Search Results

Keyword: ‘Comparing Income across Countries in USD is Detached from Reality’

Comparing Income across Countries in USD is Detached from Reality: 3

March 4, 2017 7 comments

In the second post of this series, I wrote about how rapid improvements in living standards of the upper-middle and middle class in India have changed how they view USA and the west in general. The central point, in my post, was that such changes in living standards and general quality of life are far more obvious if you look at changing patterns of consumption for goods and services than gross reported income in USD or other western currencies. In other words, the commonly held assumption about income (and spending) in USD having a global correlation with quality of life has ceased to be true for over a decade or two by now.

However, the lack of a strong correlation between improvements in quality of life for upper-middle and middle class in India and income as measured in USD is only one example of a much larger and global phenomenon. The rest of this post will talk about how that change has affected formerly communist east-European countries.. from the Czech Republic to Russia.

So let me begin with a few observations I made between 1995-2002. During that time-span, and probably a few years prior to it, USA and the west was the destination of choice for many people from formerly communist east-European countries. At that time, many people from those countries (from academics and scientists to criminals and pretty women) wanted to move to USA or somewhere else in the west. Indeed, many of those who came over prior to 2000-2002 ended up staying for good. But then something started to change..

I first noticed this change because of a sharp and persistent drop in number of academics and scientists from those countries who were interested in moving to USA starting around 2001-2002. Prior to that, the majority of academics and scientists from those countries who were visiting the USA very frequently expressed a strong interest in moving there for good- and many followed up on it. However by 2002-2003 there was a sharp and persistent drop (among them) in the degree of interest in moving west. Curiously, there was no significant change in the numbers of those who visited USA (from those countries) for a few months to a couple of years.

So I started inquiring about the reasons behind this change. Curiously, I kept on getting different versions of the same answer. Basically, they all told me that the differences in quality of life and living standards between those countries and USA had now shrunk down to a point where it was simply not worth immigrating to USA unless there was a very specific reason to do so. I was initially puzzled by this explanation since it was clear that they were making significantly less in those countries- as measured in USD. Some internet research revealed that the cost of many goods and services in those countries was significantly lower than their equivalents in USA- when priced in USD.

The difference in cost (as measured in USD) was most obvious in areas such as housing, education, food, drink, entertainment and healthcare. Furthermore, the quality of these less expensive goods and services was functionally equivalent to their equivalents in USA. It also became clear that a person with a reasonable job in those countries could actually live a far more stable and financially secure lifestyle than somebody in USA- even prior to 2008. It was this realization which first led me to openly question comparing incomes across countries in USD or other western currencies.

The increasing lack of interest by people from those countries in moving to USA the rest of the west on a long-term basis is also obvious in other ways. Some of you might recall that the phenomenon of mail order brides and similar marriage arrangements by women from those countries was a well-known trope in popular culture during the 1990s and early 2000s. Today.. you don’t hear much about that sort of stuff anymore. Similarly, rich people from those countries no longer see USA as a highly regarded tourist destination.

So why did this change occur and why was it so fast? Well.. in my opinion, many formerly communist east-European countries already had most of the ingredients (levels of education, infrastructure, natural resources) necessary to provide a high standard of living for their people. Once the burden of ideological top-down control on them was lifted after 1989, it took most of those countries a decade or so to catch up with the west- as far as actual quality of life was concerned. Widespread international travel and ubiquitous internet access also showed a lot of them that difference in quality of life in USA vs their countries was simply not enough to make moving to the former worth it.

Today, only people from some the poorest sub-regions in those countries still harbor any worthwhile interest in moving to the USA- and even that is changing. To summarize, many formerly communist east-European countries are now good examples of places with a high standard of living but with supposedly lower income- as measured in USD. In the upcoming post of this series, I will write about how the living standard in east-Asian countries is also now no longer connected to average local income as measured in USD.

What do you think? Comments?

Comparing Income across Countries in USD is Detached from Reality: 2

February 28, 2017 12 comments

In the previous post of this series, I pointed out that comparing total or per-capita GDP or GNP of countries in USD (or any other west-european currency) is now an exercise in stupidity and self-delusion. Using healthcare as an example, I showed readers that countries with per-capita healthcare as little as 1/10th of the USA (after adjustment for purchasing power) have higher average life-expectancy and better health outcomes than the USA. In fact, it looks even worse for USA if you don’t adjust for purchasing power.

One of the most fundamental and direct measures for quality of life in the world is now, therefore, irreversibly divorced from spending in USD another west-European currencies. Towards the end of that post, I also made commented that many other basic and direct measures of life quality such as quality of education, housing and general standard of living around the world are increasingly, and now very visibly, not linked to their price in USD.

In other words, the most important proxy measure of power that western countries (especially the USA) use to gauge their relative power and dominance in the world is now worse than useless. But how did we reach the tipping point and when.. at least approximately? Let me explain that through one example in this post.. will talk about more in subsequent post of this series.

For a long time, even small triumphs and success of Indians living in the west (especially the USA) were widely celebrated in Indian media and society. This occurred in spite of many of the later denying or obfuscating their ancestry. Similarly, Indians who lived in the west (especially the USA) were treated with a certain degree of respect when they visited India- which they did largely to feel better about their second-class status in the west. In my opinion, the peak of real-life adulation for Indians living in the west occurred during the late 1990s-very early 2000s. But then something changed.. irreversibly.

Sometime around the mid-2000s, I noticed a change in the way people in India started seeing those living in the west and perhaps more importantly- themselves. This change first manifested itself as a far more critical look at Indians living in the west and was more pronounced in the younger generations. Basically, people in India gradually stopped celebrating the achievements of Indians in the west and started being more critical about the attitudes exhibited by those people towards themselves. But it did not stop there..

Increasingly, educated and affluent Indians stopped seeing residency in the west (especially the USA) as a goal to be reached under any circumstances. It was, more and more, a conditional thing- based on them having a decent job and working conditions. Also, moving back and forth between two (or more countries) based on the best deal available to them became the default mode of operation. To put it another way, having a good career and making money had replaced moving to the west as the main goal of many upper-middle class Indians.

But why did that happen? and what changed?

The short answer is that the quality of life possible in India changed a lot between the late-1990s and today. The slightly longer answer is that a large part of the respect and adoration of people in India for their relatives living in the west was linked to their superior material possessions. As some of you might know, a number of stupid and paternalistic government policies prevalent in India between 1947 and late-1980s had stunted the quality of life possible in that country. That changed dramatically after 1989.. and the result (so far) has been beneficial to most people in that country, but especially to its upper-middle class and increasingly its middle-class.

Therefore, the kind of people who might otherwise want to immigrate to the west can now enjoy all the material goods and services enjoyed by their counterparts in the west- and then some more. This prosperity and equal (or superior) access to material goods and services is also why they no longer look up to or celebrate Indians in the west. I mean.. ask yourself, would you tolerate a self-hating asshole if you had nothing to gain from doing so? But what does this have to do with comparing income across countries in USD? As it turns out.. a lot!

See.. the income of Indians with an upper-middle class lifestyle might seem more comparable to the working class in USA if you measure it in USD. However, it is very clear that their lifestyle and access to material goods and services is identical or better than those defined as upper-middle class in USA. But why is that so? and why was that not the case in the past?

Well.. it comes to who makes things and provides services. Comparing quality of life and power in the world in USD (or other west-European currencies) was feasible only as long as they were the sole providers of such material goods and services. As you know, that is simply not the case today. Most of what you consider high-tech and necessary for a high quality of life (from computers and smart phones to chemicals for making drugs and other useful stuff) is no longer made exclusively in the west- IF they were made there in the first place.

Consequently, the cost of many material goods (and services) that define a high quality of life are often far less expensive in the rest of the world. Moreover, the price of other essentials such as quality healthcare, quality medications, quality food, quality shelter is much lower in non-wetsern countries. The net result of these changes is that the upper-middle class, and increasingly middle-class, in non-western countries enjoys a quality of life that is equivalent to those the west. Did I mention that their disposable income and net worth (even when measured in USD) now often surpasses those of their supposed equivalents in the west?

To summarize this post- most of the existing delusions.. I mean beliefs prevalent in USA (and the west) about its relative power and dominance vis-a-vis the rest of the world are based on a metric that is now worse than useless.

What do you think? Comments?

Comparing Income across Countries in USD is Detached from Reality: 1

January 20, 2017 10 comments

One of the most popular talking points of “public intellectuals” who support the CONServative or neoliberal position goes some like this.. the average income of some of the poorest states in USA is often higher than the average income of wealthy west-european countries. They use this bullshit argument to convince people that the american socio-economic system, as it exists now, is the best possible way to run countries. They also use this scam to pretend that the quality of life for the average person in USA is much better than in other affluent countries- when the reverse is in fact true. The rest of this post will show how the relationship between income as measured in USD and quality of life has completely broken down all over the world in the last thirty years.

Now, there are a number of reasons why a significant percentage of people in USA might have believed such bullshit in the past. As many of you know, people in USA did not (and still do not) travel to other affluent countries at percentages that are even remotely comparable to their counterparts in other developed countries. Therefore, in the pre-internet era it was easy to believe propaganda which told them that the USA was the best place to live in the world. This was especially true in the era between 1945-1999 when the economy in USA, despite occasional downturns, seemed to work reasonably OK for a majority of its people. It is also worth nothing that much of the cultural memory of Americans about the quality of life in other European countries was formed in the first 10-15 years after the end of WW2.

The course of events in the world, however, does not stop if you cease to observe them. Nor does the nature and speed of change to accommodate the beliefs and delusions of any particular group of human beings. My point is that saying or believing something to be true does not make it so- regardless of how loudly and frequently you say it or how many “credentials” you possess. But what does the futility of believing in comforting bullshit have to do with the already massive disconnect between proxy measures for economic well-being of average person in various countries? And why is believing in such bullshit actually dangerous to those who choose to believe in it?

Let us start by looking at the correlation between average incomes (measured in USD) in various countries and their average life expectancy- which is one of the better indicators of general socio-economic well-being. While median life expectancy and remaining life expectancy after age 65 are somewhat better measures of socio-economic, the average numbers are good enough for most purposes. So how does USA compare in that respect to other developed countries? Well.. have a look.

lifeexp_vs_cost_oced_upto_2014_01

You will immediately notice that while the USA spends way more than similar west-european countries, it has by far the lowest average life-expectancy. The high per-capita expenditure on healthcare in USA, as compared to other developed countries, does not translate into better outcomes. Furthermore, bankruptcy and severe financial problems due to medical costs are basically unknown in the rest of the developed world. But it get’s worse.. much worse. A number of developed countries such as South Korea, Chile, Greece and Israel are able to achieve significantly higher life expectancy (than USA) for a fraction of the cost- as measured in USD. The life expectancy in Mexico is almost identical to USA though its per-capita spending on healthcare (as measured in USD) is about a tenth of that in USA.

Even countries as different from each other as China, Jamaica, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Tunisia whose per-capita spending on healthcare is 5% (or less) of USA have average life-expectancies similar to (or better than) early-1990 era USA. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the entire healthcare system in USA is more about rent extraction and job creation than providing.. healthcare. But that is best left for another series of posts- though I have made a brief version of that argument in a previous post. The point I am trying to make in this particular series of posts is that comparing income across countries in USD is delusional and potentially dangerous.

So let us now turn to the costs of housing in USA, especially as regards to what people get for a given amount of money (as measured in USD). While it is possible to make the case that houses in USA tend to be bigger than those in many other developed countries, that is only part of the story. Sure.. you can buy a large and relatively inexpensive house if you are willing to live 50-100 km outside the nearest city in pretty much any part of USA. But how many people want to willingly live in such places? Here is a hint, use google earth or maps to look at satellite pictures of distant suburbs and then compare them to locations near nearby cities. So let us be honest and compare the cost of housing (buy or rent) in desirable locales in USA to those in other developed countries. When you do that, it quickly becomes obvious that housing in many developed countries often costs a bit less and has significantly superior access to everything from shopping to entertainment.

And this brings to the issue of discretionary purchasing power. One might think that the average person in USA would have more discretionary spending power than his or her equivalent in other developed countries. But is that so? I mean, you are far more likely to see a tourist from a west- or east- European country in USA than the other way around. Not only that, people in European countries tend to dress better than their equivalents in USA. So how do those who defend the american system based on income as measured in USD explain all of this? Well.. they try to distract you by lots of hand-waving and sophistry.

Then there is the issue of education or more precisely the cost and quality. While the cost and quality of K-12 education in USA is somewhat close to its equivalents in other developed countries, it still leaves much to be desired. The situation of higher or post-secondary education in USA is however far worse. As many of you know, the cost of obtaining higher education in USA is far higher than in other developed countries. But is the quality any better? In other words, is an engineer from some large and well-known university in USA really better than his equivalent from some German or Japanese university? Or is a doctor from a large and well-known american university any better than his equivalent from some French or British university? What about other areas of higher education? My point, here, is that the american education system (especially its post secondary component) provides incredibly poor value for money and is far more about obtaining credentials from a shiny-looking university. That is why most international students in american universities are from developing countries, rather than other developed countries.

In the upcoming part of this series, I will show you how the average quality of life for ostensibly middle-class people in USA has more in common with their equivalents in other developing countries rather than developed ones.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts on Why USA Cannot Win Cold War 2.0: Part 1

September 18, 2017 3 comments

One of the major undercurrents running through a number of current standoffs and conflicts involving the USA (supported by its west European vassal states) and a number of other countries such as Iran, North Korea, Russia, China etc can be stated as follows: USA is acting as if it can “win” all these conflicts in a manner similar to how, it believes, it “won” Cold War 1.0.

To put it another way, the establishment in USA believes that it can win conflicts against other countries (small and large) through a combination of economic policy and propaganda. A corollary of that is the widespread belief among establishment-types in USA that those conflicts will never reach the point where are an existential threat to the survival of USA.

While I have previously touched on this topic in some previous posts such as why comparing income across countries in USD is detached from reality, the focus was mainly on socio-economic effects of this disconnect rather than its strategic implications. I also wrote another post about why Russian military capability was far stronger than its GDP as measured in USD would otherwise imply.

The gist of my argument was that comparing the GDP of countries in USD dollars is quite meaningless if the costs of functionally equivalent products and services, as measured in USD, was substantially different. Furthermore, the ability to produce certain products (such nuclear bombs and ICBMs) are far more valuable than their cost in resources or manpower- especially if both are almost completely indigenous.

Anyway, getting back to the topic of this post- you might have noticed that establishment in USA is devoting a lot of effort in an attempt to start another Cold War by actions such as implicating Russian journalistic ventures as devious propaganda outlets, endless blathering about Russian interference in the 2016 election, arming Ukraine against Russia, economic sanctions on Russia for taking back Crimea, defaming Russian sport starts and Olympic athletes through western regulatory bodies, targeting Russian companies selling products and services in USA and more.

You might also have noticed that these measures have not really affected the resurgence of Russia as country since Putin came to power in 2000. Such behavior has, however, done a wonderful job of convincing even otherwise skeptical Russian citizens that they can never have good relations with USA. We can see a similar, if less public, conflict developing between China and USA on a number of issues such as maritime boundaries in the south china sea, trade disputes and many others. Yet, they do not address the central issue linking these seemingly unrelated conflicts- which is the irreversible decline of economic and military power of USA versus China and, more generally, the rest of the world.

It is no secret that the USA, in its current form, is a nation and system in terminal decline. While there have been a few years (like the mid to late 1990s) when things looked good for USA, the overwhelming long-term trend is towards decline and this has been especially obvious since the financial crisis of 2008. As I frequently pointed out in my older posts, the inability of USA to win (or even appear to win) wars in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan have not helped its public image.. to put it mildly. In fact, the USA has not been able to decisively win a single war since the end of WW2- which is a bit over 70 years.

The current standoff between North Korea and USA is another example of the huge gap between the projected public image of USA and the reality as seen by the rest of the world. As an example, consider the bullshit and propaganda spewed by american mainstream media about the capabilities of their anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems. Now ask yourself- if american ABM systems were as effective as claimed by the establishment, why would USA give a flying fuck about DPRK developing and deploying ICBMs?

The thing is, american ABM systems “seem” to only work under highly rigged test conditions and are probably worse than useless against even a small-scale attack by IRBMs and ICBMs. China or Russia, both of whom incidentally border DPRK, are unwilling (and unable) to do anything about DPRK’s nuclear and ICBM program. In fact, all those missile launches and nuclear tests by DPRK have helped them humiliate USA on the world stage and expose its real-life weaknesses.

And this brings me to the central idea of this series of posts, namely that USA is incapable of winning Cold War 2.0.

But before we go there, let us quickly recap the reasons why USA thought it “won” Cold War 1.0. As many of you know, the establishment in USA believes that it was largely responsible for the collapse of USSR in 1991, which marked the end of Cold War 1.0. While this belief might sound pleasing to jingoistic ears, the reality is rather different as the USSR started experiencing serious socio-economic problems because of the rigid and unresponsive nature of their version of state communism as early as the late 1960s. It was these systemic problems, rather than american pressure, which ultimately led to the collapse of USSR in 1991.

China, on the other hand, was able to avoid all those problems because of systematic socio-economic reform during the same time period. These reforms have been so successful that China, adjusted for PPP, is the largest economy in the world today. The point I am trying to make is that the apparent “victory” of USA in Cold War 1.0 had more to do with the failings and sclerosis of one particular version of state communism in Russia and eastern Europe than the american system “winning” anything.

This inconvenient fact has not stopped the american establishment and its lapdog “intellectuals” from proclaiming ‘the end of history’ and ‘beginning of a new world order’ in 1991. Of course, things did not go as “planned” especially after 2001, Iraq War 2.0, Afghanistan War and then the financial crisis of 2008. Such setbacks have, however, not dimmed the ardor of establishment types in Washington D.C to re-establish a ‘new world order’ centered around USA. As many of you are only too aware of, the ground reality in USA for the 99% simply does not support the establishment belief that USA will be able to maintain its current position in the world.

In the next part of this series, I will explore how rapid industrialization in the rest of the world within the previous two-three decades (in combination with simultaneous un-industrialization of USA and the ‘west’) has fundamentally shifted the real power balance and possible outcomes for any Cold War 2.0-type strategies deployed by establishment in USA. Spoiler alert: real-life outcomes of such conflicts are heavily rooted in real-life capabilities and abilities rather than impressive but empty posturing and bullshit.. I mean propaganda.

What do you think? Comments?

Factors Determining Russian Response to Current Provocations by USA

April 13, 2018 4 comments

As most of you must have heard by now, clever idiots belonging to the deep state in USA, UK and maybe France want to “punish” the current Syrian government for allegedly using “chemical weapons” against civilians in some part of Ghouta. In addition to the timing of this alleged “attack” being highly suspicious, it is worthwhile to note that all “evidence” presented so far has come from an extremist Islamist group funded, armed and trained by the USA and UK. In fact there is good reason to believe that this particular “attack” was either stage-manged by UK, including the fact that this extremist group was on the payroll of certain Sunni gulf states with the tacit approval of UK and USA.

Then there is the multi-billion dollar question as to why the Syrian army would use a chemical weapon as ineffective as chlorine gas (and just once) in the conflict for Eastern Ghouta which it effectively won yesterday. Also, why is the allegedly “humanitarian” anglo-american west are so desperately willing to believe a group which openly believes in killing non-Sunni Muslims? And what about the continued support for Saudi Arabia by the “west” in its ongoing genocidal (and unsuccessful) war in Yemen. And let us not forget all the civilian deaths that occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan due to actions of the “humanitarian west”, though they ended up losing both wars.

Clearly, this reeks of extremely high levels of bullshit and solipsism on part of the west. But a more detailed discussion on that topic is best left for a future post. Instead we will focus on how Russia, which is helping the Syrian government and has a legitimate military presence within that country, would respond to any large-scale military attack by the anglo-american countries against Syria and its own troops stationed in that country. More importantly, is it possible to predict how bad things will get if the anglo-american west is stupid enough to do something along those lines.

To understand the factors which will determine Russia’s response to any half-assed military adventurism in Syria by the anglo-american west, it is worthwhile to start with a quick lesson in history.

1] Most of you must be aware of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. OK, it wasn’t so much a crisis over Soviet missiles in Cuba as it was the USA throwing a fit that USSR was doing to it what it had done to the USSR. More specifically, installing Soviet nuclear-tipped IRBMs in Cuba by Khrushchev was a response to USA installing similar IRBMs in Tukey. After much posturing, a back-channel agreement between USA and USSR was reached that resulted in USSR withdrawing its missiles from Cuba in exchange for USA doing the same for its missiles in Turkey in the next few months- and global nuclear war was averted. At least that is where most historians in the west seem to stop.

So why is this incident relevant to the current events in Syria? Well.. it comes down to public perception of who “won” in the Cuban Missile Crisis and the effect of that perception on internal party politics within USSR. To make a long story short, secrecy surrounding the back-channel deal made between Khrushchev and JFK made the former look like the loser even though he achieved almost everything he wanted. The public loss of face was a major factor behind Khrushchev’s ouster in 1964. All of his successors, up to Yeltsin, took great effort to make sure that they would never be publicly perceived as weak in face of USA. You can be certain that Putin knows his Russian history very well.

2] Part of the reason that the Cuban Missile Crisis ended the way it did was that USSR in the early-1960s possessed significantly fewer long-range nuclear weapons than USA. Remember that this was the era when ICBMS and nuclear submarines carrying SLBMs was brand new technology and most long-range nuclear strokes were supposed to carried out by large bombers like the B-52 and Tu-95. Also spy satellite technology was in its infancy. All those issues were fixed by the late 1960s and since then there has always been a rough parity of nuclear warheads and delivery systems between USA and USSR and now Russia.

But what does that mean for any Russian response to nay large-scale anglo-american military action in Syria? Well.. a lot. For one, Putin in 2018 is not constrained by the limitations experienced by Khrushchev in 1962 while dealing with USA. Also, unlike his predecessors he has real leverage over many NATO members since Russia is a major supplier of gas and oil to those countries. It helps that he has been quite successful at nudging Turkey out of the NATO alliance. The fact is that “sanctions” or no sanctions, many NATO countries need to purchase Russian oil and gas (in addition to some other commodities) to keep functioning.

3] And this brings us to the issue of the almost continuous low-grade economic and PR warfare that the decrepit anglo-american west has been trying to wage against Russia since at least 2012. As I have stated in previous posts, I have a theory that many elites (of all countries but especially the west) lack a theory of mind. In other words, they believe that people all over the world think and act the same way for the same reasons. That is why these sad idiots believe that economic sanctions against Russia or “oligarchs close to Putin” would make him more amenable to USA. The events of the last few years have not supported this belief- to put it mildly.

As I wrote in a previous post, the military capacity of Russia is far stronger than its GDP (as measured in USD) would suggest. In fact, I wrote a short series on why comparing incomes and GDP across countries in USD has no relation to reality. My point is that all the “oligarchs” in Russia derive that current status from closeness to political power. Unlike USA, its is political leaders who control rich people in countries such as Russia and China. Consequently, their policies are far more insulated from corporate profit margins than in USA and other western countries.

It helps that the very obvious and overt campaign to demonize, humiliate and hurt average Russians since 2008 by the anglo-american west has increased support for Putin. Many of them also remember how oligarchs supported by the west looted and raped Russia in the 1991-2000 era, under the guise of “economic reform and liberalization”. Then there is the even bigger issue of world trade and commerce being increasingly centered around Asia rather than the stagnant and decaying societies of North America and western Europe.

To summarize, Russia and Putin are in a much better position to respond in kind to any large-scale anglo-american military adventures in Syria than most people realize. They also figured out, some years ago, that the anglo-american west is not (and was never) interested in an equal relationship with Russia. My guess is that they will make sure that their inevitable response to such stupid adventurism is seen as a response rather than as adventurism. Also, they might respond to the anglo-american west in more than one part of the world.

What do you think? Comments?

Russian Military Capability is Far Stronger than its GDP Would Suggest

March 31, 2017 20 comments

One of the points I made in three recent posts (link 1, link 2, link 3) was that measuring GDP of a country in USD today, or at pretty much any point after the mid-1990s, is highly misleading since it makes the assumption that the cost of services and products of equivalent quality are identically priced, in USD, all over the world. As many of you know, that is simply not true in 2017- if it was ever so. The price of products and services of equivalent quality vary widely across countries and are often far lower in many supposedly “less affluent” countries than they are in USA. Examples of this phenomena include medications costing 3-10 times less in many European countries than in USA and medical services of equivalent quality in India and Thailand costing only 5-10% (or less) of their cost in USA- as measured in USD.

Consequently, access to many goods and services in many supposedly “less affluent” countries is often equal to, or better, than in USA. But what does any of this has to do with whether the GDP of Russia in 2017 (as measured in USD) has any correlation to its real-life military capabilities? As it turns out.. a whole fucking lot!

I am sure that almost all readers of this post have some across at least one “news” article from some supposedly “reputable” western news outlet which suggests that the GDP of Russia is rather insignificant and comparable to an average west-European countries- when measured in USD. These same presstitutes, I mean “journalists” also tell us that at this rate the Russian economy will collapse and the country will become insignificant and fragment into many pieces. The problem is that they have been writing and saying the same thing since at least 1991- if not earlier.

Sadly for them, their predictions of gloom and doom for Russia have just not come true. In fact, since 2001 living standards and conditions in Russia have gradually improved from their low point of 1997-1998. Today, the economic conditions of average Russians are pretty OK and in many respects are better than those of many Americans living in middle america, especially below the Mason–Dixon line. Could they be better? Sure.. But you can say the exact same things about people living in non-coastal USA. I should note that there is a certain irony that large parts of middle america now look like all those abandoned and ruined soviet-era towns that western “journalists” loved to photograph in the 1990s. I should also remind readers that the near collapse of the Russian economy in the mid-1990s was the laws and policies formulated by eCONomists from Harvard and other ivy-league universities. However, that is an issue best left for a future post.

Coming back to the main subject of this post- we can certainly disagree about the precise causes of this continuous improvement, there is no doubt it did occur and has been sustained since that time. And this brings us to the next, and related, question- How does this correlate with their current military capability? To answer that question- let us look at a bit of history. As many of you know, between 1917 and 1991, Russia was that main constituent of the Soviet Union aka USSR. As you might also remember, soviet-era Russia was also a military superpower- with way more than enough nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to destroy the world a few times over, not to mention a very large conventional army and airforce. In other words, it is clear that even soviet-era Russia was more that capable of developing and manufacturing humoungous numbers of contemporary weapons and fielding a large and organized army (and other armed forces) which could use them.

And this leads us the question of whether the amount of USD spent on weapons by a country has any correlation with their real-life military capability. I am sure that many of you have seen some version of the chart from 2013 posted below this paragraph. The gist of it is that USA spends way more money (as measured in USD) on its armed forces than many other countries in the world. Now, we can look at this data in two ways. American jingoists might see this as proof of their overwhelming military superiority over the rest of the world, largely because they think that weapons of equivalent quality and effectiveness cost the same all over the world. Cynics like me might see this an example of delusional people spending obscene amounts of money on something that has a history of poor performance. I mean.. what does it say about a country which spends about 700 billion a year on defense and yet cannot win against poorly organized insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The military capability of USA, like its healthcare system , is largely about presenting the appearance of competence and ability- while delivering something that is mediocre and very expensive. It is well known that USA has been unable to win a decisive military victory over any semi-competent nation since the end on WW2. Furthermore, a lot of the budget and military resources of USA is spent on maintaining the pretense of a global empire. To put it another way, it is the defense budget of USA (and not other countries) which presents a false picture of its real-life capabilities. In contrast to that, the military budgets of countries which make most of their own weapon systems (like Russia and China) underestimates their real-life capabilities. This is especially so with Russia, which has a large pre-established human and industrial base, to make them on a very large scale.

Then there is the issue of nuclear weapons and ICBMs + launch platforms, of which Russia has a rather large number. I should point out that the infrastructure for making nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles + their launch platforms while expensive to build from scratch, already exist in Russia. So they just keep on cranking out a few more and maintain the ones the thousands they already possess. It is also no secret that any open-ended war with Russia would sooner or later turn into a nuclear one, and well.. regardless of other subsequent events would definitely result in the obliteration of USA as an entity for all times to come. In other words, comparing the defense spending of USA and Russia as measured in USD to draw actionable conclusions about their relative real-life capabilities is highly misleading and incredibly dangerous.

What do you think? Comments?