Musing upon music to exercise by

What’s with the EU flag sweater on the lady singer?

Is this some some sort of subliminable message (credit where credit is due)?


My guess is that the slightly too-short EU flag sweater was an example of the Chinese sense of humor. But maybe the lady just likes blue?


Maybe she’s European :wink:


The leg/hem height ratio argues that she is.


?Why would you think they wouldn’t. So far they have attempted to follow two masters - capitalism and communism. But we all know you can’t have two masters - one will win and the other fail. SO FAR Tze has kept an iron hand on the country. That can’t last forever, as people get wealthier and wealthier - and start demanding ‘rights, privileges, and so forth”

So far communism has worked exactly nowhere. WE may be “the decadent West” but we earned it at least. Now it’s a question whether we continue along the false path of Europe or go back to our roots. I’m betting wee go back. Too many middle class and lower class people saw what DJT could bring the nation, and they won’t be satisfied until they have it again…


This was the argument circulating during the 1990s when globalists believed that integrating China into the world economic system (granting it “most favoured nation” status, supporting its membership in the World Trade Organisation, etc.) would lead to rising domestic prosperity and inevitably demands for rights and consensual government. But that isn’t how things worked out. China has generated unprecedented prosperity at least for its urban masses, and yet the grip of the CCP gerontocracy on the country seems strong, and the deployment of a panopticon surveillance state and social credit system to detect and silence incipient dissident movements seems to have reinforced their power. Maybe China has found a way to industrialise and enrich its middle class while keeping them in line. It seems to me that the very same goal is being pursued in the West by the World Economic Forum and its neo-Technocracy allies in ruling parties in much of the West.

The Roman Empire was the richest the world had ever seen and lasted for more than five centuries before being toppled by invaders, both external and imported, after having been hollowed out internally by profligate and corrupt leaders. And yet there was no popular revolt among all of the people the Empire enriched over the centuries. The idea that enriching the populace inevitably leads to a demand for self-government strikes me as akin to Marxist historicism, where political systems are downstream of economics and their evolution follows inexorable laws. There may, in fact, be lots of ways to organise societies, and it isn’t necessarily true that a “free” society (if you can call what the West is evolving toward is in any sense free) can out-compete one with an authoritarian structure on top.


In engineering and technology strategy, this is called the “curse of the early adopter” or the “tyranny of the installed base”. For example, for decades the U.S. had the crappiest standard for colour television (NTSC) because when it was developed in the early 1950s it was the best scheme that could be built with costly vacuum tubes and made compatible with and installed base of millions of black and white receivers. By the time other countries adopted colour broadcasting, the superior SECAM and PAL systems, which do not have the colour phase shift problems of NTSC (which caused wags to say the acronym stood for “Never Twice the Same Colour”).

IBM completely missed out on the minicomputer revolution in the 1960s due to fears that a radically cheaper and simpler computer with the endorsement of IBM would cannibalise their installed based of mainframes, many of which were rented and could come back if customers had a lower price replacement. It was the same fear by workstation CAD companies of cannibalising their market that created the opportunity for Autodesk to sell CAD systems that ran on personal computers.

So it is with cultural phenomena. One advantage of being a backwater is that you get to observe what happens to early adopters when they “pioneer” a new fad such as destroying the family, making the dole more attractive than working, making parenthood unaffordable, or importing masses of unskilled, difficult-to-assimilate savages and encouraging them to preserve their quaint “authentic” ways. The backwater can pick and choose the ones that do not wreak havoc on the early adopters. Unfortunately for the latter, there is no “Undo” button on mass social innovations.


Sincerely, I hope you are right — but I have serious doubts. I remember seeing long lines of families with young children waiting outside in the cold to get the dubious injections for a not-very-serious illness forced upon them by their “democratic” government. The people of today’s United States are not the same as the self-starters who crossed oceans to make their own way in the world.

My guess – only a guess – is there is a better chance that the Chinese people will retain the best of their culture than that the US people will rediscover what made this country a shining city on a hill.


China never embraced the desire to hollow-out its middle class exhibited by the US, primarily because their rapid economic development depended on being able to bootstrap a middle class along with educated professionals.

Moreover, China had an abundance of very cheap capable human capital in the less developed parts of the country that could sustain the growing needs of rapidly growing industries. Hence no need to open up the country to immigrants providing cheaper labor.

And lastly, it seems like China’s own view about its culture, history, and traditions remained safe from all the modern “innovations” John alluded to. It might be interesting to discuss the validity of the hypothesis that mass immigration is a necessary ingredient for the observed cultural degradations of most Western countries.


Interesting hypothesis. There was a time when television, rather than immigration, was blamed for undermining the culture of Western countries. But one could argue that the same circle of insiders who gave us degenerate TV shows are the ones who have opened the borders to uncontrolled immigration – different means towards their same inscrutable end.

Since we are talking hypotheses, try this one on for size. One of the elements in Western success post-WWII may have been that the Great Depression of the 1930s was still within living memory. Consequently, a substantial part of the population had a visceral understanding of the insecurities of life, the need for prudence, and the value of useful skills. As that generation (and the children they influenced) passed away, their place was taken by people who assumed that the cornucopia they had was a simple birthright which could never be lost. Hence they began to pursue foolish ideas with no thought for the consequences.

If there is any merit to that hypothesis, then China may now be living through its Golden Age – because the horrors of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s are still within living memory. President Xi himself personally suffered in those years. Hence Chinese authorities understand the fragility of life. As that generation passes away, those who come after may assume (just like Westerners did) that the world would always go their way, and start to take the products of their forefathers’ hard work for granted. Big wheel keeps on turning.


I wonder if a simpler alternate hypothesis is that post-WW2, the American economy had a) worked through the consequences of the 1929 crisis due to the rapid industrialization and ramp up for war production and b) was the only economic power left standing while all its major competitors in Europe and Asia had been effectively destroyed because of the war.

Unopposed and lacking any realistic competition, the American economy created a level of prosperity that surpassed anyone’s experience or expectations. Moreover, the American economy had enjoyed higher productivity than comparable Western European countries for most of the 20th century (source).


The US surviving WWII with no damage to its infrastructure definitely was a strong factor. But then, why in the aftermath of WWII did the world-leading US steel industry fail to re-invest, and instead the cutting edge of the vital steel industry moved to defeated Germany … and now to China? Similarly, why did the US lose large parts of its auto industry to defeated Germany, impoverished South Korea … and now to China?

What factors led the US to lose the pre-eminent position it had post WWII? Is it possible that the ruling clique simply assumed that the US position was unassailable because that was all they ever had known in their lives? And hence they failed to continue working hard & and investing to maintain that lead? Just a hypothesis, of course!


There was a great deal of complacency, financial and labour union sclerosis, and failure to invest in emerging technology. After World War II, the U.S. steel industry was preeminent and had a huge domestic market for its products, but its plant was aging and operations encumbered by union contracts which made it very difficult to adopt new technologies which would reduce the workforce and labour costs. One advantage of being bombed into the stone age (or, in the case of China, starting out there) is that you get to rebuild from scratch and, in a resource-constrained environment, there’s a powerful incentive to use the most efficient technologies at hand or emerging. This meant that the U.S. producers were easy to undercut, first in local markets, then on the world market. This can be seen as a variant of the “tyranny of the installed base” I discussed in comment #7 above.

Much the same was the case with the auto industry. Their manufacturing plant and union contracts were such that they had great difficulty making money on small and inexpensive cars, which left an entire market segment ready to be grabbed by German and Japanese manufacturers. Once established, those manufacturers could use their low-cost production to move upward in the market and chew into Detroit’s cash cow product lines.


Exactly! The question is – why that complacency? Why the failure to look ahead?

One hypothesis is that, as the generation which had experienced first-hand the deprivations of the Great Depression and knew the perils of complacency started to exit stage left, the next generation of leaders (political, industrial, union, academic) assumed that their current leading status was simply the natural order of things – and was unchangeable; hence their complacency.

The hypothesis is testable – not that some of us will live long enough to see the result. If the US pre-eminence through the 1960s was in least in part a result of the focus & work effort instilled by the Great Depression three decades earlier, then China’s rise around 2000 might be in part due to the memories of the deprivations of the Cultural Revolution 3 decades earlier. The hypothesis would then predict Russia’s future pre-eminence in the 2030-2040 time frame in part as a result of the deprivations of the post-Soviet era of the 1990s giving Russia focused non-complacent leadership.


“Mature” industries run the risk of falling into a trap of under-investment in emerging technologies that affect their core product. This happens because once a company has a substantial share of the available market and ceases to grow by opening new markets, it is no longer considered a “growth stock” but rather an “income play”, where its operations generate a predictable income and profit stream that rises and falls along with the general economy but doesn’t have any big surprises. Such companies compensate their investors for the modest potential of capital gains by paying regular and substantial dividends and never, ever skipping a dividend or reducing it. (There are a number of NYSE companies which have never skipped or reduced their dividend for more than a century.)

But this poses a problem when a technological transition threatens to render obsolete the company’s production facilities and business model. A management acting in the long-term interests of the shareholders should, in such circumstances, skip or reduce dividends, retain earnings, and embark upon an ambitious capital investment strategy to modernise its plant and/or branch out and/or acquire companies in sectors that may displace its legacy products. This is extraordinarily hard to do, however. Any hint of a dividend skip or reduction, or of capital expenditures that will hit earnings per share will be swiftly punished in the stock market, which will gnash teeth over the impact of the “widders 'n orphans” counting on the dividends. It’s much easier to just ”wait and see how things sort out” and leave the difficult decisions to the next guys after the current management retires.


All these are not really accounting for WWII.

Recollect before WWII, we were in a deep, deep depression, made worse by everything FDR did. He tried all the tricks within his socialist mindset and nothing worked. THEN along came WWII - and we went to full employment and a raging industrial boom, all to supply WWII, both us and our allies. We even employed women in factories - kind of unheard of before that.

THEN WWII was over - and we were the “last man standing” so to speak. We developed the Marshall Plan, not so much from the good of our hearts but to give ourselves someone to trade with for all those industrial goodies we were making. The rich guys, who had thrown themselves into planning and producing material for the war now had an industrial base to keep making stuff no one else could. But in all the hurly burly of war and afterward Kind-of-the-mountain industry, people forgot they needed to plan for the future. No real insight of where we needed to go. ?Remember the obnoxious statement by the CEO of GM, “GM decides what’s good for America.” THAT’S what got. us. Arrogance. We could not envision anyone catching us after our wartime exhibition.

And now. we’re playing “catch-up”.


The genesis of this quote is the testimony Charles (“Engine Charlie”) Wilson gave before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1953 after he was nominated as Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense. He was asked whether if, as Secretary of Defense, he had to make a decision which would be detrimental to General Motors, he could do so. He said he could, and added he thought that very unlikely “because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.”

This has been endlessly misquoted as “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”, but that’s not what he said, or meant.


I wish you were right about that – but (arguably) the last time the leaders of the US felt an urgent need to catch up was the Sputnik moment in 1957. Nowadays, nothing seems to shake the unwarranted complacency of the guys in charge. That raises the question – what was different in 1957, when the US really was indisputably at the top of the global greasy pole in the aftermath of WWII?

To flog my hypothesis one more time, it is possible the difference was that the JFK generation had experienced first-hand the horrors of the Great Depression and the World War. Although they were at the top of the greasy pole in the 1950s, they knew it could all be taken away from them by the vicissitudes of life. They knew they had to keep running.

In contrast, later generations of “leaders” grew up at the top of the greasy pole – they simply expected they would always be at the top, since that was all they had ever known. Hence they failed to see the perfectly obvious longer-term consequences of losing the steel industry, the shipbuilding industry, the auto industry, the electronics industry, …


This idea is nicely elaborated in

The Third Turning is an Unraveling. Old Heroes die, Artists enter elderhood, Prophets enter midlife, Nomads enter young adulthood—and a new generation of child Heroes is born. The mood of this era is in many ways the opposite of a High. Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. Highs follow Crises, which teach the lesson that society must coalesce and build. Unravelings follow Awakenings, which teach the lesson that society must atomize and enjoy. America’s most recent Unraveling was the Long Boom and Culture Wars, beginning in the early 1980s and probably ending in 2008. The era opened with triumphant “Morning in America” individualism and drifted toward a pervasive distrust of institutions and leaders, an edgy popular culture, and the splitting of national consensus into competing “values” camps. Coming of age during this Unraveling was the Nomad archetype Generation X (born 1961-1981), whose pragmatic, free-agent persona and Survivor-style self-testing have embodied the mood of the era.

In Parsons’ terms, a Third Turning is an era in which both the availability of social order and the demand for such order are low. Examples of earlier Unravelings include the periods around the “roaring” 1920s of Prohibition, the Mexican War in the 1850s, and the French and Indian Wars in the 1760s. These were all periods of cynicism and bad manners, when civic authority felt weak, social disorder felt pervasive, and the culture felt exhausted.

The folks born at the top of the greasy pole are “Prophets”

Prophet generations are born after a great war or other crisis, during a time of rejuvenated community life and consensus around a new societal order. Prophets grow up as the increasingly indulged children of this post-crisis era, come of age as narcissistic young crusaders of a spiritual awakening, cultivate principle as moralistic midlifers, and emerge as wise elders guiding another historical crisis. By virtue of this location in history, such generations tend to be remembered for their coming-of-age passion and their principled elder stewardship. Their principle endowments are often in the domain of vision, values, and religion. Their best-known historical leaders include John Winthrop, William Berkeley, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Polk, Abraham Lincoln, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt. These were principled moralists, summoners of human sacrifice, and wagers of righteous wars. Early in life, few saw combat in uniform; later in life, most came to be revered more for their inspiring words than for their grand deeds. (Example among today’s living generations: Boomers.)


Which also means that we have built in a high cost of operations, not only in our businesses, but in our governments. States used to be able to compete with each other. Now, with so much regulated at the federal level, there is no escape. We have a monopoly government, and you know how good monopolies are for the customers.