US economic decline

Supposing the official cpi to be true, US real GDP per capita has been growing at about 1% per year in recent years.

Supposing the big mac index to be true, US real GDP per capita has been falling at about 1% per year in recent years.

Motor vehicles per capita, according to world bank statistics, have been falling about 1% per year in recent years.

Electricity consumption per capita, taking indexmundi figures for US electricity consumption, and world bank figures for US population, has been falling at about 2% per year in recent years, consistent with the greeny attack on energy.

So, the evidence favors the big mac index.  Which is not showing hyperinflation, but is showing more inflation than is good for the economy.

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31 Responses to “US economic decline”

  1. […] US economic decline « Jim’s Blog […]

  2. RS says:

    Technological progress is sort of subjective. The Official inflation people make ‘hedonic adjustments’ because, although cars (even new Civics and Camrys) have gotten rather expensive, these guys claim they have also gotten more hedonic (as well as safer), so some of the price hike should be adjusted out.

    Jim had a 15-page debate with a commenter on whether 70s cars were more hedonic. Or perhaps more eudaimonic, since Jim disavows utilitarianism.

    You almost have to define the meaning of life to define tech progress. Does progress in masturbation technology belong properly to progress, which we define as good? Staunch utilitarians say the meaning of life is pleasure, eudaimonists/virtuists say it is that plus some other stuff (Pleasure and pain not opposites: the feeling of power . . . the true question is under what circumstances the plant “man” has reached its greatest height).

    Circa 1980, PCR gave birth to contempo molecular bio, and vast knowledge has been gained, but I can’t easily think of any huge practical payoff other than the HIV drugs. There have been several smaller payoffs.

    For understanding the future, I guess I like looking at simple economic indicators like meat per capita and cars per capita and passenger vehicle miles per capita. This sidesteps the question of tech progress — and the puzzlement over how to treat something like Skype, which seems to be of very high utility relative to its contribution to calculated production ( — some ad revenues which I assume are pretty modest potatoes).

    Just check out vehicle miles traveled per capita in the USA: flat since ’99 or so, declining rather amazingly since 04 or so. How long can this go on without exacerbating economic and social problems, which is largely our dependent variable of interest as futurists? Auto ownership rates are going down ; surely some more people can adapt to carless niches of American life, but at some point, if this trend continues, our economic life will suffer enormous knock-on effects. Most people will shift to lousier cars long before they renounce driving, but even this will be a fairly big deal because of those cars’ lower reliability. What seems clear is that these kind of figures are of greater interest than massaged and highly composite govt figures.

    I don’t know if vehicle miles per head includes mail trucks. It should, because that’s a major secular change versus 1995 ; I hit up amazon like all the time, since my Walmart is a bear to get to and my Kmart kind of sucks.

    Orlov has pointed out how scary cars are in a USA context (in USSR tons and tons of people never had them). If lots of people stop being able to afford them, we are pretty doomed economically.

  3. jim says:

    Most of the old money people in the nation are the progressive elites. They made their wealth through industrialization and trade then they’ve used to turn this country in a commie shithole. The rich always favor cheep labor and immigration.

    If any place is run by the rich, it is Hong Kong and Dubai, . Looks pretty good to me.

    You cannot blame population replacement on the rich. If population replacement was due to the rich, we would be importing the Mexican working class. Instead, we are importing the Mestizo underclass.

    The US has close to the highest tax rate on corporate profits in the world. The tax rate on capital diminishes in proportion to how far you are from being dominated by the anglosphere. That indicates rule by commies, not capitalists.

  4. Jehu says:

    Roger gets it. Now riddle me this, what fraction of the average person’s income and weath is spent on these positional goods?
    Oh, and if the rich were just bidding up prices via supply & demand that’d be one thing, they’re also using political power to ratchet the prices higher as well, via section 8, not enforcing the immigration laws against illegal infiltrators, immigration policy in general, and so on.

    • jim says:

      The rich are not causing section eight, which is an attack upon the rich by moving criminals into their neighborhoods.

      The rich are not causing illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is driven by welfare, not jobs. What the rich want is to be able to hand out work visas.

      The rich are not looting the banks. The bank robbers came into the establishment through the Democratic party, the regulatory apparatus, and affirmative action. They were not rich until after they robbed the banks.

      • Red says:

        Most of the old money people in the nation are the progressive elites. They made their wealth through industrialization and trade then they’ve used to turn this country in a commie shithole. The rich always favor cheep labor and immigration. The loss of men willing to fight for a nation due replacement by immigrants is the primary reason that capitalist/mercantile nations collapse. Why fight for the people that are making you poor?

        The largest example of archo capitalism in history is the Arab empires of the 8-12 centuries. These archo capitalists not only destroyed the land that had been the source of so much wealth in north africa, but they replaced a very skilled and talented population with low wage morons. When a real threat emerged they collapsed like wet paper bags.

        • jim says:

          Should you be on the side of the rich, or the side of the poor?

          To answer this question, look at your cellphone. If you paid for your cell phone, you are one of small minority of rich people, and a substantial part of the cost of your cellphone is providing free cellphones for the poor. If the rich paid for your cellphone, you are one of the poor, and the evil oppressive exploiters deserve to pay for your cell phone.

  5. roger says:

    Economists tend to build upon the premise that all economic activity is win-win but this is simply not true.

    There is the assumption that if some people around you start making a lot more money and you make the same as before, it doesn’t hurt you and you shouldn’t mind but it does hurt you, quite a lot. Many of the most sought-after goods are competitional goods that are finite in supply, where the wealth and consumption power of others directly hurts you.

    – Oil
    – Houses in desirable neighborhoods
    – Spots in a good university
    – Pretty, marriagable women
    – Nice wine, the good cuts of steak
    – Political influence
    – Control of culture

    Plutocrats can suck many of these, bidding up the price of what they don’t consume.

    So yes, I would say living standards have declined for many.

    • jim says:

      Oil is supplied by rich people, as well as consumed by them.

      What makes houses desirable is the political will to exclude criminals, which will comes largely through the influence of rich people.

      Rich people do not control the culture. Leftists control the culture. Turn on the television.

      Pretty women marry the likes of Tamerlan Tsarnaev because men with something to lose, men with income and assets, dare not act manly. See Heartistes famous post on skittles man.

      Rich people supply wine and steak.

  6. RS says:

    Responding to Zach, I do think it conceivable Western life might not change that radically for some decades. Though I think, more likely, it more or less will. There’s the oil problem, there’s the erosion of social trust problem which may be more nonlinear than a -1% change in real production. There’s the dysgenesis, though it may be affecting Conscientiousness rather more than IQ. There’s racial change — the most important (by far) is that in the working-age population sector, which I think is possibly going to accelerate a bit right about now. –Boomer retirement, you see — that means a swell of NAMs moving into and upwards in the workforce.

    Still, dysgenic trends do not really look better in most of the world than they do in the wealthy countries. Furthermore, many, perhaps most places have dangerous TFRs, whether way too high (Pakistan, Afghan, Egypt, Bolivia), too high but at least ameliorating fast (India), or way too low (Iran, Turkey, etc). Wealthy countries have a lot of wealth and human and social capital to throw at these problems. Japan will be truly slammed by its fecundity problem, but we can imagine it, possibly, not losing control. Brazil, Iran, Egypt, Bolivia, Pakistan, and obviously Afghanistan and Africa have less margin for error, and may in fact become utterly disordered a couple decades before the first world does. Take 2040: America and Europe might be under some kind of explicit center-left authoritarianism, offer a generally very sorry but endurable day-to-day, and be in principle revivable through acknowledgement and practice of hereditarism and inequality (otherwise not). But many poorer places could have Afro-style helter skelter endless war by then, and frankly, possibly even epidemic cannibalism as the rich world gradually loses the ability to intervene.

    • Red says:

      Large scale generation die off events a very normal and useful thing when it’s primarily the people at the bottom or the parasites at the top being removed. It raises wages, increases demand for innovation, and allows room for people to advance without the masses of worthless people pulling them down. Japan may greatly profit from it as long as they don’t import new people.

      Howerver, the west is probably fucked.

    • Zach says:

      Thanks for the comment RS. Good food for thought.

  7. Zach says:

    “Only on the brink can we see so clearly”

  8. Zach says:

    I’m still coming to grips with alternative methods that tell a different and truer economic story than GDP.

    Be that as it may, if accepting a 1% decline in recent years is a sign of impending doom/ruin, then perhaps 2050 may be a bit soon as an approximate prediction?

    The blast radius is coming, but perhaps not that soon.

    • jim says:

      It is a symptom. Anglosphere living standards have been rising steadily since the Restoration according to the estimates of economist N. F. R. Craft. So we are seeing what looks to be a break in a trend that has held for three hundred and twenty years, as social decay outpaces technological progress.

    • Nick B. Steves says:

      It is far from clear whether our subjective experience of wealth, and therefore what might cause ordinary mild-mannered citizens to go ape shit, is tied more to its absolute measure W or to its time derivative W’.

      • Jehu says:

        Seems more likely that it is W’ that causes people to go ape, at least in the region of values of W that we have much experience with. If people have the reasonable (or at least can convince themselves that it is reasonable) belief that tomorrow will be better, they’ll put up with an awful lot.

    • rightsaidfred says:

      social decay outpaces technological progress.

      Pretty well sums things up.

      Though there is some symbiosis involved, where planes, trains, and automobiles have allowed the fecal matter to overwhelm the ice cream at the speed of MOSFET switching.

      I’m interested in the take on the upcoming movie “Elysium”. Is the lesson to engineer a better gated community, keep the riff raff happier, or fear the hacker from the ghetto?

      • Thales says:

        I’m very-much looking forward to “Elysium,” given that it was written/directed by Blomkamp who also wrote/directed “District 9.”

      • jim says:

        Who can tell?

        On past form, progressives will see the elite in sky as causing the poverty on earth, but there will be a hidden narrative that the elite in the sky fled the filth and decay caused by the third world earth masses, who nonetheless keep coming after them. On the other hand, progressives may have detected the non PC message in district 9, and make sure it does not repeat.

        We see a flash scene of illegal immigration, a futuristic city skyline turned to third world shit, and a reference to undocumented space ships, so the hidden subversive message (hidden by crimestop) may be that the future got overrun by third world illegal immigrants, that whites are living in shit because everywhere is majority mestizo.

      • Zach says:

        Going from memory, John Carmack (a jaw dropping freak of nature) claims that it is seemingly much more difficult to engineer a cutting edge graphics engine in a modern game than it is to send a manned rocket to the Moon and back. He builds rockets and engineers for ID Software.

        (youtube search “John Carmack Keynote Address 2012” if memory serves it is in there somewhere)

        On reflection the entire idea of “technological progress” stands to reason. How would that be defined?

        Maybe that’s an obvious answer for many of you more economically inclined, but I’m not there yet.

        • Zach says:

          (38:30 onwards – on complexity)

          I’m multitasking and started listening to this rather long talk so that others (a 1% chance they might be curious) wouldn’t have to. My claim, I own it. Now I need to back it up.

          Maybe his “complexity” bit, was “how” I remembered it? I can’t edit on here… so, for now… this will have to do.

        • jim says:

          The best of private enterprise rocketry is recapitulating what German engineers did in the forties and fifties.

          • Zach says:

            …but not to the same scale as the Germans who we stole. I was trying to make a point, but that remains in my head (still) and not on the internet.

            So I ask again: how does one (all of you) define technological progress?

            I understand one aspect. A rocket to the moon differs quite drastically in many ways to simple code, but then again, simple code is AI, and AI is not simple code, or is it?

            I’m seriously asking.

            • jim says:

              Like porn, I know technology when I see it.

              Rocket to the moon, tall buildings, aesthetics.

              If you walk around some third word dump, it is backward. Walk around Singapore, it is forward.

              There is a relationship between art and science. When buildings are getting taller, the tallest buildings are beautiful. When they max out, they are ugly, and the newer, shorter, buildings are even uglier.

              Thus, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore sends the message, “Look how cool we are, we can do impossible things, we create beauty”, whereas the concrete brutalist buildings that go up in Washington convey the message “I can crush you, vermin, I am great, and you are small, bow down and be crushed, insignificant scum”.

              Similarly modern art conveys the message “I am sponsored by the government, and you are not.”

              Decadent science is postmodern and ironic. Official truth by consensus. The latest advances are cell phones, tablets, stuff that is not made in America, and cannot be made in America. Our shiny stuff is made in China, and stuff that cannot be made in China, such as the streetscapes, get dirtier, scarier, more menacing, and less shiny.

          • Zach says:

            And let me admit I was incorrect. Instead of my memory serving me, it didn’t in this instance.

            Sophistication (in code) is another thing that is iffy here. 50,000 pages could be written about that.

            “Lines of code” doesn’t equal sophistication. Sometimes the opposite is true.

            (just clarifying)

  9. rightsaidfred says:

    Economic indices are important. But I study them awhile, then I go lie down.

    I like what Roger said: why strip out food and energy? Meat consumption per person in this country is at an all time low, but the supply (especially beef) is even lower. We had more cattle going through the plants in the 1950’s. (Side note: where did we get meat packers back in those days without illegal immigration?)

    I was always taught that beef consumption is a sign of wealth: the more the wealthier. So we are getting poorer. Bleah.

    Has anyone gone back and figured a Dow Jones with the original companies? Is the thing a bit of a goof when every so often we toss off a company and put in a different one?

  10. SOBL1 says:

    I question John Williams’ Shadowstats at times, but he’s pretty good. His data does point to a GDP peak around 2000 that we have slowly been trending downward from and show no signs of reversing.

  11. roger says:

    Economic decline seems like an explanation. Energy efficiency doesn’t seem to explain it, because energy efficiency breakthroughs in, for example, appliances, have been going on for a while now.

    In past we would get more efficient but consume more (2 cars, more lights, bigger fridge) to make up the difference.

    Stripping food and energy out of the CPI is wrong. If gas and food are suddenly more expensive then you are poorer period, and there’s just less money left for the rest of your budget.

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