Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 12, 2022

Michael Hudson: The End of Western Civilization

Let me recommend to everyone the speech Michael Hudson has held on Monday for China’s Global University. It digs to the core of the illness that has taken over 'western' societies.

The issue is debt which historically was largely forgiven by the king or high priest in case of hard times. But during the time of the Greek and later Roman empires oligarchs took over and demanded to pay back all debt in full and even in hard times. This split societies into a rich rentier class and indebted plebs. Each empire that followed that path, from the Roman to the British one, eventually came down due to over-indebtedness.

Thomas Cole - The Course of Empire: Destruction


The U.S. is the current global empire which is way down on this path. It is hostile to all societies that do not open their financial markets to be robbed by U.S. oligarchs. This is at the core of the current global conflict as China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela developed from different traditions and reject to give in to U.S. demands. The U.S. is used to solve such 'problems' by force but is now likely too weak to achieve that.

Naked Capitalism is the first to publish the English language version of Hudson's speech:

Michael Hudson: The End of Western Civilization – Why It Lacks Resilience, and What Will Take Its Place

The core paragraphs are probably these:

The United States through its New Cold War is aiming at securing precisely such economic tribute from other countries. The coming conflict may last for perhaps twenty years and will determine what kind of political and economic system the world will have. At issue is more than just U.S. hegemony and its dollarized control of international finance and money creation. Politically at issue is the idea of “democracy” that has become a euphemism for an aggressive financial oligarchy seeking to impose itself globally by predatory financial, economic and political control backed by military force.

As I have sought to emphasize, oligarchic control of government has been the distinguishing feature of Western civilization ever since classical antiquity. And the key to this control has been opposition to strong government – that is, civil government strong enough to prevent a creditor oligarchy from emerging and monopolizing control of land and wealth, making itself into a hereditary aristocracy, a rentierclass living off land rents, interest and monopoly privileges that reduce the population at large to austerity.

It will be necessary to bring down the rentierclass. To recommit to a strong state that owns the public goods and services and does not hand them over to private interests. The coming malaise may well help to achieve that.

Posted by b on July 12, 2022 at 14:00 UTC | Permalink

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Posted by: peter mcloughlin | Jul 14 2022 14:10 utc | 303

The root of all power is the willingness to lead on the part of a leader and the consent of those who follow that leader.

Consent is also the basis of Law.

We are all free to consent or not, though sometimes the price we pay for such decision might be death.

Posted by: Scorpion | Jul 14 2022 14:40 utc | 301

Posted by: Tom Pfotzer | Jul 14 2022 12:51 utc | 302

Glad you like the contributions. I write here to learn how to think through issues like this which usually have just kept inside without trying to articulate anything, so much so that am not really sure what I think about things. I think generally prefer navel-gazing contemplative subject matter but we are living through interesting times and this board is a great place to converse about them. I don't usually pay for anything on the internet, but I coughed up a wad for b who more than merits it!

Posted by: Scorpion | Jul 14 2022 14:43 utc | 302

"Opposition to strong government"! What a croc of ...! Western governments have never been more centralized and "strong", witness their actions during the latest "pandemic", and the way they can commit enormous resources to this conflict with very little opposition. True that western governments are not controlled the way westerners believe it is, but that does not make it weak! This clash of civilizations is not a clash between ideologies, it is a clash for control of a system that both sides support.

Posted by: Ray | Jul 14 2022 20:01 utc | 303

Its the end of supremacist Angloamerican 'civilization'. Not the Western one.

Posted by: Dodrey Dougherton | Jul 15 2022 3:37 utc | 304

@LuRenJia #142
There are tests - but they're no different than the SATs + extra curricular activities to get into the top US universities.
In theory, anyone can do that but in reality, the children of the rich and/or powerful go to prep schools and have the "inside" contacts to make entrance automatic.
It is no different than a theoretically open "cavalier" class in the feudal era. Sure, if a peasant could get the training and afford to buy a horse, armor and the free time to train - they too could be a knight.
But in reality, you had to be at least middle class to even consider affording such an investment - and of course, the children of actual knights already had all that in hand. But in the feudal era, the cavaliers actually had to fight pretty regularly so there was actual real world reinforcement of requirements; the same is much, much less true of today.

Posted by: c1ue | Jul 15 2022 14:23 utc | 305

@Sushi #129
You are trying to compare a late stage, decadent US oligarchy with a 2nd generation Chinese one.
Wait another generation with China - that's when the real proof arrives.

Posted by: c1ue | Jul 15 2022 14:24 utc | 306

@Tom Pfotzer #285
You're trying to technocrat a fix - that won't work.

The real problem is that humans are ambitious and smart.
Marxist-Leninism did amazing things for 1.5 generations - after that, the smart and ambitious people figured out how to maximize the resource that mattered: bureaucratic position.
Capitalism is actually fine in nascent/frontier situations - the problems arise when things settle down and the monopolies form.
Socialism is a bastard of the two - with the worst aspects of both but possibly with a slightly more humanitarian leaning.

My view is that the only form of government that will work - and economics is no different - is to ensure that the smart, ambitious people can never cement a long term (defined as more than 1 generation duration) of societal/regulatory/economic/government capture.

What this means in reality is a literally random government change every 30 years.

Only then can the accumulated excesses inherent in every system be removed - call it a socio-economic jubilee.

Your ideas focusing on "local" are nothing more than a version of Rousseau-ian "back to nature", and are doomed to fail because:
1) Modern existence depends on scale. Industry depends on scale. "Local" means going back to 1800s style living - no computer chips, no aluminum, no imports or exports, no satellites, no national infrastructure.
2) "local" setups like you describe are cold meat to conquerors.
3) Not all localities are alike. How do you ensure freedom of mobility, while ensuring minimal local viability? People will want to go where life is easiest and leave where life is the hardest - this creates a power dynamic between localities as well as a power dynamic within the locality - again, nothing new since this was the same problem in the feudal era re: peasants.
4) Even if we discount these problems or they magically go away due to "technology" - how do you transition from here to there? What precisely is the mechanism?
These are just a few of the major problems with your idea - there are infinite smaller ones.

The problem we have is that the government has the power to regulate but is choosing not to - because it is captured by the American oligarchy.

The fix is not to abolish government - that is libertarian garbage.
The fix is to re-establish the government into doing its damn job.

Objectively, re-regulation is easier and less damaging than revolution, but the problem is the incumbent oligarchy. Revolution generally starts by killing off/displacing said oligarchy so is better in that sense.

TR did it, FDR did it - so it can be done.
And as FDR said: if reform isn't done, then we get revolution.

Posted by: c1ue | Jul 15 2022 14:41 utc | 307

And on the subject of Dr. Michael Hudson:

His latest - he is now saying the barrier to change is the US Constitution: source on NC

There’s no path forward in the way that we’ve been talking about because the suggestions that Steve makes cannot be legislated by Congress. They are limited by the Constitution. And in order to do what Steve recommends – very good ideas – you would need a new Constitutional Convention. The right-wing, the polluters, the monopolists, the bankers, have been preparing for a Constitutional Convention for about 30 years, and it wouldn’t be very nice.

Still Republican-Derangement syndrome but he is progressing.

Posted by: c1ue | Jul 15 2022 14:44 utc | 308

@ tim rourke

I completely agree. Alsou industrial revolution, when most of labour is done buy machines, producing goods in enermous quantities as newer before. Modern juridical system is alsou western. Most of exploration of the world originated in the west.
Well, and the modern military. Japanese court adopted western style modernised army and defeated outnumbered samurai army of shoguns.
Some of the achiewments could be just becouse of concentration of resources and more free time and resources than in regions with dayly struggle for survive.

Islamic civilization once was on simmilar conquest. It wasn't something dark and evil, at the time it had the most advanced science, free trade (exept for bribes), society based on laws, maritime explorations. They refused to convert africans to islam so that they as pagans could be turned into slaves.

Looking at the USA leaders. Well it reminds me of late soviet leadership with Brezhnev and Chernenko. The only difference in the west they don't laught about their incapable leaders when they see state propoganda = political adds and bought media content. EU leadership looks simmilar, less capable and kind of slow buerocrats but still in better shape.

Ignores: the key role of progressive and globalist ideology, the corruption and failure of western democracy, the collapse of Christian religion, the obvious fact that international elites seek power and control before money. This is a reductionist, economic view of humanity, culture and empire; rather like Marxism, it assumes culture and belief are just the result of economics. The reverse is true; culture and belief determines economic and political systems. Marxists, economists and emperors live not by bread alone.

Posted by: Nick | Jul 14 2022 9:41 utc | 301

They are kind of destroying things on what their power stands including moral standarts. The adoption of moral relativity when 'the truth' had disapeared only the interests remain corrupted the system. Anglo-saxon nationalism stands very mutch against west. They excluded other western nations based on the ethnical basis, that would not keep Empire united.

Posted by: Alef | Jul 16 2022 7:46 utc | 309

Michael Hudson (Part II) - A Philosophy for a Fair Society
June 14, 2022, ~50 mins = Hudson gets right to the point without holding back in this.
He covers US history, the neocons, + the current global situation including USA's behavior towards China, the UK, Russia, Ukraine, Venezuela, etc.
This is an exceptionally bold/brilliant interview.

Posted by: Catherine O'Connor | Jul 17 2022 1:36 utc | 310

@ Catherine O'Connor | Jul 17 2022 1:36 utc | 314 with the Michael Hudson link...thanks

I just finished listening to it and agree that Michael is in fine form and this interview is a good summary of the (r)evolution that our species is going looks like revolution now but it is just evolution from an anthropological view.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Jul 17 2022 2:59 utc | 311

@ak74 (299)
Either way, I think Fabrice (256) said it better than I did.

Posted by: joey_n | Jul 19 2022 21:57 utc | 312

@rk. 11
"And don't forget that EU is building a bunker for its leaders. Fear of Russian nukes? No, they all have their own bunkers, far away."

Can you point us to a link? Wouldn't be on Finland would it?

Posted by: Gene Poole | Jul 31 2022 12:37 utc | 313

@rk. 11
Sorry, I should have done a reality check before implying you needed one. Sure enough, right there in Brussels. And I'm sure Mother Fond o' Lyin' will make certain the table is impeccable.

Posted by: Gene Poole | Jul 31 2022 12:55 utc | 314

Posted by: Tom SteChatte | Jul 12 2022 21:46 utc | 125

You do know that many of us here have heard these prepackaged arguments for so long that we don't even bother to laugh at them anymore, don't you? So why bother? (Yes, that was a disingenuous question.)

Posted by: Gene Poole | Jul 31 2022 15:38 utc | 315

Posted by: Tom_Q_Collins | Jul 12 2022 23:00 utc | 143

President Macron of France - a WEF baby - famously once told young people that getting a job is easy - "all you have to do is cross the street" -, but that their ambitions shouldn't aim merely at getting a job and being able to own a home and raise a family, but at becoming billionaires.

Posted by: Gene Poole | Jul 31 2022 16:09 utc | 316

Generally, I would suggest that first you need a people/culture/national spirit and then you consider its economy not the other way around.

Posted by: Scorpion | Jul 14 2022 0:35 utc | 287

I think that we're at the point where we need to identify not as a people or a nation, but as a species. And we should make a point of not calling ourselves Sapiens, but Delens - which does not have to mean that we don't recognize and celebrate all the good we have done and the beauty we've created along with what we have destroyed.

Posted by: Gene Poole | Aug 2 2022 11:49 utc | 317

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