Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Wealth... and Infrastructure... of Nations

With release of Joe Biden's new Infrastructure and Stimulus Plans, reactions have gone as predicted. Mitch McConnell and the entire Putin Party have declared their intention to block everything and allow nothing. Standard incantations are flowing -- from democrat deficits! to cutting taxes and federal spending makes jobs and capital! And then Sen. Tim Scott, in his 'rebuttal' to President Biden's Congressional speech, accused him of breaking his promise to be a 'uniter.' (More on that below.)

Okay, let's stop letting this be about 'sides.' Sure, there definitely are sides, and one of them is insane. Still, our real enemy is a meme claiming that all points of view are equivalent and not subject to factual refutation

It is an incantation that's clung-to desperately by the farthest left and today's entire, mad right. It implies that just repeating your own side's magical incantations will suffice. In fact, even pointing out a flaw in some small, sub-component makes you a partisan of evil.

No. At best you will only ever be 99% right. And criticism is the only known antidote to error. So...

Let's instead talk facts. Focusing on that word-of-the-month "infrastructure!"


== The two diametrically opposite ways that the US and China 'invested' $20 Trillions each, since 1995. ==

Both China and the US spent the last 25+ years pouring trillions into plans to vastly expand their productive capacity, infrastructure, skilled labor force and R&D. 

China's approach was simple: fund vast projects like high speed rail and whole new cities, while lending/investing in 'companies' that were in large part State Champions. Partly due to beneficent trade policies by the West, China's approach worked spectacularly well.
So you ask: "What was our method? And how did the American approach fare? 

Glad you asked. Our approach was called "Supply Side Economics." Summarized, it was: snuff out every method used to create the prosperous and dynamic American Pax since 1940. Virtually end taxpayer-funded investment in R&D, infrastructure, labor force training and so on, because that's "picking winners and losers." 

Instead of using the mixed-economy methods that built America from 1940 to 1995, Supply Side insists that we give many trillions in tax cuts and other direct benefits to the top 0.01%, on the theory that they would then turn and invest those massive cash infusions into... well... factories, productive capacity, competitively oriented infrastructure, R&D and the 'job creators' own, expanding work force. 

Supply Side (SS) was the most expensive national development experiment in all of human history. So how'd it go? 

Well, the results are clear. With some notable exceptions, rich people don't do that!

Adam Smith explained, way back in The Wealth of Nations, that when they get a lot richer, aristocrats and oligarchs tend to pour any wealth increase into rent-seeking ("rentier") asset bubbles and passive (slow money velocity) investments, and into capital preservation for their spoiled inheritance brats. 

And into cheating. Aristocratic cheating of the very sort that the American Founders - inspired in part by Adam Smith - rebelled against.
Let's be even clearer.

Of the half-dozen major - and hundreds of minor - experiments in Supply Side, not one of them ever approached anywhere near coming true. Every confident prediction - e.g. that budget deficits would vanish due to burgeoning economic activity - every single SS prediction failed diametrically to happen as forecast. 

That is 100%. And when you stick with an utterly disproved hypothesis, that's not science. It's a cult.

== Then there is Money Velocity... ==

Among the most powerful of all economic metrics is one that conservative mavens and "economists" absolutely hate ever to mention, because it eviscerates every cult incantation that they cling to. But it also happens to be a crucial measure of economic health.

It's money velocity. The rate at which each dollar changes hands, generating wealth and prosperity and growth, whenever it is rapid.

So let's talk money velocity, money velocity, and money velocity. 

It PLUMMETS after every tax gift to the aristocracy. 

It rises (duh?) with every Keynsian infusion into workers doing stuff. 
Useful stuff like infrastructure. 

Period. Always, and that is always.
Bet me on this. 
Oh please. 
Solid metrics, adjudged by panels of retired senior military officers. 
I will have your house.

== Then there is 'fiscal responsibility ==

And now the hypocrites screech about deficits. 

First, Democrats score better than Republicans in every metric of good governance and outcomes, including fiscal responsibility - like whether across any 4 year administration any effort is made to turn the rate-of-change of debt-gathering toward negative. In other words planting your foot on the deficit brake or the accelerator.


Republicans never even remotely try. 
Bet me on that, too.

== Allons enfants de la patrie...==

Aside. Ruling castes throughout history have rationalized that they were inherent geniuses or better by nature - not happenstance or luck - than the 'mob' who must never be allowed to get their hands on power. We see this in the narratives justifying outrageous Republican electoral cheating to hold power when they lose almost every popular vote. We see it in appeals to racial and other divisions. We see it in the excuses made for skyrocketing wealth disparities and CEO compensation packages that are unconnected to any metric of actual company health, voted by their pals in an incestuous clade.

Making one ask: "Where do you honestly expect such insatiability to lead?" The most fundamental 'tell' that these folks vastly over-rate their own intelligence - and hire flatterers to reinforce the stories - is their stunning ignorance of actual history.

No, no. Your refuges on private Patagonian or Ural mountains, or on South Island or Vanuatu or under the sea and not safe. Safety can be found by starting now top work on your reputation as decent human beings.

Back to topic.

== Time for a Roosevelt ==
So now Joe Biden wants to invest in productive capacity, infrastructure, labor force and R&D? And AOC & co. are criticizing it for falling short of their Green New Deal?

Okay, calm down there, hoss. AOC is brilliant... maybe even 10% as much so as her fans think. (Yes that brilliant!) And she is savvy about her role. By criticizing Biden's plan, she widens the conceptual Overton Window to the left, helping Joe look 'moderate.' And that is a GOOD thing, fools. It is savvy, team politics! And it is no license for any of you to go hating on Biden, or raging at incremental progress.

On the other hand, I need to say something about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a fashion among some on the left. MMT is stunning, incantatory bullshit and a betrayal of actual, working Keynsianism. There, I said it. The left has its shibboleths, too. They are just a lot fewer and less divorced from all objective reality or ethical behavior. But keep an eye on them, too.

As for the Biden Infrastructure/stimulus Bill... well... there may be flaws in the plan, sure. If there were sane opponents to heed, I would listen to criticism, the only known antidote to error. An era of negotiation among adults, based on factual evidence, may someday return. Only right now...
 
...right now Republicans are in no position to criticize at any level, in any way!
 
In fact, there is no greater hypocrisy than for a Republican to chide anyone about fiscal responsibility, or economics, and that especially includes their volcanically hypocritical sexual-predator finger wagging on morality! (Bet me - oh please - which party features 3x as many sexual predators among their recent and present upper ranks! Actually it's 6x! But I am a cautious wagerer.)

But on today's topic -- totally aside from their massive turpitudes and treasons, there is the simple fact of spectacular incompetence and desperation to cling to voodoo incantations. We've seen nothing like it since the 1860s! 

Except that those earlier confederates at least had one virtue--just one--that these present-day jackasses utterly lack.
Guts.
Alas, unlike those gray-clad, brave fools of the 1860s, today's Foxite-putinists will never, ever bet manly wager stakes on any of their mad assertions! 

If you try to get them to actually step up and back up their incantations, the craven cultists always rave and spew and caper and jibber and distract... and then run away. Above all, they will dodge ever escrowing (with a reputable attorney) actual wager stakes over any provable/falsifiable assertion. 

Which ultimately shows that environmentalists are right about the effects of pollution mixed with alcohol. 

Something has happened to confederate balls.

88 comments:

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Well, the results are clear. With some notable exceptions, rich people don't do that!


And the reason why they don't do that should be obvious to Republicans who continually inveigh against a social safety net on the grounds that it will discourage the recipients from working. Giving megadollars to rich people without their having to invest it productively discourages them from working.

The anti-welfare argument in fact is less applicable because welfare will never provide a satisfactory enough standard of living that the recipients won't want to work to improve their lot. Welfare is a stop gap to keep people from starving or becoming homeless while they find more gainful employment. Whereas Supply Side theory is all about giving money to the rich without the recipients ever having to lift a finger afterwards. If they want to improve their station, they'll get their Republican cronies to give them more from the public tresaury.

Gator said...

Also, companies hire and invest in response to demand. Making a profit! Awesome! Not going to hire anyone just because we have money. Losing profit because we can't keep up with demand? OK, now we hire more people and invest in more capitol equipment etc.

scidata said...

There are key years in history, probably coincidental, but nevertheless interesting. In 1776, "The Wealth of Nations" was published, David Hume died, and the American experiment began. In 1941, Alonzo Church published the seminal work on the math of AI, Campbell and Asimov met to lay out FOUNDATION, and fascism crashed America's party.

I always liked Spock's currents and eddies of time line in "The City on the Edge of Forever". Don't know if that was Harlan Ellison's idea or not.

Filip said...

I would be interested in hearing more about why you believe MMT is bullshit (not that I disagree)

David Brin said...

Actually Scidata, the NADIR of modern civilization was 1942, which ended with a huge inflection point when we truly began clawing then crawling then striding out of hell.

Filip money has many variants and I am Keynesian enough to know that it's flexible. But people must believe that the units have value, in order for them to have value. And an infinite commodity is not highly valued.

Also, if someone says "everything that all of our ancestors believed, AND almost all modern thinkers believe, is diametrically wrong... well that someone is the person bearing burden of proof. It has happened before that such claims proved right! But to proclaim "debt doesn't matter at all!" only looks like you are a fanatic and it spreads distrust of genuine Keynesianism.

Lorraine said...

I'm not knowledgeable enough about economics to evaluate the merits of MMT, but something about it seems too good to be true. I do however think they're right about it being impossible to reduce public debt without increasing private debt. It's getting harder and harder just to keep a roof over one's head, let alone get educated, without incurring debt. I suspect the MMTs are right about this being a by-product of fiscal austerity.

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

I always liked Spock's currents and eddies of time line in "The City on the Edge of Forever". Don't know if that was Harlan Ellison's idea or not.


I suspect it was Ellison's. And I don't particularly like it as a general "rule" concerning time travel, but I suspect he felt he needed an explanation of why Kirk and Spock would end up in proximity to McCoy, despite having landed on Earth in separate jumps with entry points many weeks apart. At this late date, I don't recall whether it was even a given that they'd end up in the same city.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

the NADIR of modern civilization was 1942,


The first time I saw Casablanca, I had a "someone stepped on my grave" moment when Bogart drunkenly asked, "It's December 1941 in Casablanca. What time is it in New York?" And I realized that in the time the action was taking place, America was already in the war, but that at the time it was filmed, that was likely not yet the case. The modern equivalent would be seeing a movie featuring the World Trade Towers which premiered slightly after 9/11.

Heh, "modern". When I was born, WWII was a more recent cultural memory than 9/11 is today. When Captain America returned from presumed death (in the comics), WWII was still a more recent cultural memory than 9/11 is today. I feel like Tom Lehrer when he said, "It's a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for three years."

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

That's all I'm saying here.

The definition for 'liberal' started as a European one for obvious reasons. It's older than the US. That definition took a real hit, though, with the failed revolutions of 1848-9. Many members of the Intelligencia at least partially abandoned Liberalism and favored social 'solutions' that looked a bit more designed than emergent.

The US meaning, though, held to the older meaning up until the early 20th century. Our largest divergence came with the New Deal and we've been on a different track since then.

There is a lot of material on the drift of meanings, but many of us in the US who cling to the older meaning have given up and changed to 'libertarian' or 'classical liberal'. Those aren't the same, but they ARE closer to each other than progressivism is to liberalism.

I agree with David that US liberals do tend to agree on a few key points. A big one is not to be ruled by an aristocratic elite. Related to that (and bigger in my opinion) is a preference to be mostly let be. We differ on how to help others, but when it comes to our own actions, we often agree (even with many US conservatives) that government should let us be. Essentially... what isn't forbidden is benignly neglected. Tolerance isn't enough. We expect government NOT to pay us any attention.

Chris Heinz said...

"MMT is stunning, incantatory bullshit and a betrayal of actual, working Keynsianism."
??? Kind of a harsh thing to pull out of your ass, with absolutely 0 supporting facts/data.
MMT has 2 parts, descriptive & prescriptive. Descriptive sez, Fed prints $$$ when congress tells it to. Period. Any government with its own currency does not have to tax to raise money to spend. Their central bank prints $$$ on demand. Taxes destroy money, mostly to reign in the ultrarich.
Prescriptive is mostly about UJG - Universal Job Guarantee. I think it should be broken out of Descriptive MMT - which is basically just describing how the accounting works.
MMT sez, money is just numbers in a computer - who cares? What matters is resources. Resource / supply-side shortages are what cause inflation, not the amount of $$$ in circulation (monetarism).
But, realizing the truth of MMT creates moral peril. Balanced budgets are a sanity check, nothing more.
COVID stimulus programs are a case in point. Millions of people lost their income, the Fed replaced it. No inflation worries, because no new demand was created. All that was going on was that old demand was being shored up.
No less than Thomas Piketty proposed that COVID stimulus debts should just be 0'ed out. Just set that cell in the spreadsheet to 0. &, guess what, we can pretty much do that whenever we want! Money is software! Worry about resources!
https://www.lemonde.fr/blog/piketty/2020/10/13/what-to-do-with-covid-debt/

Alfred Differ said...

Money is a form of debt. Got a dollar in your pocket? Someone owes you something that you can get for that dollar.

1. That only works if you believe.
2. The value of the thing you get in terms of dollars depends on how many dollars are floating around and on how fast they are moving around.
3. It only works if debt itself is treated as a fungible commodity.


Back in the days when I used to go out to lunch with co-workers, we'd occasionally have one of us pick up the tab for everyone. It was occasionally intended as a gift, but more often as a convenience/gift exchange. I'll do it this time. You get it next time. That little arrangement between us created 'debt' that functioned like money. It was tradable, fungible, and pretty reliable. As long as we didn't make too much of it (big bar tabs were a step too far) it worked out fine.

Money comes in many forms, but it's all debt. So... imagine what it means to us if there is no limit to debt. Do we continue to believe? Maybe for a while? Eventually we stop like my lunch crowd did occasionally at times that correlated roughly with when we expected layoffs. Odd that... 8)

scidata said...

It seems that equality, democracy, public welfare, individual freedom, freedom from authoritarian rule, and other terms dominate the liberal tradition. These are all political, or at least social, terms. Some forms of liberalism even conflict with each other, as the 'drift' in meaning would result in.

For me, liberalism simply means pluralism, the inherent value of concurrent diversity. More in a biological or even computational sense than a moral one. Arbitrarily pruning any set without fully understanding all the subtle relationships and dependencies within it is lossy at best, dangerous on average, and catastrophic at worst.

To wit, more infrastructure is good. Overly doctrinal choices about infrastructure aren't. The GOP rebuttal was disingenuous and facile.

David Brin said...

Chris Heinz, I have a policy here of giving folks three strikes when it comes to rudeness. You came in here with some criticism and assertions... and also shat on our rug. First time is a warning. Second time a month ban. Third and I tune the spam filter. And this one is very good!

But I'll ignore the rudeness this time and answer one of your points. I am radical about shining light into dark pools and Alpine secret banks and all that... see EARTH... and I have done more about that than you ever will. Moreover, I am far MORE radical in my Universal Ownership Treaty, where illicit ownership assets would in fact get "zeroed out."

But 'zeroing out' should only be done with care. Do it to cheaters and criminals? The public's confidence might INCREASE. Do it in ways that will ruin individual investors who happen to own the bonds that you just destroyed? That will have the opposite effect and the bond issuers will never trust you again.

You railed and shat here, as if you had a superior grasp of things. You... do... not sir.

duncan cairncross said...

Excellent discussions

On finance I still like R A Heinlein's simple explanation that The money supply should increase as the economy does
Which if you think of money in the economy as similar in function to blood in a body makes perfect sense
The other side of this is that the increase in money supply is normally added directly to the basic living stipend (We could simply mail a cheque to all citizens)

Directly from the book We call the system “finance” and the symbols “money” The symbolic structure should bear a one to one relationship to the physical structure of production and consumption .
It’s my job to keep track of the actual growth of the physical processes and recommend to the policy board changes in the symbol structure to match those in the physical structure

These two simple rules are the opposite of what we do Money supply is NOT linked to the physical economy The increase in money supply goes to those who hold assets (the 0.1%)

Going back to the discussions in the previous posting - about people who want large families

Games theory predicts that a population will always have a small population that responds differently
If we look at animal behavior we always find a small percentage that do something different

When I was a kid I read the Gerald Durrell animal collecting books - he noted that some of his animals behaved differently from their peers

Rather than having a "gene" for large family size or for any other unusual behavior - I suspect we have a gene for "Contrary behavior" - a small percentage of any population will behave differently
This will enable the population to survive when the background changes

So one "gene" would cover a lot of the bases - not a "gene" for family size and another gene for any other behavior

David Brin said...

Duncan, this is a 'contrary' place! For people who behave with basic decency. ;-)

duncan cairncross said...

We all (on this site) probably have more than our fair share of the Contrary Gene Complex

One of the Gerald Durrell stories -
A collection of monkeys most would carefully peel an orange and eat the orange
One of the monkeys would carefully peel his orange and eat the peel

Tony Fisk said...

It struck me, the other day, that Joe Biden must occasionally cruise by here.
His comments about supply side economics from yesterday have a familiar ring to them.

Robert said...

duncan, that sounds a lot like C.H. Douglass' social credit. (Not be be confused with China's social credit system.) If you're interested, read C.H. Douglass' works on the subject.

The SoCreds were a populist political party in Canada for a while, unfortunately entwined with a nasty Christian fundamentalism.

Duncan Ocel said...

@All
I've read a lot of statements alleging that MMT calls for "no limit to deficit/debt" or the like. But making that statement portrays inadequate research. MMT actually says "there is no concrete limit to deficit/debt because the limit in each sovereign-currency nation at each time is situational." You can print as much money as you want, and inflation will be minimal as long as you don't pass a certain threshold. Even Stephanie Kelton herself doesn't say there's no limit.

@Cairncross: thank you for the usual lucidity.

Pappenheimer said...

The old and very simple wargame Axis and Allies (Classic) starts off in Spring 1942. The "nadir of modern civilization" - not much disagreement there - is the high point of the Axis, with Midway, Stalingrad and El Alamein/Operation Torch all in the near future, and the 8th AF not yet based in England. It's a balanced game - that is, the Axis has about the same chance to win as the Allies do - only because it vastly undervalues the Allies' economic advantage and allows the Axis - whose supply lines were at that point already stretched beyond their actual limits - an operational mobility that simply did not exist. (Also, to simulate the Allies' codebreaking advantage, you'd have to hide about half the Allies' units until they were actually in action, and have the Axis player tell the Allied players what the Axis was going to do next turn.)
It could have gotten darker, but the Soviet Union disintegrating is the only plausible way. Which makes the USSR the linchpin in "clawing...out of hell". Funny old world, this.

(Cat on keyboard - apologies if I double post)

David Brin said...

Pappenheimer, that game would be best played as "which of a dozen factors would have given the Axis even a chance of survival?" In my opinion only one factor would do it alone... failure of resolve. In November 1940 Stalin would have accepted any peace offer. Had Hitler taken the offer, Malta would have fallen and likely Suez then India might have rebelled. That would have been one helluva nadir! And it still would not have changed the ultimate outcome, so long as Churchill+ FDR stayed resolved.

Oh, folks call me crazy when I say the M4 Sherman was by far the best tank of WWII!

Duncan, while GOPpers are in no position to lecture, and Keynesian stimuluses are generally good and effective, we have ONE case where spending too much, too fast, was destructive. "Guns & Butter" spending during Vietnam, which led to a decade and stagflation and opened the path for Reaganism.

David Brin said...

Joe said: "Trickle-down economics has never worked. It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out." Yes, I say the same thing (wordier) here. And huzzah that he said it! But if you want to actually change some minds about this, you have to be wordier! And actually replace "trickle down" - a phrase whose usefulness is aged - with the one THEY use: "Supply Side" and accompany it with a wager challenge! "I bet the supporters of SS cannot show a single prediction made by that cult that ever came true. Not one."

Pappenheimer said...

The M4 was mechanically reliable but there was a reason why the Germans called them "Ronsons". Still, I guess they were better than being stuck in an M3 "scout tank" (i.e., sacrificial pop up target) in Normandy in 1944. It took a lot of Shermans to bring down a Tiger. If you had a working Tiger.
Von Kleist, as I recall, just wanted the factories back home to stop making any other tanks and crank out as many T-34s as possible. (To be fair, I looked up when he praised the T-34 and it was before the M4 had seen much deployment).

On the other hand, this is an SF blog, so while I'm not likely to spark the same flamewars I would elsewhere, it's not really germane (pun not intended). The USSR can be considered the weakest link because it was the only Allied combatant with an industrial heartland still exposed to conquest or destruction in 1942. Churchill and Roosevelt, or their combined planning teams, strove desperately to keep Stalin in the war. And Churchill was not exactly a fan. Would the West have won anyway? Yes, probably - but the war would have been years longer, millions more would have died and nukes would have been more widely used.

Pappenheimer said...

Parting thought - it is GOOD to have an actual president doing actual presidenting! Speaking climatologically, we're under the gun and even the baby steps proposed so far are far better than actual malfeasance.

Now I'm off to order a Mother's Day present - a small clay dinosaur eating garden gnomes.

David Brin said...

Love the gnome-eating dinosaur.

The fashion of dissing Shermans is based on the VERY rare occasions when they faced tigers and panthers without help from the M18 tank destroyers that proved so effective at Arrocort etc. That did not happen all that often.

DIg it. A tank has three jobs:
1- infantry support, at which the Sherman was absolutely spectacularly the best tank of the wor, day-by-day (with its high profile) seeing and smashing machine gun nests and pillboxes. 90% of its daily work.

2- Cavalry breakout, wreaking havoc behind enemy lines and taking territory, (as in that scene in Kelly's heroes), where the Sherman was fast, reliable and devastating.

3- tank-vs-tank.

It did ALL THREE spectacularly well at El Alamein and across Africa until, in the narrow vales of Tunisia it met Tigers, when costly lessons had to be learned. After that, sure, they hurried in M18s that weren't perfect, but did the job where and when it counted most.

Pappenheimer said...

Dragging me back in -

Yes, and no.

There was a REASON that Oddball traded in his Sherman for a Tiger at the end of the movie. That thing was a mildly mobile fortress with an 88 stuck on it, perfectly suited to defensive warfare and much safer for its crew (please ignore the verfvcken engine and the hand-cranked turret)

Probably the best tank in WWII was the M26 Pershing, which corrected for the M4's inadequate cannon (Oddball had Firefly envy) and armor but had its own mechanical issues. About 20 managed in get rushed in action in 1945, according to Wiki.
By late 1944, though, the profusion of anti-tank devices meant that no "moving foxhole" (as Bill Mauldin put it) was safe.

David Brin said...

The lesson was to combine tanks with well-trained infantry. Which the movie FURY completely ignored.

Daniel Duffy said...

People dis the Sherman (which probably the best all around tank in the war) because it could not go toe to toe with Panthers, Tigers and Konigstigers.

We could have built our own 50 ton version of German tanks instead of the 30 ton Sherman.

One thing to remember about the Sherman tank.

We had to ship them across the Atlantic.

At 30 tons the Sherman was at best a medium tank compared to the Panther (45 tons), Tiger (50 tons), or King Tiger (almost 70 tons). So direct comparisons are not apples to apples.

We could have built an America version of the Tiger, but loading docks on the Atlantic coast could not handle the weight, and even if they could load them on board available shipping (being a finite capacity even for the US) would have limited us to half the number of tanks - which meant half the number of tank divisions.

The Sherman was mechanically reliable and it's up gunned "Firefly" version could take on Panthers. The Firefly was a perfect example of UK/US technical cross breeding, American tank and British gun (the other example being the best fighter of the war, the Mustang - nimble and agile American air frame and powerful British Rolls Royce engine). Tank battalions would have a Firefly company to handle the few heavy German tanks (the majority of German tanks on the western front were the medium Mark IV) they encountered in addition to the standard Sherman companies.

The Germans had few tanks for the simple reason that they lacked oil to fuel a large fleet of tanks, so they went for quality over quantity out of necessity. But they went too far in this direction. Maybe its a cultural trait but the Germans tend to over-engineer everything, whether its WW2 panzers or an auto from the Black Forest (my neighbor has a BMW, it's beautiful piece of superb engineering that spends a lot of time in the shop). As a result, the King Tiger spent more time in repair than it did in battle, and mechanical reliability is at least as important to a tank's effectiveness as armor plate thickness or gun caliber.

A tank is no good on the battlefield if it is being repaired.

For a fascinating video on Germany's wartime oil shortage and how it drove both grand strategy and tank development see (in the light of this oil shortage, Hitler's strategic decisions actually start to make sense):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVo5I0xNRhg

So being unable to ship true heavy tanks to Europe, America relied on air power. Those tank buster aircraft at the end of "Saving Private Ryan" were very real and very effective. Air power turned the Falaise pocket into a slaughter house and decimated the Ardennes offensive. American weapons development and combined arms tactics were perfectly suited for its logistical constraints and the enemy it was facing.

The Sherman was a damn fine all around tank


A.F. Rey said...

Reminds me of a story my dad told me about being a tank driver during WWII.

He HATED the commanding officer of his tank division. So much so that one day, when they were going into battle...

The division was going over a ridge, and the first tank that went over--BOOM! The Germans had an anti-tank gun.

The second tank that went over--BOOM! They had it trained and ranged for the ridge.

He's driving the third tank, with his commanding officer above him. The guy is yelling to stop the tank, but he hates him so much that he decides it would be worth it to get killed if he could get rid of him. So rather than stop, he guns the engine.

They go over the ridge and--BOOM! The Germans miss. They were going fast enough that they couldn't site them in time.

Well, the rest of the division sees their fearless commander go over the ridge, so of course they can't stop. So they all go over--and win the battle.

My dad got a bawling out for directly disobeying an order during combat, but not much else. Because the commander got a commendation for winning the battle. And the commander couldn't admit that he wanted to stop.

Nevertheless, my dad got part of what he wanted. Because winning that battle also got the commander promoted, and out of his hair. :)

I can no longer verify this is absolutely true, my dad having passed away in the 1970s, but it still makes a good story. :)

David Brin said...

Daniel and AFR great stories!

duncan cairncross said...

Re- "Ronsons"

That was a post war nickname pasted on the tanks by a reporter of dubious intelligence

Daniel Duffy said...

Dr. Brin: "which of a dozen factors would have given the Axis even a chance of survival?" In my opinion only one factor would do it alone... failure of resolve.

Which is the scenario laid out by PKD in "The Man in the High Castle" (science fiction's ur-althistory story).

In MITHC FDR is assassinated before he gets sworn in as president. He's shot in Miami by a deranged, unemployed brick layer named Giuseppe Zangara (in our timeline FDR lived and the mayor of Chicago was killed). Henry Wallace becomes president and as a true left wing socialist he accomplishes nothing and serves only one term. He's followed by isolationist republicans like Taft.

No New Deal. No NRA. No WPA. No CCC. No TVA. No farm programs. No social security. American farmers remain in poverty and American streets are filled with rioting unemployed workers. Lynchings continue unabated. America remains mired in the Great Depression and at war with itself until the bombs begin to fall.

America turns its back on the world and stays isolationist. No oil embargo of Japan for invading China, and the Japanese go on to overthrow the nationalists and put a Japanese puppet on the Chinese throne. No lend lease for Britain, which cripples its war effort leading to defeats in North Africa, India and devastating losses to u-boats in the Atlantic before Britain surrenders. No lend lease for Russia which also loses the war.

Two more deaths would seal the win for the Axis.

Winston Churchill was run over and nearly killed by a taxi while visiting New York in the 1920s. Had he died there would have been no one to oppose appeasement and warn Britain about the gathering storm. After Dunkirk, a peace leaning Halifax would have become PM and reached some sort of accommodation with the Reich. The Clivedon Set would have gained power and Britain would have devolved into a fascist dictatorships subservient to Hitler.

During the opening weeks of Barbarossa, the massive losses of the Red Army drove Stalin into depression and despair. He almost ate a bullet in his dacha outside Moscow. Without him at the head of a very personalized totalitarian regime, the Russian leadership would have been plunged into a chaotic succession fight while being gutted by German panzers. It is likely that the Soviet Union would have collapsed.

Meanwhile, back in America, Einstein's letter to the isolationist President concerning German atomic research falls on deaf ears, so there is no Manhattan Project. Germany remains the world's leader in atomic research. In our time, they went in the wrong direction with their heavy water experiments, but given enough time and their big lead, they would have gotten an a-bombe first, probably by the 1950s (though PKD has America surrendering in 1947).

By then they would have V-3 ICBM's able to strike North America.

Anonymous said...

You said it! Putting people to work to build infrastructure will give them spending money to increase the demand from the plants that have excess capacity now. And that will put more money into the pockets of the rich people who now have plants that are not in full production. It is amazing that the rich never seem to realize that they get richer when the poor get money. They keep babbling about trickle down when they never see what's in front of them– that the money keeps bubbling up back to their pockets! Money is ever effervescent. It always bubbles up to the top of the economy back into the banks and the insurance companies and the stock market

Anonymous said...

Most likely it was written by Harlan Ellison. I don't think anybody had the nerve to ad-lib while acting according to one of his scripts

Jon S. said...

As for Axis & Allies, I don't recall if they ever specified exactly what sort of tanks were produced by tank factories, but...

My most successful outing was playing as Britain. I noticed that everyone was concentrating on the European theater, so I quietly built several tank factories in Persia and churned out my forces.

Then they swept up through eastern Europe and wiped out the Axis troops there, freeing the US to focus on the Pacific. IIRC (and it's been a few decades, I might not) we eliminated the Nazis sometime in early 1943.

Kal Kallevig said...

I welcome Biden's emphasis on global warming. It is not enough, but it is at least a start.

https://surplusenergyeconomics.wordpress.com/2021/04/30/196-the-price-of-self-delusion/

These inconvenient observations tell us, amongst other things, that we can’t overcome environmental challenges without changing our behavior, and that we can’t shrink energy consumption without shrinking the economy.
If we factor ECoE into the equation, two further critical points emerge.
First, CO² emissions are a function of the total energy that we use, whilst material prosperity is linked to surplus (ex-ECoE) energy quantities. As ECoEs rise, they load this equation against us
Therefore, a sizeable – and rising – proportion of CO² emissions is tied, not to the economic value that energy use creates, but to the energy that is used only to make energy supply available. We’re never going to combat climate change and ecological degradation effectively until we take this ‘variable geometry’ into account.

David Brin said...

That story is found. There was a sci fi - "Letter from a Higher Critic" by Stewart Robb - that appraised how many names from WWII seem too ‘mythological’ to have come from a real reality and must have been made up by an author!
https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2018/12/09/was-world-war-ii-just-a-myth/amp/?fbclid=IwAR3EcotglzpNN2y-UCHTA2AZPMbYWJadi7AfX18LGbIgma4WNrH4oZOVOgw

Dick's scenario has real flaws. Yes president Henry Wallace is a serious problem which might (I give 30% chance) go down that worst case path. Though I figure the 1940 GOP nominee would have in that case been MacArthur, who would still have gone to war.

Likewise lacking Churchill you'd still need for George not to become King.

But eliminating Stalin would have led to much BETTER Soviet leadership, not worse. And Germany had no scientists left worth a bucket of spit, so all thoughts of a Nazi bomb are just fantasy. One can envisage Einstein writing to MacArthur...

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Money is a form of debt. Got a dollar in your pocket? Someone owes you something that you can get for that dollar.

1. That only works if you believe.
2. The value of the thing you get in terms of dollars depends on how many dollars are floating around and on how fast they are moving around.
3. It only works if debt itself is treated as a fungible commodity.


Something to add to your list, although it might be indirectly covered by "if you believe". There has to be some sort of marketplace in which your currency can be traded for stuff. An American dollar gives you access to buying and selling anywhere in the United States. People can trade it among themselves elsewhere too, but that's kind of a secondary market. The thing that people believe in that gives the dollar value is the American economy.

Gold has had value for millennia because it is almost universally accepted as something that can be exchanged for value anywhere. There are exceptions--it does you no good on a desert island--but for the most part, gold stands the test of time as a form of currency no matter where you are. Enough other people believe that to be the case that you can feel safe also believing it.

I'm not sure the same will hold true for bitcoin. Can cryptocurrencies, dependent on specific technologies for their existence, stand the test of time in that manner? I don't know for sure, but I'd bet "no".

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

A collection of monkeys most would carefully peel an orange and eat the orange
One of the monkeys would carefully peel his orange and eat the peel


I hate to bring this up, but Donald Trump likely exhibits the contrarian gene. What else explains someone who would deliberately stare at a solar eclipse, move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, or actively promote in insurrection? Almost everything the man did in the last four years was "unpresidented".

Der Oger said...

"And Germany had no scientists left worth a bucket of spit, so all thoughts of a Nazi bomb are just fantasy. "
I don't know how you rank Heisenberg and Otto Hahn, but they were part of the resistance and not of the regime. Had they been Nazis by conviction, they might have produced more substantial results, but that wasn't their intent.

I rather believe that, though the deck was (thankfully) stacked against us, there were lots of small decisions, gambles, battles and situations that helped the Allies at least shorten the war, if not winning it. Some of the more important:

- Not being able to draw Spain into the war (they tried)
- The leadership of military intelligence (Canaris, Oster) being in opposition to Hitler
- The decision to halt the advance to Dunkirk, letting 300.000 soldiers go
- The sinking of the French Navy, both in Operation Catapult on Churchills Orders in 40 and by the Vichy regime in 42
- The fact that almost any prominent leader, political and military, was set up as a rival to each other (this was by design)
- Operations Mincemeat and Bodyguard
- The Decision to build the Bismarck instead of nearly 50 Class VII U Boats, and using it in the way they did

and so on.

David Brin said...

Der Oger, for every "gee the allies caught a break there!" anecdote I could offer ten where the axis were far luckier than anyone would credit..

But sorry, whether intentionally or not, Hahn and Heisenberg were stunning klutzes and progress toward a Nazi bomb was virtually nonexistent. The Manhattan boys overcame at least fifty obstacles, any one of which would have boggled the Berliners.

scidata said...

Dr. Brin: The Manhattan boys overcame at least fifty obstacles

Paul Newman as General Groves in "Fat Man and Little Boy" was one of my favourite casting picks ever. Robert De Niro as Captain Mendoza in "The Mission" was another. Both characters delved into the poignancy and weight of conscience in the lives of complex warriors instead of a lot of shallow flash-bang noise and fury. I was surprised to learn that both films were directed by Roland Joffé, who now lives in Malta. I wonder if he provided any input on the FOUNDATION Synnax sequences recently filmed there.

Larry Hart said...

From the story Dr Brin links above:

Now let me ask a rhetorical question. Do you really believe that these names: Adolf Hitler, De Gaulle, Molotov, Stalin, Chamberlain, Churchhill, Roosevelt, Rosenman, Morgenthau, Hull and Eisenhower could have sprung up by chance?


That reminds me of a bit in Vonnegut's Hocus Pocus in which a character lists the various WWII leaders with their birth years, their ages in 1944, the years each one came to power, and the lengths of their reigns as of 1944, then adds the years and ages for each leader together to show that they "magically" all come out to the same number. Just as the reader is catching on that this is a simple mathematical trick, he throws in a curveball by mentioning that the first letter of each name as given:
Churchill
Hitler
Roosevelt
Il Duce
Stalin
Tojo

spells out the name of our savior.

duncan cairncross said...

The "Problem" for the Nazis was that Fascism is actually a type of Theocracy
(read the Fascist Manifesto)
The "State" is God and the "leader" is a combination of High Priest and Prophet

This automatically makes any criticism "heresy"

The same pattern is reflected as you go down the hierarchy - Loyalty is paramount - competence is optional

This means that CITOKATE cannot operate!

We can see this clearly with the Nazi "superweapons" every one of which was a massive NEGATIVE for the German war effort

The Brits (and I assume the Americans) also had lots of daft ideas but they selected the viable and useful ones and concentrated on those
Microwave radar, proximity fuses, Sonar, Hedgehog, solid fuel rockets

New ideas were subjected to criticism and (in most cases) the most useful survived to help with the war effort

Without Criticism a modern civilisation is impossible - the old God Kings

David Brin said...

After WWII George Marshall chaired discussions how NOT to make the same mistakes as other empires. Biggest was counter-mercantilism encouraging other nations to sell us stuff. But another was "don't prepare for the last war, especially if you won it."

Of those listed tech wonder weapons, the germans did have a form of praximity fuse in their sea mines. But the brits figured it out and sent wooden boats tailing electromagnet cables. boom.,

My masters thesis advisor helped invent their radar.

duncan cairncross said...

Apologies - I intended to finish "The old God Kings could operate without criticism but life is more complex today

Der Oger said...

"Der Oger, for every "gee the allies caught a break there!" anecdote I could offer ten where the axis were far luckier than anyone would credit.."

Okay, I presented seven possible "turning points", so give me 70 ... or at least 36, if I give you the 34 failed Hitler assassination plots.

"But sorry, whether intentionally or not, Hahn and Heisenberg were stunning klutzes and progress toward a Nazi bomb was virtually nonexistent. The Manhattan boys overcame at least fifty obstacles, any one of which would have boggled the Berliners."

The Manhattan Project had the ressources and the determination to build the bomb.
The Uranium Club had neither.
That is why the Allies got the Bomb, and the Axis not.

(BTW, the Klutzes were the guys who believed in "German Physics" and eschewed the works of Einstein and Heisenberg as "Jewish influenced".

David Brin said...

D.O. Here's a lucky break, among bazillions. Guderian read Liddell-Hart and convinced the Prussian officer corps to use tactics formulated by an Englishman, who was ignored in Britain and France, when they had better tanks, but refused to listen to De Gaulle and counter fire with fire.

President Hindenberg died and no one blamed the Nazis. Likewise the Night of the Long Knives. And ONE member of the General Staff could have prevented the Hitler Oath from being admistered and sworn by all army officers and men. And Neville Chamberlain was a huge stroke of luck. And Stalin's refusal to allow divisions and armies to retreat in good order. And... and...

scidata said...

Re: Fat Man and Little Boy

So many great scenes. One of the best was near the beginning, where Leo Szilard is explaining fission in his bathtub while Groves adds hot water. When Szilard says such a blast would vaporize all of Chicago you could see from here, Groves rasps, "Halleluja". I'm a sucker for 'the world before and after this moment' scenes.

The tragedy of that story is as important as the triumph. Oppy goes all Hindu at the end. Theories that haunt their creators are a solid heuristic, much more than elegance, simplicity, or novelty. The best theories are the ones that drag their reluctant, solemn author along instead of the usual exuberant reverse situation. Examples include Darwin's evolution, Planck's quantized radiation, and even Seldon's psychohistory. Very Socratic.

David Brin said...

Any sane or decent person, listening to wise, gentle, sad, brilliant Oppie argue with the paranoid and equally brilliant Teller would have sadly concluded Oppie was right. Teller was saying "this time is different.' This time balance of power and deterrence will prevent calamity.

Who would have thought the mad Hungarian would prove so very right and wise Oppenheimer so wrong?

Pappenheimer said...

Re: WWII - lucky breaks, in a long war, tend to even out. Then you go with the big battalions of which God is so fond. (I guess nowadays God is fonder of the guys with air superiority.)

Best overview I've ever read on this topic is "Why the Allies Won" by Richard Overy. The Axis was only able to get as far as it did because it was geared to a war that no one else in Europe wanted (1918 was not that long ago). Overy says that Nazi Germany squandered its early successes by not utilizing well the populations and economies of conquered Europe. He also points out that the main obstacle was Nazi racist ideology and the elevation of unsuitable incompetents to positions of high power based only on loyalty to the Fuhrer. So Duncan above is right. The Nazis could have won, if only they'd not been Nazis...

(Overy gives kudos to Stalin, along with Churchill and Roosevelt, for listening to, and promoting, competence over ring-kissing, once Stalin's own ring was on the line. It may have helped that Stalin's own decisions before and early on in the Great Patriotic war were near-uniformly disastrous.)

As an example, there were plenty of non-Russians (and even Russians) in the USSR who hated Stalin, disliked Communism and considered the Germans as liberators at first, until the Germans demonstrated that they did not consider non-Aryans to be equals or deserving of humane treatment. Japan made the same mistake in Colonial Asia. Many of the SE Asians who later headed post-colonial governments initially supported Japan (The Philippines are a special case), but being ignored, having your country looted and your fellow citizens hauled off to die as starving unpaid labor will curb your enthusiasm.

Over all, the lucky breaks needed for an Axis permanent victory would have had to be Draka-level authorial meddling. If, the more you win, the more people hate you, you are basically doomed.

Probably too long a rant, but as an ex-weatherman I must salute James Stagg for laying them on the line without METSAT support. Huge and brazen ones, too...

scidata said...

My favourite brilliant Hungarian from that bunch was John Kemeny, the co-inventor of BASIC and the closest thing to an actual Hari Seldon I've ever known about. He worked on the Manhattan Project under Feynman and von Neumann.

The only reason psychology students don't have to do more and harder mathematics than physics students is because the mathematicians haven't yet discovered ways of dealing with problems as hard as those in psychology.
John Kemeny

Jon S. said...

"Who would have thought the mad Hungarian would prove so very right and wise Oppenheimer so wrong?"

Certainly not those of us who lived through it. I think the hardest thing for a lot of younger sociologists and historians to understand about the Cold War was that right up until the Soviet Union actually closed for business, we knew - we knew, in our bones - that World War III wasn't a matter of "if", but "when". Western society got weirdly nihilistic in the '70s and '80s for a reason.

I'm so very glad Teller called it.

Daniel Duffy said...

I get the impression Dr. Brin that you are biased to the belief that the God Guys should win,

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Good Guys lost in the Spartacus slave revolt.

The Good Guys lost at Masada.

The Good Guys lost at Agincourt (sorry Shakespeare and Henry V, but the French were defending their homeland against English pillagers)

The Good Guys lost in the Nat Turner slave revolt.

The Good Guys lost at Wounded Knee.

The Good Guys lost in Ethiopia in 1936.

The Good Guys lost in France in 1940.

The Good Guys lost at Warsaw in 1944.

The Good Guys lost in Viet Nam (yeah, we were the Good Guys, ask any Boat Person or survivor of the Killing Fields).

etc....

David Brin said...

Great arguments and comments guys!

DD, the English “pillagers” at Agincourt – the noble and officer castes all spoke French. The key difference wasn’t which royal family you followed, but the far. more egalitarian nature of thje English army. Till 1789, ht French aristocracy were always shits and they died being silly asses that day.

Mike G good suggestion! Less complex than mine, though mine is a real experiment.

Alfred Differ said...

If there is a contrarian gene, Daniel has a couple of copies.😏

David Brin said...

Heh contraians welcome at Contrary Brin, so long as basic courtesy is followed. But if you want to be read, be *interestingly* contrarian. Those who are tediously boring and predictable tend to wander off to places with different standards. And go in peace.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Daniel is cool. Makes me think about how he can see things his way.

Same goes for most everyone here.

Daniel Duffy said...

Yep Henry V was the bad guy, despite Shakespeare's brilliant piece of pro-Tudor propaganda:

I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur
Till in her ashes she lie buried.
The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,
And the flesh'd soldier, rough and hard of heart,
In liberty of bloody hand shall range
With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass
Your fresh-fair virgins and your flowering infants.
What is it then to me, if impious war,
Array'd in flames like to the prince of fiends,
Do, with his smirch'd complexion, all fell feats
Enlink'd to waste and desolation?
What is't to me, when you yourselves are cause,
If your pure maidens fall into the hand
Of hot and forcing violation?
What rein can hold licentious wickedness
When down the hill he holds his fierce career?
We may as bootless spend our vain command
Upon the enraged soldiers in their spoil
As send precepts to the leviathan
To come ashore. Therefore, you men of Harfleur,
Take pity of your town and of your people,
Whiles yet my soldiers are in my command;
Whiles yet the cool and temperate wind of grace
O'erblows the filthy and contagious clouds
Of heady murder, spoil and villany.
If not, why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dash'd to the walls,
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused

Daniel Duffy said...

Though I have to admit, whenever I hear Henry's St. Crispin's Day speech I get a strong urge to invade France:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-yZNMWFqvM

Der Oger said...

I agree with Pappenheimer, Daniel and some things our host said.

Or as Wilhelm Canaris minted it, in September 1939, after the executions started with e in Poland:

"The war is lost, no matter how many victories we will make; it is lost."

Personally, I value civilians who tried to subvert and resist the Nazis, protected Jews and others, and dared to speak out openly higher than soldiers (especially those who were not drafted).

A general might get the fame for winning a battle, but he was more secure than a soldier charging the beaches of Normandy; an Archbishop may speak out against the regime, but he was more secure than a group of students printing and sharing leaflets; an industrial or aristocrat might have been more secure in hiding/helping escape Jews than a poor polish woman, and so on.

It is a pity that these histories and biographies are often looked at as an afterthought; because each of them holds a little gem: That, no matter how bleak the times are, no matter how evil your own side is, there may be some individuals who have moral, civilian (should I say contrarian?) courage to help and protect those in distress, and to call out those who cause it.

And *that* gem is useful to behold, far more than those countless speculations and dissections of war strategies, reasons, events etc. because they can teach us how to avoid such wars and horrors the next time they happen by showing this courage early enough; or to find it should they ever happen again (and one happens to be on the wrong side).

It is not rank and privilege (Stauffenberg? Bah! Look at Georg Elser or the White Rose or all those Righteous Among The Nations. They deserve to be studied.) that causes that courage, it is personal virtues.

If any, rank and privilege *demand* that courage.

David Brin said...

Carunba! What is this, Thoughtfully-Eloquent Sunday. Youse guys show me I am of limitations bound. Great stuff. I yam humbled.

Daniel Duffy said...

PAP - "Nazi Germany squandered its early successes by not utilizing well the populations and economies of conquered Europe."

Similarly, the Japanese would have done better strategically if they had come a true liberators of Asian peoples from European colonial oppression, instead of treating the native populations with arrogant, abusive contempt, cruelty and atrocity.

The Japanese soldier in the Russo-Japanese war were noted for their courage and honor, not for cruelty, abuse of POWs and atrocities committed against civilians. Japanese authorities
were scrupulous in their adherence to international humanitarian law regarding the
treatment of captured Russian combatants in the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War and of
captured German and Austrian combatants in the First World War. However in the second world war the Japanese committed the Rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death march and medical experiments on Chinese POWs.

Imagine instead that the Japanese behaved decently to POWs and civilians, and that the Japanese had idealistically liberated instead of occupied these colonies, and established truly independent countries in Indonesia, the Philippines, Indochina, Burma, Malaya and even China. Then arm the locals with at least infantry weapons' to create 100s of rifle divisions and put them to work fortifying their homelands against European and American counter attack.

As Japan becomes the leader of coalition of freed Asians, their defensive burdens become lighter. The freed up Japanese soldiers could then massively reinforce their island garrisons against MacArthur and Nimitz. They'd still lose but the island hopping campaign would be bloodier and slower - and the former colonies would be lost forever. Any European attempts at reconquest would meet a super-Vietnam from Burma to Papua. Even if Japan itself falls to American a-bombs in 46 or 47, their legacy would be a freed Asia.

Daniel Duffy said...

Similarly, if Hitler had declared the peoples of eastern Europe (Poles, Balts, White Russians, Ukrainians, Crimeans, Cossacks, etc.) to be either the descendants of Viking Rus or Ostrogoths or whatever - leading them in an anti-Bolshevik crusade, all of those villagers that greeted the invading Germans with flowers and wine would have gladly enlisted - turning the German invasion into a tidal wave gathering more recruits with each advance.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

It is a pity that these histories and biographies are often looked at as an afterthought; because each of them holds a little gem: That, no matter how bleak the times are, no matter how evil your own side is, there may be some individuals who have moral, civilian (should I say contrarian?) courage to help and protect those in distress, and to call out those who cause it.


I sure hope so, because we need that kind of courage here in America right now.

David Brin said...

DD my grandfather was at Mukden in 1905... we're even pretty sure we know which side he was on! Alas, you exaggerate the nobility of imperial forces behavior there, and any Korean will tall you the seeds of WWWI atrocities were already in full bloom.

Likewise your other counterfactual was... um... counter factual to a degree that makes even imagining it an LSD trip..

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

...counter factual to a degree that makes even imagining it an LSD trip.


I was gonna say.

Daniel Duffy:

Even if Japan itself falls to American a-bombs in 46 or 47, their legacy would be a freed Asia.


Like what we have now, you mean.


Similarly, if Hitler had declared the peoples of eastern Europe (Poles, Balts, White Russians, Ukrainians, Crimeans, Cossacks, etc.) to be either the descendants of Viking Rus or Ostrogoths or whatever...


We seem to be getting close to "And if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a wagon" territory.

There seems to be a psychohistorical rule which says that fascism necessarily contains the seeds of its own destruction, since it forces its conquered people to resist and its neighbors to become enemies. "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

Yes, if they acted as liberators instead of conquerors, they'd win friends and influence people, but it's just not in their nature to do so.

Alfred Differ said...

Anything I've read that seriously considers alternate timelines in which the Germans or Japanese could have won the war of the 1940's (not calling it WWII here because Soviets didn't) all point to the same impossible fact. Each had to become more like the US (or The West in a broader sense) in that they had to liberalize their economies and peoples.

I'm ignoring minor Axis players because… they are too minor to bother describing. Also, the goal for 'Winning' is to be in a position to defeat the US at some point OR permanently preventing the US from defeating them.

1. Germany had to focus on owning the northern plains of Europe AND STOPPING THERE to consolidate the people and resources. If any major cultural group from the French Atlantic coast to the Urals was unwilling and upset enough to fight about it, German consolidation would be incomplete. Depending on which region proved unstable, access to more distant resources had to be secured, but ONLY inward from coastal regions. Think Caspian oil. Think Ukrainian wheat fields. Damn difficult for a sea power like the US to hit directly in a big way back then and impossible to hold.

Britain could be left un-invaded. If they got uppity and/or too willing to support US interests, surround them with subs and starve them. Chocked off from trade, Britain can't support multiple tens of millions of people. Just a fact of life. Siege… Wait.

Italy can be left as a friendly ally, but without a lot of resources spent defending it or its interests. Just enough to make them a useful, costly to take buffer state. So what if the US gets a hold there! Alps! Carpathians! Balkan Tribes! The worst we could do is bomb European interior cities requiring us to have huge supply lines. Germans had shorter supply lines they could have defended IF they had consolidated and liberalized.

2. There is a very similar scenario involving Japan that requires unity with China and the entire archipelago that is the western Pacific. Plenty of resources are present in the region, but the ones deeply interior are the ones that require the most liberalization because they are the ones the US couldn't hit easily.

——

Of the two impossible scenarios, the Japanese one is the weakest. The US is almost entirely a Sea Power. With industrial capabilities deep in our interior, there isn't a damn thing anyone could have done about us until space flight arrived. Japan in the liberalized, consolidated scenario would also have been a sea power. That is absolutely required or we would have taken parts of the archipelago just like we did in the real war. With enough of a head start, they might have had a chance against the US, but we would have had to go isolationist for a LONG time. That era was largely over in the US after Teddy Roosevelt, but had a couple of last gasps left in it.

If by some miracle Germany AND Japan had tried these impossible scenarios, we'd probably have had to deal with Japan first. It is likely we would have beaten them because the German scenario only works if they do not go to war with the US.

In either case, the only scenario that has the US losing or being unable to win is one that splits the world into one sea power and one land power. Two empires. That's why we had no choice but to fight the Cold War even with the risk of nukes. Russia is a land power on the undefend-able northern plains of Europe. It doesn't matter whether it is Napoleon, Hitler, or Stalin. The land power is configured about the same.

David Brin said...

Sorry, the notion of Imperial Japan allying itself with China of extreme. HG Wells in THE WAR IN THE AIR considered that the doomwar leading to THINGS TO COME. An amazing series of short SF. Truly worthwhile. German zeppelins conquer the US only to meet pan-Asian swarms of lesser blimps on the US west coast leading to gas and nukes. Pretty much MAN IN HIGH CASTLE only without Nazis cause it's 1910... oh and Wells portrays heavier than air flight as much harder than it turned out to be, but it's Americans who solve it, to survive.

Fun stuff. But Japan + China is a hard sell.

I am skeptical of nearly all "Hitler Victorious" scenarios. But. Hey, I think... I think I have the most plausible scenario!

October 1941, just before autumn rains slow the German advance in mud. Wehrmacht generals begged Adolf to accept Stalin's frantic October 1941 offers. HUGE concessions! Everything west of Kharkov plus sharing the oil fields and handing over all USSR planes and artillery. It was the deal of a lifetime, and AH shrugged it off.

Okay imagine THAT is when Adolf has a stroke - perhaps time travel induced, so he couldn't block the deal (he did) . Under a Goering/Canaris/Guderian regency, it would/could have been a huge game changer.

So then Stalin gets off'd by generals who call the deal treason, but who then are willing to accept a fascist gloss over Marxism and Berlin's centrality*... leading to a Eurasian behemoth that's very hard for the US and Brit Empire to counter. Especially if Japan then joins them and strikes south.

Think lifelong Marxists wouldn't do that? It's exactly what Putin did, by the way, when he dropped all communist symbols in order to embrace... fascism. And thus succeeded in suborning the entire US right.

Daniel Duffy said...

Now let's talk about Italy winning the war.

In his history of the second world war Churchill remarked upon the death of Mussolini, commenting that if Italy had stayed neutral it could have cleaned up by selling to both sides, biding its time while building up its armed forces and economy, emerging from the war powerful and unscathed.

Suppose that Musso has a heart attack while bonking his mistress and his son-in-law Ciano becomes Duce. Ciano was a practical man without visions of vainglory who understood how economically backwards and militarily weak Italy really was.

So when France falls in 1940, instead of uselessly attacking the French Alps he offers to mediate between France and Germany. Whether this offer is accepted or not is unimportant so much as it gives Italy a strong relationship with the defeated Vichy regime.

Together with Petain's Vichy (and most of the French colonial empire), Franco's Spain and Salazar's Portugal (neither of which wanted to join the fighting) Ciano forms a neutral alliance - each individually weak but together would give any aggressor pause.

This neutral alliance is later expanded to include Metaxas' Greece (who was a fascist admirer of Hitler), Prince Paul's Yugoslavia, and Inonu's Turkey (all of which wanted neutrality) - all of which pledge to defend the other in case of attack.

Germany accepts this since their entire southern flank is now protected by a belt of friendly neutral countries who are pro-fascist. Britain accepts this since Gibraltar and Suez are safe, the empire is no longer threatened, and shipping through the Med is secure.

Italy spend the war following Churchills advice, staying neural and cleaning up by selling to both sides as the Italian economy expands and its military modernizes. Then the Italians discover an ocean of oil in Libya and their economy explodes and their navy can actually sail the Med.

Now look at the map of this neutral alliance. Its basically the Roman Empire reborn under Italian leadership - an empire created with the stroke of a pen.

Without other fronts to worry about, and no delay to Barbarossa because of the Balkan Campaign, Germany can devote more resources to Russia and the eastern front probably ends in a stalemate peace with the Italians holding the balance of power.

That's how Italy wins the war - but not fighting.

Daniel Duffy said...

Isn't there an alt-history story where someone actually goes back in time and kills baby Hitler and returns only to find that Germany has conquered the world because it had a competent wartime leader?

Daniel Duffy said...

"counter factual to a degree that makes even imagining it an LSD trip"

Lots of blond-haired, blue-eyed eastern Europeans, many Poles and Ukrainians look more Nordic than Hitler (and Hitler didn't seem to mind that his Hungarian and Romanian allies were not Nordic).

Had the Germans acted as liberators the Soviet Union would have collapsed.

But as someone else noted, fascism bears the seeds of its own destruction.

Daniel Duffy said...

Yep, Stalin making a peace offer in 1941 would have meant German victory. This was before Pearl Harbor so Britain (without hope after the Soviets quit) would have to throw in the towel. Give a few colonies and Med islands to Italy and Spain and you have a German dominated Europe, Mideast and Africa.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Anything I've read that seriously considers alternate timelines in which the Germans or Japanese could have won the war of the 1940's (not calling it WWII here because Soviets didn't) all point to the same impossible fact. Each had to become more like the US (or The West in a broader sense) in that they had to liberalize their economies and peoples.


In fiction, the saying "In order to defeat me, you must become me," is usually directed at the good guy by the bad guy, but perhaps it works the other way around as well.

* * *

Separate topic. Americans are increasingly sorting themselves by geography into political bubbles, but that seems to be more of an emergent property than a conscious decision.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/04/30/opinion/politics/bubble-politics.html

...
“People aren’t choosing to live near neighbors who share their party affiliation” said Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University. “They’re segregating based on lifestyle choices.”

The alignment of lifestyle and politics reflects the sorting of Democrats and Republicans by income and education, in addition to race. While members of both parties want to live in neighborhoods with good schools and low crime, they disagree about the importance of certain religious and cultural amenities.

Democrats, surveys have shown, are more likely than Republicans to prioritize walkable neighborhoods with good public transit. Republicans, on the other hand, prize neighborhoods with more Christians and larger houses.
...

Der Oger said...

@Larry Hart:"I sure hope so, because we need that kind of courage here in America right now."

The events of the last year tell me it is there, not all is lost.

Maybe, one way would be if the society would recognize moral courage higher than physical courage, but that would be both Hollywoods' and the President's job (or whoever decides who gets a medal).

Then, there are training programs dealing directly with that. I personally found out the more you act in this manner, the easier you can act morally courageous, and the easier you are able to bear the consequences.

Some links I found:

Moral Courage: Definition and Development
A Twin City Police Moral Courage Training Project
A Moral Courage College
Leaflets of the White Rose

Some questions and thought experiments:

Which of the various persons and groups who opposed Hitler from the inside inspire you most, or you can sympathize with? And why?*
Imagine you were in 1933, in Germany, and had the same equivalent of a job, family and social situation you enjoy now; what would you do? What would you do in 39 and 44?
What would your part of the resistance look like? Hiding Jews, printing leaflets, spying for the allies, sabotaging the industry, assassinating Nazis?
How would you deal with the societal backlash after the war was over, when (provided your actions become known) your fellow citizens see you as a traitor?
Which of your personal qualities would energize your courage, what ideal or trait would make you resist?
When was the last time you should have shown moral courage, but did not? What was it what you lacked? What would you do differently or have done differently the next time it happened/happens?
When was the last time you actually showed it, and how did you master the consequences?

Der Oger said...

"Think lifelong Marxists wouldn't do that? It's exactly what Putin did, by the way, when he dropped all communist symbols in order to embrace... fascism. And thus succeeded in suborning the entire US right."

Some thoughts on this:
- It is a strange historical situation. While the chances are currently high that the next German government will be lead by a green chancellor, every other nation (except Canada, New Zealand and perhaps Australia) that helped liberate us has made great stride towards fascism or at least right-wing populism. This includes countries countries like Denmark, Poland, Czechia, Austria. France might be the next country to fall if Macrons gamble fails.
- Putin is not the US right, and did not vote 74 million times for Trump. While he may have poured oil into the fire and helped Trump win, the rot of Trumpism is older and deeper.
- I believe Putin never was a Marxist by heart, and only paid lip service to the doctrines. Instead, I believe he was a career officer with a then-high professional integrity and other qualities you usually praise in your members of the praetorian caste. He is well-educated, intelligent and for all his posturing, not so much a fascist by conviction, but by (as I believe this is how he sees it) by necessity*. In the early years he dubbed his form of rulership "Directed Democracy", and to this day, it works. He has still the support of the majority of his subjects. This is not to excuse or praise him, I just don't agree in painting him as a cackling supervillain in his palace, being responsible for everything. He is just a dictator playing his hand extremely well.

*As it turns out, it is naive and dangerous to expect that a people who has just gotten rid of it's dictator and current ruling system will automatially embrace a liberal democracy. That applies to Russia and the former USSR states as well as the Regime Change Operations in the Near East. With authorianism so deeply ingrained into society, one should not be surprised if the majority chooses political candidates who embody those values most. Putin understood that and used it to his advantage. And maybe we are better of with him; the only other major political option to the Jelzin-then-Putin party were the old communists and the Neonazis.

Also, we in the West easily forget the situation in the early nineties. Hunger. Crime. Violence. People freezing literally. The total collapse of the old societal order in mere weeks. Under Putin, the economic situation improved drastically, and the population is thankful for it.

Daniel Duffy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
scidata said...

Much of American and alternate-history WWII analysis tends to overlook the vastness and loyalty of the British Empire. Computers at Bletchley Park, ASDICs at Casa Loma in Toronto, and good luck capturing the Australian outback, where the allies and their cadre of vagabond scientists could have lived and worked for decades. Much of the world's uranium was in Canada and Australia. Then there's air power. Try telling my machinist grandfather, or even Rommel, that Luftwaffe planes were superior to British ones.

Blitzkriegs and fanaticism burn out quickly. Bakeries, gadgets, and Hollywood have much more staying power.

And why is alternate history (almost) always about the dark side winning? An opposite result seems equally plausible. Early 20th century Germans were advanced, well educated, and war-weary. Many kids were stamp collectors, rock hounds, model airplane builders, etc. Imagine if Hans Bethe-esque citizen science had taken hold on a wide scale instead of grievance and conspiracy theories. An awesome, modern, German Enlightenment might have dawned, with the fascist crackpots ignored, laughed at, or imprisoned. Science exalted. Pluralism flourishing. Trade and prosperity expanding exponentially. Much of the world would have learned to speak German, but for an entirely different reason - 'Pax Germania'.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

Lots of blond-haired, blue-eyed eastern Europeans, many Poles and Ukrainians look more Nordic than Hitler (and Hitler didn't seem to mind that his Hungarian and Romanian allies were not Nordic).

Had the Germans acted as liberators the Soviet Union would have collapsed.

But as someone else noted, fascism bears the seeds of its own destruction.


Exactly. I don't think anyone was taking issue with your syllogism--that IF Nazi Germany did A THEN B would have resulted.

The premise was implausible though. Nazi Germany couldn't do A without being something different from Nazi Germany.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

While the chances are currently high that the next German government will be lead by a green chancellor, every other nation (except Canada, New Zealand and perhaps Australia) that helped liberate us has made great stride towards fascism or at least right-wing populism.


I have noted the irony that Germany and Japan are now the vanguard of democracy against the United States, Britain, and Russia. The world turned upside down indeed.

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

Imagine if Hans Bethe-esque citizen science had taken hold on a wide scale instead of grievance and conspiracy theories. An awesome, modern, German Enlightenment might have dawned, with the fascist crackpots ignored, laughed at, or imprisoned. Science exalted. Pluralism flourishing. Trade and prosperity expanding exponentially.


Imagine if only such a thing had happened in 21st century America.

David Brin said...

Scidata is right that it’s the allies who missed great opportunities. Gregory Benford’s THE BERLIN PROJECT posits that the Manhattan Project doesn’t make its big mistake, abandoning centrifuges, and they have plenty of bombs 6 months earlier.

The huge alternate history is if Woodrow Wilson succeeded in making the Versailles Treaty non-punitive so Germany doesn’t dive into depression and stays liberal. And thus keeps its scientists. And a syphalitic ex-corporal emigrates to New York to become a nasty scifi writer of THE IRON DREAM.



Larry Hart said...

Several years ago, I noted that the "President Coin" character in the last Hunger Games movies reminded me of Hillary Clinton. I just noticed now that the 101 year old character (whose name I won't spoil) at the end of Avengers: Endgame looks an awful lot like Joe Biden. And I didn't notice that the first time I saw the movie, well before the 2020 primaries.

Robert said...

Which of the various persons and groups who opposed Hitler from the inside inspire you most, or you can sympathize with?

Personally? My great-aunt who as a teenager joined the Dutch Resistance knowing that she would almost certain be killed and/or captured. She was captured, tortured, sent to a camp as an experimental medical subject, survived, and refused to hate Germans.

When I look at the American white-wing politicians and media faces trying to dehumanize my grandnieces I try to remember how she refused to hate, because some days that's really hard.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

When I look at the American white-wing politicians and media faces trying to dehumanize my grandnieces I try to remember how she refused to hate, because some days that's really hard.


It's not necessary to hate them. But you do have to oppose their attempts at undermining America and not worry about whether you hurt their feelings in the process. If yo can do that without hatred, more power to you.

scidata said...

Larry Hart: Imagine if only such a thing had happened in 21st century America.


Don't be too hard on yourselves. The AAAS, Planetary Society, BOINC, and many other American bodies are working very hard on that exact goal. And I lived and taught in Chicagoland long enough to see your good side. We have our share of reprobates up here too. I've even heard the theory that Trump was originally inspired by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Don't ask.

Der Oger said...

@ Larry Hart
The world turned upside down indeed.
Well, beholding the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years, and the total results of The War Against Terror so far, I'd say one thing remains the same: We cannot win wars even if the Allies are on our side.

David Brin said...

onward

onward