March 18, 2008

"Oh, the World Owes Us a Livin'"

Eamonn Fingleton has a new book coming out entitled In the Jaws of the Dragon: America's Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony.

That reminded me that about a dozen years ago, I saw Walt Disney's 1934 Silly Symphony musical cartoon short "The Grasshopper and the Ants." Even though Disney came up with a happy ending for Aesop's fable -- when winter comes, the hardworking ants take in the profligate fiddle-playing grasshopper and let him be their Musician-in-Residence -- it's stuck in my head ever since as a dismaying allegory for the mid-21st Century economy.

The 8-minute cartoon is now on Youtube and it's only gotten more relevant for Americans this month: What are all us grasshoppers who aren't star entertainers going to do for a living in the coming globalized world?

P.S., Ziel has some sharp thinking on the economy at Your Lying Eyes.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

I'm working on my sixth degree trying to stave off the swarming third world technical elites. But of course as I grow older it just gets worse. I'm beginning to despair as well.

Bruce Charlton said...

Delightful and thought-provoking.

One interesting aspect of the modern world is the extent to which it relies on individuals seeking out their own employment niche (on the basis of very inadequate knowledge).

Consequently we do not allocate efficiently or usefully our very limited supplies of personal 'skill' (e.g. high IQ)

I wonder whether the time will come when it is more efficient for employers to seek out the people, maybe the individuals, who can fill the specific niche they have on offer.

For example, I know several very high IQ people who are economically-inactive due to their lack of ambition and conscientiousness (eg. people dabbling in the arts - HD Thoreau was an early example of the type who achieved huge posthumous success - but of course most cannot and never-do achieve Thoreau-like success).

Will there come a time when these people's exceptional brain-power can be put to use by employers/ society - by a system that will identify and seek out people with particular abilities, and provide the necessary incentives and employment structure to motivate them?

So, instead of waiting for the grasshopper to hammer on the door requesting entry in return for fiddling; instead the ants recognise their niche for a fiddler, and go out and rescue him, to propose a package of shelter and food in return for specified hours of playing...

Anonymous said...

Just one problem Steve.
You misquoted the title it should read 'the coming era of Chinese hegemony'.
If you don't click on the link, you would get a totally wrong impression of the gist of the book.

Anonymous said...

"in the coming era of American hegemony" would have been a surprising and much more interesting title. Even if China surpasses US GDP on PPP around 2025 or so, the US will remain global hegemon a good while beyond that, just as the British Empire remained dominant for several decades after the US economy had surpassed the British. And there's a big question whether the Chinese will ever be interested in or even psychologically capable of a global leadership/hegemon role. They may prefer to continue propping up the decaying American Empire, letting it continue to bear the global policeman burden, as the West propped up the Ottomans and as (to a lesser extent) America propped up the British Empire until after WW2.

Anonymous said...

Of course, if the ruling elite were on our - the people's - side, then it would use the military in creative ways.

For example, a while back China was considering whether to use its "nuclear option," so-called. This meant it was pondering whether to pull out of the dollar. Much play was given to that term "nuclear option."

Imagine what would happen if a US Prez simply stood up and said in reply, "China would do well to remember that the United States, too, has a nuclear option." And sat down again.

We owe you trillions? Come and collect it.

You don't want to continue the loans? Kiss goodbye to your infrastructure.

We're a little behind on our payments? So what? You're going to make something of it - YOU?

One word, pal. BOOM.

Bee - oh - oh - em. Spells boom. Look it up.

Anonymous said...

China is arming itself at an "alarming" rate that worries the Pentagon.

Simply put, if we keep on bullying the world, one can look for China, Russia, and India to begin to oppose us. We can count on Arabia to oppose us as China and India start buying more and more of their oil, making us no longer necessary to them. What friends will we have out there? An increasingly muslim Europe? Ha!
South America? So what?

Anonymous said...

Ziel states what seems to have been forgotten by virtually every school of economics, even by the Austrians: that imports must ultimately be paid for in exports. How long could your grocer lend you money to buy groceries at his store? At some point the books have to balance.

Anonymous said...

Dude, making movies and tv shows isn't all that hard, and it's one product the rest of the world is still eager to buy from us. Just sayin', you might want your kids to read Robert McKee instead of taking that extra calc class.

Anonymous said...

"What friends will we have out there? An increasingly muslim Europe? Ha!
South America? So what?"

Why ask such painful and difficult questions about the future? Latino USA and Eurobia - i.e. the West -have solid leadership in Obama and his Hope message! We should just all chill!

Anonymous said...

Sailer: What are all us grasshoppers who aren't star entertainers going to do for a living in the coming globalized world?

headache: I'm working on my sixth degree trying to stave off the swarming third world technical elites.

Well, not all of us "turd" world technical "elites" (?) are swarming the "first" (?) one. Worse, we can be considered the "cockroaches" in our modern-day story -- although Aesop didn't include us in the tale.

With our limited supply of cognitive capacity to create/sustain a proper civilization, we made the mistake of interpreting grasshopper-ing like the first-worlders as "progress," and squandered our very scarce resources.

(Turkia, with its $400 Bn. GDP, has a $120 Bn. debt, most of it not spent on industrialization but consumption.)

Even today, allegedly conservative elites of the West keep on misinterpreting the situation here (using liberal templates), and consider our political configuration as "the elites protecting a Western style democracy against the barbaric hordes." What is happening is the elites are screaming "secularism" not because we have a great industrial base and a large middle-class -- in the Western sense -- that somehow feels threatened by a large "fringe" group of "religious extremists," but rather the handful of elites -- who have as their primary obsession piss-racing in decadence with "culture" (?) centers like New York -- consider their "right" to sun-bathe topless as a higher priority than to create a stronger socio-economic base.

I guess, we won't even be employed to hold the coats of the "star" performers.


P.S. YLE's commentary is a very sobering, realistic one, Steve. Thanks for that.

Eugene said...

This sounds to me like a repeat of all the "Japan as Number One" books published back during the 1980s. A decade-long recession (obvious in hindsight but that hardly anybody then anticipated) knocked the stuffing out of that argument. China's got a much shakier political and banking system, and a billion more exposed liabilities than Japan. We give them a bunch of paper IOUs, and they stock our Wal-Marts. China right now is a house of cards praying that nobody coughs.

Anonymous said...

Simply put, if we keep on bullying the world, one can look for China, Russia, and India to begin to oppose us.

I keep wondering: who the hell are we bullying? And how, exactly?

Are we "bullying" China by letting them carry a $200+ billion annual trade surplus with us? Or India by letting tens of thousands of its workers come here to work, send money home and/or immigrate? (And India's pressuring us to let more in - see any article about H1B visas and more Indian papers will carry the story than American ones.)

Anonymous said...

Oh Steve, China is in desperate straights.

Separatism in Tibet and XianXing. One Budhhist based, ethnically also, the other Muslim based, and ethnically also. Corruption abounds. Most Chinese illiterate or functionally illiterate. The cruelest Dickensian capitalism stuff you could think of.

Anyone predicting straight-line increases for the next fifty years in China's GDP or PCI is sniffing the laughing gas. Dumb. If anything CHina is more vulnerable to high energy prices than we are.

Anonymous said...

The World Owes Me a Living: (1934) Words by Larry Morey, who also did all the lyrics for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves", as well as Lavender Blue. Music by Leigh Harline, the Swedish Mormon Utahn who composed When You Wish Upon a Star.

How did Disney manage to get such great songs out of such nobodies? Or have I got it backwards: is it just the general anonymity of film composers, e.g. Harry Warren? Who'd've heard of Jimmy van Heusen if he wasn't Sinatra's drinking buddy? Or Harold Arlen, if Ethel Waters hadn't called him the"negroest white man" in the land? (A compliment others have bestowed upon Johnny Mercer and Vinicius de Moraes.)

Anonymous said...

Just read BGC's comment after posting mine-- and wonder if Walt Disney himself anticipated BGC's advice.

Does anyone know if Disney was a true "anti-Semite" like Henry Ford and Samuel F B Morse, or just a small-town kid burned by an bad, if legal, contract (the Oswald the Rabbit affair) who merely shied away from Jews and big-city people in general as a result? Either way, he practised "affirmative action for goys" for quite some time, and got wonderful results.

So was Disney an "ant", hiring goyish "grasshoppers" like Harline, Frank Churchill, Jay Livingston, etc., and putting them to work?

(I think the most anti-Jewish thing Disney ever did was to hire the tacky Sherman brothers, apparently wanting to show that Jews can write terrible songs, too.)

Anonymous said...

Are ants allowed to have only one kid-ant?

Think praying mantis instead of grasshopper and you'll see that America will do alright.

kurt9 said...

I read some of Fingleton's books about Japan when I first arrived there in 1991. The theme of his books then was about Japan become the leading industrial country and, therefore, the next world hegemon. His books waxed on and on about the "superiority" of Japanese company management, especially the giant keritsus, and about the "lifetime employment system".

The problem with all of this is that the deflation of the Japanese bubble (which I lived through during the 90's) showed just how poorly those giant Japanese companies were run and put paid to the much vaunted "lifetime employment system". It also showed just how rigid (and inefficient) the labor market was in Japan.

Based on his previous writings on Japan, it is likely that he is wrong about China as well