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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Washington is a parasite that sucks the rest of the country dry. The counties surrounding Washington, D.C., have the highest per capita income of any metropolitan area in the country including New York, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. The unemployment rate is also the lowest of any large region in the country.

At least New York, Silicon Valley and Hollywood all produce something we need or enjoy. Washington produces red tape, taxes and new ways to handicap innovation on a daily basis.

While America staggers after its first lost decade (2007–17) and with a new lost decade set to begin (Japan, anyone?), Washington grows fat and rich. Trust me, the hotels and restaurants in town are jammed. No depression here.

Jim Rickards.

Not sure I’d agree with him on Hollywood but he is one of an apparently growing number of commentators who have noticed the parallels between the West’s current predicament and the Fall of the Western Roman Empire.

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16 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • rxc

    It is a feature, not a bug, of the growth of govt. There are a lot of progressives who bought their houses in the DC area 30 years ago, and are now sitting on enormous nest eggs/inheritances for their children. It is like Paris and London and Tokyo and Rome and Moscow. Power attracts money and talented people.

    The US used to be the exception to the rule that the biggest city in any country was its capitol city. JFK used to say that Washington was a With the growth of the govt, we have growth of the metro area. If I had kept all the houses that I owned when I lived in DC, and just rented them out to cover the costs, I would be a multi-millionare now.

    Of course, it is also the only capitol city in the west that is run by members of the least successful ethnic group in the country. For the benefit of the “Smart People”.

  • PapayaSF

    Washington produces red tape, taxes and new ways to handicap innovation on a daily basis.

    Much more than that! It also produces all sorts of social strife by what it promotes and subsidizes in education. It produces welfare dependency, and thus increased crime from the products of welfare dependency. It produces social strife, crime, lower wages, and vote fraud by promoting illegal mass immigration.

    Washington is a very busy place.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Richards is, alas, a protectionist. But his book, Currency Wars, is good.

  • Mr Ed

    What does New York produce that is not a by-product of fractional reserve banking, bagels?

    Much the same might be said of London as of DC.

  • Pat

    Of course another parallel between the western empire and the current West is a declining birth rate. The Romans staved off defeat by allowing Goths Visigoths etc. to settle within the boundaries of empire. We are attempting the same by allowing Afghans, Somalis, various Arabs and sundry sub Saharan to settle.
    I expect us to do better simply because our immigrants are far more diverse. But the parallel does not inspire confidence.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Rickards is correct about Washington D.C. and the counties around it – they suck in resources and produce nothing but Redtape and tax-and-spend antics.

    However, Mr Ed is correct about New York.

    Even London is not actually worse than the rest of the country in taxes and regulations – if real estate costs were not so high there would be no reason not have productive enterprises there (word of warning – avoid “devolution” to London as Mayor Khan and co would put taxes through the roof). Although Britain is fast going broke – its “financial industry” a Credit Bubble, and its government spending like a drunken sailor (and calling its wild spending “austerity”). If the budget in a few days includes yet more government borrowing to finance building houses on what is left of the farm land of South East England then the logical response (for those people to poor to leave the country) may well be suicide. Sadly nothing lasts for ever – and our beloved country may have run its course. Still let us hope there is a last minute change of heart (or that a certain Chancellor and a certain First Lord of Treasury slip whilst playing with a toy duck in the bath – not the same bath, I hasten to add, I am certainly not suggesting any impropriety).

    But New York?

    New York, City and State, has the highest government spending and the worst debt in the in the United States – worse than California (by the way Hollywood is dying – and the internet and computer companies, which make up half of what is left of the private economy in California, must leave at some point).

    How is New York’s wild government spending financed? It is financed, indirectly, by the funny money of the Federal Reserve – which props up the “Financial Industry”.

    Yet leftists tell everyone that States such as Alabama get more Federal help than New York – they can say that because the funny money of the Federal Reserve is carefully left out of the calculations.

    But reality will kick in eventually. And New York City and State has the highest government spending in the country, and the highest debt.

    In the Great Depression farmers in Alabama were taught Ancient Greek by academics from Auburn (the State could not afford to pay academics during the Great Depression) in return for food. How will New York City react to the end of its Bubble Economy?

    Cannibalism?

    It is said that great urban centres are never more than a few meals away from social breakdown. The people do not know each other (they are not kin – or even friends), they do not go to church together (they, mostly, do not go to church at all). If they were starving – why would they NOT turn on each other?

    Is there any will for reform in New York? Well there is an election in a couple of weeks – and the Castro and Ortega loving socialist Mayor of New York is running for re election. If he loses then I will EAT MY WORDS (rather than eat human flesh) – if he wins, then we will know that the people of New York City have rejected even a mild dissent from ever-bigger-government (and the social breakdown that must come from it).

    As for the people of Washington D.C. and the counties around it (in both Maryland and Virginia – Montgomery County and Fairfax County) – how they look down (indeed despise) the “Red Necks” (“Scots Irish” – i.e. Protestant Irish) people of West Virginia a few hours away by car.

    However, look at the “Debt Clock” – especially those unfunded mandates. This vastly bloated Federal Government – this monster created by the Progressive Movement can not carry on as it is, and it has NO WILL TO ROLL ITSELF BACK.

    People will still be “scratching a living” in West Virginia 20 years from now (if the People’s Republic of China has not harvested them for spare parts) – I doubt the same will be true of Washington D.C.

    And the money the government has given the poor in West Virginia? It has caused great HARM – undermining communities and pushing drug dependence.

    The people there, in the end, will be better off without the Feds – again assuming the PRC does not get them.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    Joseph Tainter’s ‘The Collapse of Complex Societies’ is worthwhile reading for more on this topic. Here are a couple of spookily relevant passages:

    1: “Sociopolitical organizations constantly encounter problems that require increased investment merely to preserve the status quo. This investment comes in such forms as increasing size of bureaucracies, increasing specialization of bureaucracies, cumulative organizational solutions, increasing costs of legitimizing activities, and increasing costs of internal control and external defense. All of these must be borne by levying greater costs on the support population, often to no increased advantage.* As the number and costliness of organizational investments increases, the proportion of a society’s budget available for investment in future economic growth must decline. Thus, while initial investment by a society in growing complexity may be a rational solution to perceived needs, that happy state of affairs cannot last (…) Ever greater increments of investment yield ever smaller increments of return.”

    The parallel with today’s metastasizing governments is obvious as they seek ever more powers and ever more revenue. It’s important to note that ‘collapse’ in Tainter’s view does not necessarily mean a regression to the kind of violence and lawlessness depicted in apocalyptic movies such as the ‘Mad Max’ series – rather, it refers to a reversion to less complex social structures. This may well not be viewed as a disaster by anyone except those who savour the benefits of being the social top dogs:

    2: “What may be a catastrophe to administrators (and later observers) need not be to the bulk of the population. It may only be among those members of a society who have neither the opportunity nor the ability to produce primary food resources that the collapse of administrative hierarchies is a clear disaster. Among those less specialized, severing the ties that link local groups to a regional entity is often attractive. Collapse then is not intrinsically a catastrophe. It is a rational, economizing process that may well benefit much of the population.”

    Tainter here offers a tenable explanation for the differing reactions of elite classes and the ordinary population to the two main political shocks of last year: the ‘Brexit’ vote by the UK to quit the European Union and the ascent of Donald Trump as US president.

    In the US we can see the elites (and the privileged young liberal-student types who aim to join their ranks) are still shocked and horrified by the Trump victory, while ‘flyover country’ and the ‘rust belt’ are celebrating.

    In the UK the wealthier and politically-connected upper social echelons (and the privileged young liberal-student types who aim to join their ranks) are devastated and angry at the prospect of no longer being micro-managed by unelected European bureaucrats, whereas the poorer, lower-status groups are cheering and celebrating at the prospect of ‘getting our country back’ – or, as Tainter puts it: “Among those less specialized, severing the ties that link local groups to a regional entity is often attractive.”

    (*My emphasis).

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Wrong, rxc! Sydney is the most populous city in Australia, with 4 million people. Canberra, the National capital, is nowhere near that size. I guess that means there’s still hope for us?

  • mila

    Of course, it is also the only capitol city in the west that is run by members of the least successful ethnic group in the country. For the benefit of the “Smart People”.

    which ethnic group runs Washington?

  • Henry Cybulski

    Nicholas: also Ottawa in Canada, Bern in Switzerland and Brasilia in Brazil just to name a few. Many provincial capitals in Canada are also not the most populous FWIW.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    And we can add New Zealand to the list! Biggest city is Auckland, where all those orc extras came from. Capital city is Wellington.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Mila, I think the group known as ‘those people’, whoever they are.

  • bobby b

    “which ethnic group runs Washington?”

    Damned dirty bureaucrats.

  • Richard Thomas

    Re: New York. It’s no mistake that the financial capital of the US is so close to the political capital. In London, they’re even the same city. The financial markets in both places benefit greatly from close relations to politicians. And vice versa.

  • Richard Thomas (November 1, 2017 at 4:02 am), historically, New York and Washington were far apart. The founders allowed a generous five months between election and inauguration so a candidate could travel from the furthest reaches of the then US to the capitol during the winter season. New York’s geographical location made it a major hub which strongly influenced its later evolution into a financial centre.

    So, as regards human foresight, the relative geographical location of New York to Washington is indeed a ‘mistake’, or at least a complete accident. This is good news from our viewpoint – just one more example of the folly of imagining the future can be planned socialist-style by an alleged elite.

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