So says renowned US economist Michael Hudson in an interview about his new book titled “Super Imperialism.” —
No 2731 Posted by fw, May 16, 2021—
“The United States is trying to become the only dominant power in the world. And in today’s Financial Times [on May 5], one of the reporters said, it’s as if the United States wants to be the world’s absentee landlord, and rent collector. So we’re dealing with a monetary and a rentier phenomenon. And when Biden gave his speech last week, there was a very marked change, right in the middle of it. The very beginning was very calm, offering means of improvement for the American economy, and a set of proposals that were so wonderful that they don’t have the chance of being enacted. And that was simply to co-opt what calls itself the left wing of the Democratic Party, if that’s not an oxymoron. And then all of a sudden, his body language changed, his voice changed, and there was just an anger towards Russia and towards China, a visceral anger that brought back the whole 30 years of his tenure in Congress. And he was the leading cold war proponent, the leading proponent of the military, and of course now he wants to increase the military budget. So while on the one hand, he’s continuing the nationalistic trade policies of the Trump administration, he’s escalating the cold war against Russia and China, in the belief that somehow if he can impose sanctions and punish them economically, that will lead to a fall of the government. Well, you can see what he’s projecting here.” —Michael Hudson, The Grayzone
Given that the full transcript of the interview is about 20-pages long as a Word document, I opted to limit my repost to the opening 13 minutes of the 88-minute interview. Below is my abridged repost of the May 12, 2021 interview with economist Michael Hudson. I have added to my abridged transcript my subheadings, text highlighting, and a couple of hyperlinks. The complete video is embedded in my repost.
The interview was co-hosted by The Grayzone’s Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal. Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the assistant editor of The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with editor Max Blumenthal. Blumenthal is the editor-in-chief of The Grayzone, an award-winning journalist and the author of several books. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.
To watch the complete 88-minute video and access the complete transcript on The Grayzone’s website, click on the following linked title.
The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton interview world-renowned economist Michael Hudson on his concept of American “super imperialism” and the economics of the new cold war on China and Russia.
In this wide-ranging discussion on the Moderate Rebels podcast, Hudson addresses US sanctions on Venezuela and Iran, the policies of the Joe Biden administration, Beijing’s economic model, cryptocurrencies, and de-dollarization – the potential end to the dollar as the global reserve currency.
Transcript of the opening 13 minutes of the interview
Norton sets the scene for the interview with economist Michael Hudson – What Super Imperialism looks like
Ben Norton 0:03 — Hello everyone, I’m Ben Norton. You’re watching Moderate Rebels. And there will be a podcast version of this after, for people who want to listen. We are joined today by the economist Michael Hudson, one of the most important economists in the world, honestly, in my view.
I don’t think he needs introduction. He has written many books, and has been an economic adviser for multiple governments, and has a long history on Wall Street and academia. And you can find his work at Michael-Hudson.com.
Today, we’re going to talk about an issue that Michael Hudson has been writing about for decades, and something that you’re never really going to hear from other economists, especially mainstream neoliberal economists, and that’s what he calls super imperialism.
The US government has of course its military apparatus, which we talk about a lot here at Moderate Rebels and The Grayzone, with the war in Iraq, the war in Syria, the war in Libya, but then there’s also the economic form that imperialism takes. And Michael Hudson wrote the book Super Imperialism that details exactly how this system works.
So today, Michael Hudson, I want to start just talking about what super imperialism looks like today, in the new cold war. This is something that we talk a lot about.
We saw that Joe Biden gave his first major speech to Congress – we’re not supposed to call it a state of the union because it’s still his first year – but Biden gave a joint speech to Congress in which he declared that the United States is in competition with China to own, “to win the 21st century,” as he put it.
And we’ve seen that the US government, under Biden, and of course before under Trump, has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia and on China.
So, Professor Hudson, let’s just start today talking about what you think the posture has been of the Biden administration, vis a vis Trump. We saw that the Mike Pompeo State Department essentially declared a kind of new cold war on China. Pompeo gave a speech at the Richard Nixon library in which he said that the famous Nixon visit to China was a mistake, and that we have to contain China and eventually overthrow the Communist Party of China.
And some Democrats hoped that the Biden administration would kind of take a step back. But we’ve seen that the Antony Blinken State Department has continued many of these aggressive policies, accusing China of genocide.
And we’ve seen that the Treasury Department just imposed several new rounds of sanctions on Russia.
So what is your view on the new cold war that’s going on right now?
The book’s title, “Super Imperialism”, captures US aim to become the world’s “single unipolar power”
Michael Hudson 2:57 — Well, I had originally wanted to call my book “Monetary Imperialism.” The publisher wanted to call it “Super Imperialism,” in 1972, because it was really the US moving towards a unipolar order, where it was not competing with other imperialisms; it wanted to absorb European colonialism, absorb European imperialism, and really be the single unipolar power.
“The United States wants to be the world’s absentee landlord, and rent collector”
And of course that is what really has come about. The United States is trying to become the only dominant power in the world. And in today’s Financial Times [on May 5], one of the reporters said, it’s as if the United States wants to be the world’s absentee landlord, and rent collector. So we’re dealing with a monetary and a rentier phenomenon.
Duplicitous Biden aims to co-opt progressives of the Democratic Party
And when Biden gave his speech last week, there was a very marked change, right in the middle of it. The very beginning was very calm, offering means of improvement for the American economy, and a set of proposals that were so wonderful that they don’t have the chance of being enacted. And that was simply to co-opt what calls itself the left wing of the Democratic Party, if that’s not an oxymoron.
Biden remains a leading proponent of the cold war and strong US military
And then all of a sudden, his body language changed, his voice changed, and there was just an anger towards Russia and towards China, a visceral anger that brought back the whole 30 years of his tenure in Congress. And he was the leading cold war proponent, the leading proponent of the military, and of course now he wants to increase the military budget.
Biden believes that economic sanctions against Russia and China will lead to their collapse
So while on the one hand, he’s continuing the nationalistic trade policies of the Trump administration, he’s escalating the cold war against Russia and China, in the belief that somehow if he can impose sanctions and punish them economically, that will lead to a fall of the government. Well, you can see what he’s projecting here.
There are obvious signs US economy will be in “real trouble” come the end of the COVID crisis
It’s obvious that the United States economy is going to be in real trouble. Once the Covid crisis stops uniting the country in a feeling that we’re all in this together – and certainly in New York, where I live, in August, the freeze on real estate evictions, by renters, and foreclosures on mortgagees is going to end, and it’s expected there will be 50,000 New Yorkers thrown into the street. They’ve very kindly decided to postpone this until August, so at least they can sleep in the park, and don’t have to begin sleeping in the subways until maybe October.
Is it significant that the Federal Reserve is not backing any spending in the real economy?
There’s no way that any Wall Street economist that I know can see if the economy is really going to recover. The stock market is going way up, thanks to a Federal Reserve policy of subsidizing bonds and stocks, with 83% owned by the 1% of the population. But the Federal Reserve is not backing any spending into the actual economy.
Biden will not get Republican support for building infrastructure to revive the economy
Well that’s where the first part of President Biden’s speech came in. He was talking about building infrastructure and somehow reviving the economy. But it doesn’t look like he’s going to get much support from this from the Republicans, and he wants to be bipartisan.
The Democrats are, in effect, an arm of the Republican Party to protect it from left-wing criticism
In other words, he says the Democratic Party, as always, won’t do anything that Republicans wouldn’t agree on. Because the Democrats are an arm of the Republican Party. Their role is to protect the Republican Party from left-wing criticism.
The rentier US economy, unable to regain its former industrial position, can expect a slow decline
So you can expect a wishy-washy sort of slow decline with a few rapid spikes in decline as the Covid crisis ends. And you’re having almost a preparation for this by – I think Biden and the government people realize that the economy cannot regain its former industrial position, because it’s a rentier economy now. Money is not made by companies investing in industry and factories and means of production. When companies do make profits, they are largely monopoly rents, or resource rents, or other forms of rent extraction.
“90% of corporate income in the United States is spent on share buybacks and dividend payouts”
And 90% of corporate income in the United States is spent on share buybacks and dividend payouts, not on investing in new production. So nobody’s really expecting new private investment to occur in the United States, that is private capital investment in means of production.
Biden’s idea of building an “enormous public-private partnership” will undermine US trade competitiveness
So Biden says, well, if the private sector won’t do it, then the government can do it. But his idea of the government doing it is to give government money to private companies that will build industrialization. And he wants to essentially replicate the military-industrial complex into an enormous public-private partnership, to build very, very high-cost infrastructure that will make it almost impossible for Americans to have any trade competitiveness with other countries.
If this post-industrialization scheme fails, Biden can always blame China
Well if you’re going to create a high-cost rentier economy, that is post-industrialized like that, what do you do? You say it’s not our fault, foreigners are doing it to us; it’s all China’s fault – as if China had something to do with American de-industrialization. China’s trying to avoid the rentier policies, avoid the financialization, avoid the privatization that has made America so high cost and so ineffective. And the [US] government is trying to sort of blame it.
Biden’s attempt to isolate China and Russia will end up in the self-isolation of the US
But I think there is something else behind this fight against China and especially Russia. The Democratic leadership seems to have an almost emotional, passionate antagonism towards Russia that can’t be explained on objective grounds. But it’s obviously there. Their attempt to isolate Russia is as if somehow they can recapture the dream of the Yeltsin 1990s, the dream of somehow replacing Putin with a pliant alcoholic kleptocrat like Yeltsin who will resume the sale of Russia’s national resources and public utilities to Americans. There’s no way that’s going to happen. The actual effect of the sanctions on Russia and China has been to drive them together into a unit, into a critical mass. And ironically, America’s attempt to isolate other countries is turning into an attempt to isolate itself.
US sees economic sanctions against Russia and China as a way to make Europe dependent on the US
The question in this is, what about Europe? In the last few days, there has been a lot of discussion about cutting Russia off from the SWIFT bank clearing system, and of other sanctions against Russia. Russia has already worked with China to develop their own alternative to the SWIFT banking clearing system. So Russian domestic payments are not going to be that disrupted, after a week or two that they say it’ll take the put the new system in. But what cutting Russia off in the SWIFT system does is block its trade and its community, its economic relations with Western Europe. The United States, I think, realizes that if it can’t get through, if it can exploit Third World countries, or Russia or China, at least it can make Europe permanently dependent, and drawn, and really under US control. So if you look at the sanctions against Russia and China as a way to split Europe and make Europe increasingly dependent on the United States, not only for gas, and energy, but also for vaccines.
Washington baselessly accuses Russia’s offer of vaccine to Europe as an attempt to break up world’s “rules-based order”
These are the two issues that have been in the news in the last few weeks. [US Secretary of State] Blinken and other US officials said that Russia offering its Sputnik V vaccine to Europe is divisive, is an attempt to break up the world’s “rules-based order.” [*The US government usually invokes the term when making unilateral demands of, or militarily intervening against, other governments. Washington defines it as “the US makes the rules; the rest of the world must do as it is ordered.”] This is amazing, that Russia’s attempt to – now that Pfizer and the other American companies are not producing enough vaccine to provide to Africa, South America, and Asian countries, the United States is attacking Russia, and Cuba, and China for offering other vaccines and saying they’re trying, their attempt to save lives through the rest of the world is an attempt to divide and break up the American order.
US uses corporate intellectual property monopoly to bully Third World countries
Because only the Americans can have the intellectual property monopoly, something that Blinken mentioned in his speech, and that President Biden mentioned. The intellectual property monopoly means that America gets to tell other countries, our firms have the right to say, “Your money or your life” to Third World countries. And that will be our means of, “Well, you can’t pay, well, why don’t you sell off some more of your infrastructure? Why don’t you sell off more of your oil or mineral resources to us?”
US intensification of economic warfare is intended to divide and conquer other countries
So what we’re seeing is an intensification of economic warfare against almost all the other countries in the world, hoping that somehow this will divide and conquer them, instead of driving them all together.
End of Opening 13 minutes of the transcript
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