A name from Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” that I had forgotten. The Struldbruggs were people who did not die – simply got older and more decrepit.

The valuable Martin Hutchinson dug that word out to describe the fate of our Industrial Revolution:
The Bear’s Lair: The Struldbrugg Industrial Revolution | True Blue Will Never Stain (

The Industrial Revolution is currently 256 years old, if you agree with my chronology in “Forging Modernity ” dating its inception to 1768, plus or minus a year or two. Even given that it soared beyond mere human limitations, you would expect it to be showing signs of age by now. Yet in recent years, it has shown signs not merely of maturity but of senescence; it is losing capabilities that it once possessed. …

Not one to die on his knees, Mr. Hutchinson proposes a set of policies which might revive the economic world. Sadly, the chances of these kinds of policies ever being adopted in the West lie between slim and none:

"… We can partially rejuvenate the Struldbrugg Industrial Revolution, at least temporarily, by curing the vices and diseases that have caused it to age prematurely:

- Set interest rates well above the level of inflation, or better still adopt a Gold Standard, to cure its cheap money alcoholism “cold turkey.”

- Deregulate, not mildly as the Trump administration did, but fiercely, sweeping away as far as possible the jungle of environmental regulations. The Industrial Revolution’s lungs will recover only slowly, but the aging process will be retarded.

- Set a 10-year moratorium on immigration and remove as many as possible of the Biden administration’s tsunami of illegal immigrants. That will raise domestic wages and may restart genuine innovation, at least alleviating the wasting disease that has the Industrial Revolution Struldbrugg in its grip.

- Pursue a vigorous anti-trust policy, that breaks up the behemoths and discourages mergers, which generally destroy value.

- Re-establish property rights at the center of our economic system."


Thanks for raising this interesting topic, and providing a reference that I hadn’t been familiar with.

There’s always the dilemma between allocating the resources to treating old systems, or using the same resources to grow new systems that will replace them. In fact, most of the old system renewal is about the growth of replacement parts of the system.

Maybe it would be interesting to examine the broader socio-economic and institutional system on the metric of senescence: this would help prioritize these renewal efforts.


It’s all about aggressive protection of property rights

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Not “all about” surely?

Thought experiment – the Board of a steel-maker decides that it is too difficult to build a needed new steel plant in the face of government regulation. Instead, they take the money they could have invested in a new plant and buy back their own stock, raising their stock price and guaranteeing the management great bonuses. In the meantime, they license their technology to a company in China and strike a deal to import steel from it to continue to supply their customers. The no-longer needed steel workers are laid off, and become a charge on the rest of society.

Everything there is consistent with the property rights of the current owners – but it is also a path to Hell.


Good example but path to hell is an exaggeration. Good intentions pave the path to hell.

We should definitely help workers who have lost their jobs in the example you provided. How do we help them without violating property rights?


Good question. It is not just the workers who lost their jobs in the steelworks who have been harmed by others using their property rights. Think about all the other businesses and their workers who were harmed when they lost customers because the steel mill was no longer active and those unemployed steel workers could no longer spend freely. And think about the harm done to the security of the entire population when the country finds it now has to rely on a foreign country (possibly a hostile country) for steel.

If we define “property rights” to include the interests of other people in the steel workers as customers and the interests of everyone in national security, then the original owners of the steel works were trampling upon the property rights of others when they offshored the work. Whose property rights should take priority?

How to square this circle? Go back to what the US was like shortly after independence. Federal taxation was almost entirely through tariffs. We all understand that tariffs put up prices and are functionally paid by consumers (just like every other tax), but it may be a fairer & more effective way of taxing the population. And of course, to be effective, tariffs need businesses to have a much less intrusive cost/benefit-focused regulatory burden – to allow for domestic producers to invest and compete with unregulated foreign producers.


I would love to abolish the federal income tax and go back to tariff, excise taxes and other forms of consumption tax

Regarding the acquisition of US steel by Nippon, I hope that deal is approved. The shareholders benefit. I assume steel workers have company stock and options. American steel industry will benefit from the technology and expertise of Nippon


Run an unsustainable Trade Deficit, and things like that will happen. And when Nippon Steel decides it can supply steel cheaper from Japan than making it in the US … another one will bite the dust.

Property rights are important – but what are the consequences when all those property rights belong to foreigners and foreign governments? Does that matter?

Within human memory, Euros used to bitch that rich Yanks were coming over there and buying up their artistic patrimony. Goodness! Even London Bridge was shipped over to Arizona. Today, we hear about Chinese buying US farmland and Germans buying everything else. Soon it is going to be the Vietnamese using their trade surplus with the US to buy whatever is left.

Anyway we cut it, the unavoidable consequence of an unsustainable Trade Deficit is effectively a loss of sovereignty and independence. Do We the People have a property right in sovereignty and independence?


Until they don’t.