Simply, it’s the lack of sufficiency in how whole nation’s think and act.
With the West and Russia going eye-to-eye in Syria (again) and with the U.S. Navy moving into the Western Pacific within striking range of North Korea, as China masses 150,000 troops on the North Korean border, I thought it might be productive to consider the whole “war” paradigm. Where does this come from?
You see, there is a dirty little secret among economists. It is simply this: Many of the global trade problems and friction between nations can be traced to differing societal levels (and definitions) of “sufficiency.”
If there is one person who deserves a weekly Nobel Prize for his work in the field, it is (oddly) the late King of Thailand.
”Sufficiency economy is the name of a Thai development approach attributed to the late King Bhumipol Adulyadej‘s “sufficiency economy philosophy” (SEP). It has been elaborated upon by Thai academics and agencies, promoted by the Government of Thailand, and applied by over 23,000 villages in Thailand that have SEP-based projects in operation.”
When we look at almost any conflict in the modern world, there is some angle of sufficiency differential built-in.
In the generic Muslim versus Infidel match-up, the one side says not enough of their converts while the other says there are too many of the other when the natural order of life is disrupted.
True Believers in Lebensraum (elbow room) followed Hitler east from Germany leading to WW II. Insufficiency was central to Hitler’s call to war.
In North Korea, starvation has been the national diet for decades because the leadership – right down through present – can’t come to grips with the idea you gain more friends with honey than you do with pepper spray. Smart people led by slow learners.
The Syria mess is because Russia wants to build an American-style global series of safe-havens for its forces.
While the West enjoys the nuclear storage and refueling site at Diego Garcia, the Chinese answer is to build some forward bases out of former reefs loosely called the Spratleys.
The Russian answer has been to take over the eastern portion of Ukraine which ensures their warm-water port.
But they were in very demonstrable ways driven to action by the clown posse of Brussels – the European Union – which was trying to steal the Dnieper-Donets petroleum fields of Eastern Ukraine from under Russia’s nose.
Didn’t play for shit.
And North Koreas answer is to build the nuclear blackmailing tools.
While we expect in the very short term the global markets may pull back from this most recent outbreak of stupidity, there is still the possibility that the markets will continue to climb the “wall of worry” but perhaps not just yet. Quants may yet rule over emotions with algorithms.
Toss in the fact of an aerial search patterns off the California coast looking for another Chinese or Russian “boomer” like the one that launched a rocket to send a messages to Washington (which promptly lied-it over), and we see a world that is seriously screwed if we don’t change the one broken part:
Our thinking about sufficiency and is it worth dying for.
Over on the Peoplenomics side of the house we occasionally hold forth an insight, or three, on this matter of the “Sufficiency Economy.”
Here’s one for you that is simple to grasp:
Where do international trade imbalances come from?
It’s obvious from a “sufficiency” perspective.
Take U.S. – China Trade.
The U.S. has a much difference idea of what constitutes “sufficiency.”
A bunch of UHD monitors (*I’m guilty due to eye problems), a huge piece of land (damn, guilty again!), and at least 2,400 square feet of living space under air conditioning and heating. (I’m embarrassed to be 3 for 3.) American “sufficiency at its finest.
In China, the housing is smaller, most people’s possessions can be stuffed into a couple of suit-cases, though they are getting bigger.
But the one that defines the concept for me is the proliferation of “public storage units” in the country you’re likely in.
What will happen?
In order to support the higher level of consumption (embedded in the self-hypnotized belief that ours is the only legit “sufficiency” equation) we will NECESSARILY run a terrible trade deficit with China. Absent the “sufficiency differential” is seems to hard to grasp. Yet with it? Totally obvious. The Spendthrift nation will become in debt to the Thrifty.
If the shoe were on the other foot and China had completed its Middle Class build-out and all Chinese owned McMansions built while we were slammed back into a Second Depression due to over-priced paper financial assets, then our balance of trade (BoT) MIGHT improve.
However, since the Chinese have been a culture since, oh, back in Biblical times, or so, which has afforded them more time to work on this “sufficiency” problem by letting it “settle out” a bit.
The historical China drifted toward local self sufficiency with high culture only in a few places; centers of power and government.
In the West through this period, it was a succession of socio-religions with in-built economic models, the whole notion of interest, leverage, and the divine right of Kings to (among other things) waste and wage war.
Which next reveals to us to the real culprit in all this:
You see, there is no more powerful force than Capitalism driven by marketing.
How many forms of toilet paper do with need? Oh, in some countries one is just fine.
Go down to the local grocery store today and count toilet paper brands. Seriously? Can your butt tell the difference at “wipe time” between quilted or puffed? One, two, or three layers? Septic safe, or not?
Why? To build demand. And to perpetuate the Continual Growth Model, that’s where Marketing Drives Capitalism.
Don’t misunderstand: In the wake of a huge natural disaster – or to steal a whole country out from under indigenous peoples, which we pretend didn’t happen in the American genocide against Native People – Capitalism rocks it.
Where Capitalism’s feet of clay appear is at (and along) the bottom of a long wave economic interest rate decline cycle. We have been in said cycle since interest rates peaked in the 15% range back in 1980-1981.
While rates have been going down hill ever since, the way crony capitalism works, those who were “in on it” cut a fat hog.
Those who weren’t? Well they bent-over for 27 to 30% credit card interest rates because the U.S. Congress really is “For Sale” and the financial industry has only to put up a few scare slides (Too Big To Fail!!!) and the fools on the hill open up the checkpoint and stick us little people with the bill.
The admonition to live differently is there, for those taking the time to find it in alm ost all religious doctrines.
In the “Lord’s Prayer” I would draw your attention to:
“…and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil….”
Regardless of whether you are a believer, understanding the “Petitions” in the Lord’s Prayer is very much universal values.
The “…lead us not into temptation…” is the Sixth Petition, for the woefully insular. Temptation leads to consumption – a kind of self-fulfilling asymmetric economic warfare.
It’s there in other faiths as well.
A story from the Reporter’s Notebook: I may have mentioned a strange event I experienced when I was news director of KMPS up in Seattle back in 1976.
One day a large diesel pusher – a decked-out modern Greyhound-looking bus conversion (obviously high-end) – showed up on Western Avenue down below the Pike Place Market in Seattle were the studios were at the time.
An elderly Asia man got out, came up the half-flight of steps to the floor the radio station was on and announced he was there for see me.
He wasn’t on the schedule. But somehow I was intrigued.
“We must go for a walk…” he instructed.
It was a fine day – and the station was just on the other side of the Viaduct – the elevated freeway that cuts along the Seattle waterfront.
As we walked – from the Pike Place market, down to the container yards, and back. he made me memorize what turns out to be a very slightly-tweaked version of the Prayer of St. Germaine:
- “Beloved I AM Presence bright, Round me seal your Tube of Light.
- From Ascended Master’s flame, Called for now in God’s great name.
- Let it keep my temple free, From all discord sent to me.
- I am calling for Violet Fire, To blaze and transmute all desire.
- Keeping on in Freedom’s Name, Till I am one with the Violet Flame.”
He was insistent I learn it on our walk. It has been a useful benchmark ever since.
Especially the part “I am calling for Violet Fire, To blaze and transmute all desire.”
The small, elderly Asian man got on the bus with his entourage and drove off, never to be seen, or heard of by me, since.
There is a common thread to all conflict: Envy, lust, distrust, greed, and desire.
In this soil crooked monsters sow the seeds of war. Whether by conquest or subversion, the outcome is ever the same.
Which is how the Art of Sufficiency becomes, as the late King of Thailand believed, one of the most important missions of the human race. For as long as we’re around to work it.
Write when you break-even,