Charles Hugh Smith – The Ultimate Long Game: Autarky and Resilience

Written By: - Date published: 6:17 pm, August 18th, 2016 - 28 comments
Categories: capitalism, Economy, energy, Environment, exports, farming, infrastructure, manufacturing - Tags:

Charles Hugh Smith’s blog “Of Two Minds” is an excellent read for those of you who are beginning to look outside the mainstream for different political and economic perspectives, including the motivations and activities of the so-called “Deep State”.

His latest blog entry “The Ultimate Long Game: Autarky and Resilience” speaks directly to those Standardistas who understand that today’s mainstream political parties (and their cadres of establishment loyalists) have no willingness or ability to acknowledge the very new and very difficult world we in the formerly privileged west are all now entering.

Smith includes a description (from Mike Lofgren) of what the “Deep State” is, from a US perspective:

“I use the term to mean a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.”

He suggests that today, at least some elements of the Deep State believe that neocon military interventionism as a doctrine has been a total disaster for the USA.

He goes on to state that the “Emergent Deep State” in the USA is formulating a new long game strategy focussed on a completely different philosophy:

While many understandably view the Deep State as being wedded to globalization and centralized one-world power structures, I see the Emergent Deep State in the U.S. pursuing a much different Long Game: autarky (self-sufficiency), and the geopolitical influence that flows from an abundance of the FEW resources, my term for the essential resources of food, energy and water.

(These are related, of course; with no energy and no water, you won’t have any food, either.)

In addition to the FEW resources, autarky requires a culture of innovation, flexible social structures and multiple ladders of social mobility.

To Smith, the Deep State understands the coming challenges of climate change impacts and the loss of fossil fuels:

The Emergent Deep State is keenly aware that geopolitical influence in the future will rest heavily on the potential impact of devastating crop failures, the resilience of nation-states in terms of water / food /energy supplies and the ability to export surplus energy and food to friends. Put bluntly: enemies starve, friends get to eat–if they recognize the value of what you’re offering.

Not every nation has the social and economic flexibility needed to survive the future. The key dynamic is the resilience of the institutions that make up the nation-state and its Deep State: a nation-state with rigid hierarchical elites, little social mobility, limited FEW resources, a brittle social structure and a fear of innovation is a fragile nation-state that is one reasonably good famine away from collapse.

One simple comment that Smith made struck home with me, and our situation here in NZ:

When push comes to shove (and it will), nothing will have any value except food and the resources needed to grow it: water and energy.

Food and water are two things that NZ can become very, very good at. And other countries will want those resources from us, either by fair means or foul.

Smith talks about this as the critical FEW (i.e. Food Energy Water) resources which are going to make the difference in the future, especially in combination with a nation that exhibits a highly flexible, adaptable and decentralised cultural/societal competence.

Currently no political force in this country is talking about these issues as being pivotal. Perhaps it’s time to convince them to do so.

28 comments on “Charles Hugh Smith – The Ultimate Long Game: Autarky and Resilience”

  1. b waghorn 1

    You’re making a good case for getting even more cosy with the US . And if the shit is going to hit the fan ,i could live with the elite of the us hunkering down in queenstown with their war ships cruising the tasman and south pacific

  2. Garibaldi 2

    Thanks for the blog site CV. I would suggest that the deep state are building themselves deep bunkers!

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      A bunch of them in Queenstown, Wanaka, certain Wellington suburbs and the Wairarapa…

  3. Pat 3

    Autarky also explains the UKs (or at least the “State”) determination to establish a fracking industry even though we can’t use the known oil reserves

  4. spikeyboy 4

    All of this is no different to what is happening now. The future is here and disaster is upon us. Your future scenarios are just Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq,… In fact any war zone you care to name. Disaster is meat and drink to US Imperialism. It allows resources to be made scarce,easily controlled and valuable.The problem will never be how to protect resources from others but how to share them equitably for this is what the empire will never allow.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      All of this is no different to what is happening now.

      Perhaps in some ways, except that our politicians and political parties here in NZ don’t appear to get what the reality of “now” is. Either that or they delusionally fancy themselves as being treated as somewhat special or privileged in whatever this future brings.

      • spikeyboy 4.1.1

        You are right there. They all give the impression of just wanting to be part of the revolving door. With the notable exception of Corbyn in the UK. The fact is a shining knight in white armour is unlikely and effort in building local capability is more likely to meet with burocratic resistance than help but local is where to make the changes

        • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1

          I think your ultimate conclusion is a bullseye

          • corokia 4.1.1.1.1

            “local is where to make the changes”- – is that the “bullseye” CV?
            Because, I was wondering about 2 things.
            1.How is “local” defined? Street? Suburb/village? City/Region?
            2. Exactly what sort local changes should we be getting on with now ? On the July hottest month thread, you said you probably won’t vote, so what practical, actual things should concerned people be doing?

    • Wayne 4.2

      There is actually less war than for many decades. But they are highly visible (Syria, Iraq, Libya), and generate refugees escaping to Europe.

      For instance most people were virtually oblivious of the various wars in central Africa from the 1960’s to the early 2000’s, yet millions died. These wars have now ended.

      Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia (even China with the cultural revolution) were beset with war and chaos right through to the early 1980’s.

      Asia is fundamentally at peace now, and has been for over 35 years, which explains the huge surge of prosperity throughout East Asia, and South Asia.

      Latin America is now basically democratic. The insurrections and dictatorships have basically disappeared. It is why Brazil felt confident enough to host the World Cup and the Olympics.

      The Middle East is not the whole world.

      But I would accept that the balance of power is changing, especially going toward China. And that is potentially an unsettling time to live through. However it could also be an opportunity, especially for New Zealand.

  5. Gristle 5

    Having recently got back from a project constructing rain water harvesting systems into some villages in the South Pacific I was reflecting on the stupidity of the “dairy thing.” Hundreds of thousands of water are used to produce cow flavoured water. The conversion rate is less than 5%. And then much of the remaining water is stripped out by the likes of Fonterra.

    In many markets around the world, the price of bottled water is very similar to that of milk.

    Dairy is yesterday’s product. Straight water, without all the pollution and environmental vandalism, is tomorrow’s product.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Thanks for your perpective. NZ’s dairy industry needs to be shrunk by 80%, and that prime farm land + water + diesel repurposed for serious food production.

    • Phil 5.2

      We would be wise to choose an udder path I think if the synthetic alternatives, dairy and meat, take off (e.g. http://labiotech.eu/muufri-vegan-milk-synbio-startup/). A product which is safe, taste/texture the same, but which uses considerably less natural resources (esp. water) with none of the downstream waste could prove compelling to many thinking consumers (and the 75% of the world which is lactose intolerant).

      • b waghorn 5.2.1

        It’ll be interesting to see if every one can digest the frankin milk. Some can’t even take soy milk.

  6. Ad 6

    I find it very hard to believe we in faster entropic decline than in much of the previous century. The dystopias that have occurred over 100 years have more often than not had agents that had exceedingly strong financing, networks and ideologies, but had nothing to do with the standard US or UK elites. In fact most often they opposed them.

    I’m not saying it’s a picnic at the moment.

    “In addition to the FEW resources, autarky requires a culture of innovation, flexible social structures and multiple ladders of social mobility.”
    If that’s the case, autarky is incredibly unlikely. I see democracy and class mobility retreating fairly quickly across the world including here in New Zealand.

    It’s certainly not the ‘Deep State’ that is inflexible and hierarchical. What’s confounding them is not globalization – which is here to stay as a way to communicate, find labour opportunity, and to spread risk appropriately – but the simultaneous stalling and retreat of both economic neoliberalism and social liberalism at the same time.

    That doesn’t stop their flexibility and fluidity. I already see plenty of commentaries on the global limits of Reserve Banks and central interest rate changes, and finance houses are altering course to suit. That’s new. I see plenty of changes in the attitude of the US military, generally for the better. We see instead an era of economic stagnation in the developed world, in the BRICS, and in China that is confounding all kinds of old elites.

    I also see the great commodity burn-off of the last decade humbling many who could not have been imaged to be humbled: even the eschatological horizon of Big Oil is approaching. Big Mining is simply merging and merging because there is simply nothing else for them to do.

    Even that monolith Insurance is not immune from being reined in. Obamacare is a really good deep shockwave to them. And it’s a great proving ground for an even larger version across Europe.

    Tech giants are feeling their actual lack of purchase upon the world; they have ushered in nothing as transformative as mechanization, cars, or even the telephone.

    Sorry for the ramble, but I’m pessimistic for different reasons. I think the big elites that can change are showing real agility, but most of those are in the public and government sectors. The corporate giants (with exception of real estate) are their own worst enemy and getting stupider or getting immaterial.

    We’re not in an era of rapid crisis. We’re in an era of stasis and indecision. There’s no movement towards autarchy (don’t be fooled by Trump, Brexit, etc), but nor is there any coherence elsewhere either.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      You’re great at listing symptoms Ad, but possibly not so good at understanding how close the fundamental underpinnings of globalisation are to failing. Indeed, you seem to believe that globalisation is “here to stay” and that nationalism and regionalism are permanent irrelevancies, despite BREXIT, the end of Schengen, TPP on life support and multipolar geopolitics on the rise.

      By the way I agree with you that Autarky is unlikely. But moving swiftly towards it is the only way NZ is going to have a reasonable future beyond the 10 to 20 year time frame.

      • Ad 6.1.1

        I really would like the next great crisis to be the one in which the weight of the world is overturned. Go the full Hardt and Negri on it all.

        But then …… I look at the patterns of the world currently in relation to those events that have caused major upheavals in the past. Which is why I tend to list a bunch of symptoms. I’m trying to find something as big as them that would cause such an overturning.

        I look at the causes and conditions of the really massive crises we’ve had in the last while, such as:
        – WW1
        – WW2
        – African wars
        – Islamic terror
        – The GFC
        … and I see events leading up to them that were far bigger than the little piffles of complaint we see now about globalization.

        I’m not making light of the biological destruction of the world, btw. But I’ve got a history of studying the 1970s, which also begged for an eschatology of The Man and The City and The Bomb etc that would herald a great series of utopias rolling in. And they had really big fears to deal with, and far more structured theories to engage with them on. But they didn’t eventuate. None of them.

        I can guarantee I’ll be wrong, but not that wrong.

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1

          The hippy types in the late 60s and early 70s were right. That was the last chance our civilisation had of turning things around.

          What you’ve done is understandably mistaken the fact that the corpse is still warm and lithe, for evidence of ongoing viability.

          • Ad 6.1.1.1.1

            That would make us all Undead.
            And fair enough, I’ve had Mondays like that.

            I do think we’re into something we haven’t seen before. I’m not prepared to call it the end of Long Wave cycles because that’s been done too many times before. But we are in view of a very, very slow ideological cooling. Nothing, absolutely nothing, works anymore. It’s a curious limit to get to.

            If I were prepared to name it, I’d say it started not with the Hippies, but with the Iran-Iraq war. The decline of the idea of Islamic state detente towards reformable Islam started to die right there. From there’s it’s a pretty quick slide into the first US+UN invasion of Iraq, after which there’s a really fast shearing-away of petro-states from willful and heavy US codependence, into a state of perpetual war.

            With that went out the window a presumption that internationalist juridical frameworks will continue to strengthen, trade will inevitably be liberalized across the world, the need for militaries will decline, atomic bombs will retreat into history, and there will be trade regulatory frameworks that are globally agreed, and of course the UN will grow up and reform.

            We had that Fukuyama promise after the fall of Communism that exactly all of that would come to pass, and none of it did.

            So we are in the season of stasis. The season where nothing that tried and worked before is now working. And on the whole, we don’t care about that stasis either.

            • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1.1.1

              Islam went off the cliff with the US supporting Saudi Arabian wahhabism and assassinating every secular/moderate leader in the Arab world that they could find.

              That dates well before the Iran Iraq war of the 80s.

              And what you call “stasis” is nothing of the sort. There are massive dynamic forces in play.

              • Ad

                Oh I’m sure there’s endless history to it all.
                But nope, that’s not where I see the undoing of the modernist impulse. I do think it’s nameable to Iran-Iraq. Even moreso than 1989 etc.

  7. esoteric pineapples 7

    Put simply – as the world fries, New Zealand will be left as one of the few inhabitable places on the planet. Hope it doesn’t happen for a few years yet. I’m enjoying myself.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      you have 5-10 decent years left. But by then the public concern will become a rising tide.

  8. b waghorn 8

    Wouldn’t NZ need another 10 million citizens to be able to maintain our lifestyle while becoming self sufficient ?

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      We’re not going to “maintain our lifestyle.” And I propose we limit our population to 5.5m.

      • b waghorn 8.1.1

        ”We’re not going to “maintain our lifestyle.” ”
        And the fact that not maintaining our lifestyle would make any party unelectable means we’re most likely going wobble along to whatever the future has coming our way.
        Pesky bloody democracy,

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