda required a model of a consumption society, demonstrating its superiority over the socialist system of distribution. The key element of relevant strategies, determined as revolution in the information sphere, was based on a real breakthrough in electronic and communication technologies. The "information theory", originally introduced as substantiation for convergence of the two rivaling global systems, was explicitly used in the 1980s as a powerful tool for reshaping the minds of the Soviet intellectual class, and for an efficient seduction of the active majority of the Soviet population with cheaply accessible entertainment. In the culture of the major "target society", USSR's disintegration coincided with tremendous popularity of TV "soap operas", fascinating the audience until the economic and social disaster awakened the people from the illusion of "entering a higher", i.e. "informational" civilization.
This highly efficient psychological weapon of influence, surpassing the power of any transcontinental missiles, could be invented, developed and improved only on the base of a corresponding ideology, which favored particular interests inside the US society. The major beneficiary of "information theory" was the Eastern Coast's white-collar community of top financiers, using the collapse of the Soviet identity for expansion of their interests across the whole of the former Socialist Commonwealth. This advantage elevated globalistic financiers, including the subclass of financial speculators (some of them directly intervening into the ex-USSR under the guise of philanthropy), to the leading positions in the economic elite of the "mother country of democracy".
The second important beneficiary of the global shift was the entertainment class, using the new advantage for establishing itself as an independent and excessively powerful branch of economy.
Meanwhile, the real backbone of the US economy for decades, its glorious productive industry, was now viewed as an obsolete element of the new order, described and advertised as the "postindustrial era".
The ideologists of the new, allegedly advanced economic system efficiently transformed the very essence of the American mission on the planet. The global superpower was supposed to develop into a mere "economy of services" – supposedly in the interests of the American majority as well.
The practice of outsourcing was implicitly substantiated with the idea of America's civilizational superiority. The winner of the "cold war" was supposed to be a too advanced nation to occupy itself with dirty and exhausting labor of physical economic production. This "low-class" economy was to be evacuated to the civilizational outskirts like China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico etc., while the Western community was to concentrate on finances, humanitarian science, management technologies (also instrumental in manipulation of the rest of the mankind), software, and certainly, mass entertainment. These "superior" branches of production, especially with the invention and Internet, were described as a potential source of financial success and well-being of the Americans, corresponding with the superiority of their new identity.
Postindustrial consumerism, as an ideology, intimately corresponded with the thinking of the class of financiers. The white-collar community sincerely despised everything related to physical production. Regarding itself as the superior "race in the human race", they equally despised statehood, viewing it as an obsolete and unnecessary obstacle for global financial operations. The "information theory", efficiently exported across the globe and especially across the former Socialist Commonwealth, was especially instrumental for the "brain drain", attracting talented software specialists to Western universities and strategic institutions, and efficiently bringing up a new community of intermediates in globalization, instrumental in access of global corporations to Russia's natural resources, in which even the most "advanced" branches of Western economy were greatly interested.
The paradox of this dependence of postindustrial "branches of economy" from the "dirty" sphere of extraction of raw materials has emerged from the same assumption of racial superiority. The supreme society was excessively focused on its physical health and therefore on the quality of environment. At the same time, advanced energy technologies were to be discredited also in the "target territories". Naive cosmopolitans from the Russian scientific community, dreaming of a higher role of their nation in the advanced global civilization, built on supreme technologies, were profoundly disappointed. The new world order needed Russia as a low-developed and obedient provider of traditional energy resources to the supreme "economy of services". Meanwhile, the supreme achievements of Soviet high-tech science were supposed to be curtailed, economically exhausted and preferably physically exterminated, in order to prevent their use for military purposes.
This approach to the former "second world", suggesting its degeneration into the "third world", disappointed also some leading Western thinkers. Alvin Toffler, describing the new world order based on novel technologies, in his book "Metamorphoses of Power", believed that the industrial backbone of both the United States and the USSR would not be downgraded but instead undergo a progressive development into highly robotized and automated productive systems, with use of high energy-saving technologies, while the computer and information networks would allow the mankind of the new, better post-"cold war" era to produce as much goods as necessary, thus preventing crises of overproduction.
This ideal of "technological communism" was ruthlessly prostrated by the reality of the real new capitalism, dominated by the class of financial speculators. Jobs, destined for robots, were offered to low-paid labor force from South-Eastern Asia, Turkey, Mexico and the former USSR. The desired higher world order displayed the pattern of an ancient slave-trading empire. Technological progress plummeted only in the sphere of communications, which promised excessive incomes to owners of cellular phone companies. Though providing conveniences to most of the population, this market preferably favored the top class of financiers, allowing them direct and immediate access to their business from any place, and providing exceptional convenience for their leisure.
Meanwhile, high technologies in other spheres were more demanded in countries regarded as underdeveloped, especially in the rising China, basing its well-being on productive physical economy. Not the United States but China became the highest authority for the poorest countries of the globe. The Chinese economic model was most attractive for "third world" leaders seeking a better future for their nations, and deeply disappointed with globalization which was increasingly stripping their economies from natural resources, simultaneously trapping them with unpayable debts to global financial institutions. The rapid decline of the American authority in the "third world" predetermined crucial political changes in Latin America, where a number of governments preferred independence from the IMF and oil corporations to humiliating dependence from the quasi-race of top global financiers.
THE STAGNATION OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM
For decades, Soviet propaganda had been trying to convince the mankind of the global crisis of capitalism. The reality of this crisis, however, became visible when the United States got rid of its global ideological rival, the USSR, and implemented the postindustrial utopia on its own territory.
The feeling of unchallenged superiority served a bad lesson to the US society. Falling into dependence from the community of global financiers and importing corporations, the United States implemented a foreign policy which brought it nothing but hate across the globe. Meanwhile, deindustrialization of the United States, as well as Western Europe, multiplied the army of the "new proletariat", arriving from lots of nations, devastated and pauperized by financial globalization. The increasing inflow of immigrants formed cultural islands inside the Western community, reproducing patterns of social life, customs and religion. Meanwhile, the ethnic Anglo-Saxon backbone went on shrinking in both demographic and cultural aspects. The promised paradise of "new computer economy" turned a fakery, invented by financial speculators for the purpose of short-term profit, and finally dooming other branches of the "economy of services" to a crash. The living standards of common Americans have shrunk instead of increasing, thus predetermining a demographic crisis in the social layers, used to easy and quick profit. Meanwhile, reduction of state expenses for large-scale scientific and technological development and fundamental science, associated with high-tech physical production, caused an increasingly obvious stagnation in technologies. The focus on quick profit curbed strategic long-term research programs. Meanwhile, the haughtiness of the financial elite, its inclination to luxurious life and excessive entertainment on the background of decline of the majority’s living standards, greatly exacerbated the contradictions between the "rich North" and the "poor South".
In case the United States and generally the Western community had undertaken large-scale investments in the technologies of new energy, new medical substances, artificial intellect, as well as principally new means of transport, construction, chemistry, useful for the whole of the mankind, the authority of the West would have greatly multiplied. The American dream would have become synonymous to the general progress of human civilization, attracting billions of humans. However, predatory geopolitical considerations the new world order's design was based upon undermined the foundations of the very nation which boldly advertised new prospects of global prosperity in the post-communist era. The reigning financial elite was focused on itself and indifferent to benefits of the human civilization. Rapid progress of technologies and their universal implementation, demanded during the competition of two global systems, was no longer required since the United States declared itself a single global superpower. Like Doctor Faust, the global financial elite and its system of ideological service decided to stop the beautiful moment of being – and progress was ceased, opening a doorway to global disaster.
Reduction of investments in high technologies, designed for universal use, resulted in collapse of the quality of education. New scientific minds were not demanded any longer. Today's science is still using the inventions, made in 1960s, in the period of domination of Keynesian technocratic approach, undergoing only improvements in miniaturization and other particular changes, rather favoring consumer convenience than opening new fields of research.
In order to meet the challenges of history, the United States and generally the Western civilization requires qualitative shifts, epochal breakthroughs comparable with the missile, computer and nuclear energy projects of 1940-1960s. However, these qualitative changes are not visible even on the horizon. Nanotechnologies, a really promising sphere of research, require a lot of work and astronomic investments to open the required new horizon of universal science. This branch of industry, first of all, requires a universal mission, associated with improvement of everyday life across the whole planet. However, the decisive leap into the nanotechnological era is not required by the essentially anti-Christian consumerist thinking of today's West, focused on immediate income and indifferent to the posterity – though the demographic crisis already raises the problem of survival of North America and Western Europe.
THE NIGHTMARE OF A "BIG NEW ORLEANS"
Beyond the propagandist campaign of the exceptional might and prosperity of the United States, the real America is getting more and more trapped in domestic economic and social problems.
Not a new war but just a banal natural disaster of 2005, destroying a dam in New Orleans and flooding the city with water, exposed the existing internal contradictions in the nation, positioning itself as the world's single superpower. The unexpected breakdown of a physical communal facility, which had been obviously badly maintained due to lack of concern of public infrastructure, exposed the physical fragility of the economic system. The atmosphere in the society, affected by the disaster, exposed, in its turn, tremendous alienation inside an urban community, an abyss of social stratification, and astounding neglect of Americans by neighbor Americans.
It is noteworthy that the signals about the impending disaster, irradiated by communal authorities, remained unheard for years before the New Orleans disaster, As far back as in 2001, the American Society of Engineers warned in a special report that the US public infrastructure, including highways, bridges, public transport facilities, water supply and sewage systems are in an increasingly poor shape. The authors warned about the exhaustion of the infrastructure of 75% public schools, of 54,000 urban systems of water supply and 16,000 sewage facilities, alone requiring $12bln of capital investments. The dam of New Orleans was only one of the 2100 dams which were regarded by the authors as technologically insecure. The same is true about the electricity grid, which expands slower than demanded and needs qualitative modernization. In general, the authors of the reports estimated the necessary expenses for maintenance of public infrastructure in $3.13trln.
In this way, the ideological bias of the "postindustrial elite" has brought about a tangible physical disaster. The focus on information technologies left the physical economy without necessary permanent support. Intellectual speculations over "obsolescence" of statehood and state-directed regulation of economy struck against the reality of physical decay.
Other problems of the American society are equally insolvable in the framework of the free market theory. One of such problems is the impending crisis of the pension system, especially given the increasing share of the elder population in the community.
In his recent book "Who We Are", renowned social philosopher Samuel Huntington identified one more explosive under the building of US statehood. He admitted that the ruling political and financial establishment, maintaining such values of globalization as free transition of capitals and labor force, for political correctness and rights of various minorities, is strikingly alien to the broad population of America, where advantages of economic protectionism and traditional family values are becoming as popular as anti-immigration prejudice.
George W. Bush's election success in 2000 was largely a result of this increasing conservative sentiment. However, Bush's team, identifying itself as neo- (i.e. modern) conservatives, failed to solve the major problems of the nation. This team introduced a number of protectionist laws, but did not dare to challenge powerful financial interests, despite the obvious necessity of relevant measures. Instead of initiating a national economic reform, the neoconservatives tried to use geopolitical threats as an excuse for domestic problems and, primarily, as a tool for manipulating the US public opinion.
The tragedy of September 11, 2001 efficiently distracted the public opinion from the implications of the earlier collapse of the "Internet economy". The following military campaign in the Middle East was presented to the society as a genuine pursuit of the American dream. However, the reality of the war immediately exposed the appetites of energy corporations, while the failure of "democratization" of Iraq and Afghanistan exposed the loss of attractiveness of the American model in the world. The neglect of statehood turned a psychological crisis of the military which lost confidence in the very subject of their mission. Meanwhile, the US currency started sliding down, with a perspective of losing its traditionally indispensable role in global finances.
The following measures of Bush's administration represented a parody of the Reaganomics. Like in 1980s, the US leadership chose to combine reduction of taxes with increase of investments in new armaments. However, Reagan's administration had a much higher possibility of borrowing, while today's foreign debt of the United States is posing a threat to the foundations of the US financial system.
Some authors draw parallels with the economic crisis of 1970s, healed by the Reaganomics. However, the multitude of interconnected problems, facing the United States today, is more comparable to the times of the Great Depression of 1930s. Under those conditions, the United States was seeking a resolute, dictatorial-type solution, based upon the state's direct intervention into economic processes. The establishment hesitated before the choice between two models represented by F. D. Roosevelt and Senator Huey P. Long (the latter's death in 1935 helping Roosevelt to consolidate his power).
A similar choice could be made in the nearest time, with massive popular support from ordinary Americans, despising and hating the financial elite and the allied corrupted class.
FREEDOM AS A MYTH FOR EXPORT USE
The popular view that a dictatorial rule is unfavorable for scientific and technological progress is rather an ideological product for export use, massively exploited by free market propaganda. In fact, epochal breakthroughs in science in economy took place exactly under non-liberal, definitely autocratic governance. Great designs, requiring massive mobilization of minds and a formidable mass of labor force, originated in the minds of authoritarian leaders, especially at the face of a national disaster and potential global war. These leaders deliberately and firmly established the "infrastructure of breakthrough", involving brightest scientists, and entrusting them exceptional duties in project management. This partnership of statehood and intellect gave birth to real miracles of technological progress.
In particular, the first computer was invented in the largest decrypting center of Britain, Bletchley Park, and in the United States in the framework of the Manhattan Project. The transistor, the keystone of silicon electronics, was invented in the same period of war mobilization. The same is true about the most tremendous designs of grand infrastructure projects, designed to spark an impetus for the whole economy, like the Tennessee Valley.
Similar groundbreaking superprojects are required today. Such efforts like the manned flight to the Mars, colonization of the Moon, development of new, more powerful sources of energy, construction of transcontinental lines of new-type transport, can be successful only in case strong, authoritarian political regimes take charge of the effort. The task of simultaneous mobilization of finances, brains, and labor force can be carried out only by statesmen, consciously and ruthlessly subordinating the interests and instincts of private ownership to their political will, and to the interests of the majority.
Such a political leadership is able to set goals which a private owner of any scale would not even think of. Setting the goals, the authoritarian government seeks to involve the largest possible human force in the implementation of the great design, thus also elevating the thinking and morale of this force, now acquiring a higher purpose than the primitive thing of consumption. The goal itself eliminates the contradictions between the rich and the poor, coercing both pull the same carriage. The grand goal involves secondary goals, which give birth to new branches of industry, new fields of business and new markets, thus benefiting both the national entrepreneurship and the living standards.
The authoritarian commitment of human exit into space gave birth to new chemical technologies, new kinds of polymeric materials, innovations in metallurgy, electronics and hardware, precision engineering and communications. Tomorrow's task of reaching Mars will inevitably create an impetus for new inventions in nanotechnologies, for construction of new types of energy generation, etc. Tomorrow's task of designing transcontinental maglev lines will spark production of new super-precise machinery, employing artificial intellect systems and laser technology. Militarization of space is also going to create a powerful accelerating effect for civil branches of productive economy.
The perspective of the revival of the United States is associated not with an "ultra-capitalist" financial dictatorship, which has already exposed its inefficiency and inability to boost real progress, but with a military-technocratic type of dictatorial rule. In case this happens, a sweeping chain reaction, spreading across the globe, will exterminate the financial elite and change the character of political management as well.
A CORRUPTED DICTATORSHIP WON'T WORK
The prospective of a new technocratic dictatorship in the United States not only promises doom to the global financial elite, but also challenges other governments, potentially facing a new-type competition with the new America.
Russia, traditionally regarded by the United States as a geopolitical rival, is to be ready to this perspective. In order to meet the challenge of a New America, a simple authoritarian transformation of the political system of Russia would be insufficient.
The potential US dictatorship, swiftly revitalizing the huge accumulation of new technologies in electronics, communication systems, as well as organizing technologies, is likely to develop into a low-corrupted and therefore well functioning mechanism. The experience of decision-making, substantiated with a common purpose, is likely to accelerate designing and implementation of projects. The unbroken tradition of concentrating "brain factories" in strategic areas and research centers would be instrumental in re-establishing a highly workable education system, while the rational distribution of competence among military services would allow a flexible and rapid redeployment of the offensive potential.
The bureaucratic machine of today's Russia, with its largely dysfunctional distribution of duties and lack of responsibility for particular tasks, even belonging to direct competence, with sluggishness of decision-making, with its manners of silent sabotage of most strategic decision-making and a sharp nose for opportunities of shadowy income, is not prepared to meet the described challenge of probable future. A dictatorial rule, relying upon today's establishment, would be low-technological and low-efficient.
This establishment's superficial approach to conservation and development of human capital; its manner of shadowy redistribution of budget expenses; its neglect of scientific intellect, still remaining abandoned and underpaid for years, predetermine a low-intellect and high-cost mode of decision-making and implementation of projects. Moreover, transition to a formally dictatorial shape of the executive mechanism, eliminating the existing feeble mechanisms of public control, would rather reduce than improve efficiency of power and durability of statehood. Some US analysts rely upon this kind of transformation, forecasting imminent bankruptcy of the effort of "strengthening the political rule".
Responsible Russian thinkers and statesmen, soberly envisaging various prospects of near future of the mankind, view the present inefficiency of Russia's state apparatus as a real menace. Qualitative reshaping of the executive power, replacement of incompetent and corrupted cadres with a new generation, capable to respond to future challenges, is a task for today, not for tomorrow.
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