Friday, July 29, 2011

Thom Hartmann & Neil Howe: Are we in the Fourth Turning?


Leverage said...

Madd forecasting skills dude!

Nathan Tankus said...

i'm sorry, but color me unimpressed that he looked around in the 1990's, saw politics was dysfunctional and said that in the future there maybe an impasse on the debt ceiling.

Anthony said...

Haven't read the book, but there was nothing in this interview that made me think it's particularly original. Political scientists have theorized about "party systems" for years. Yes, I do think the sixth party system is disintegrating before our eyes, but what the seventh party system will be is not yet clear. Ruy Teixeira has done some interesting work that may provide clues.

Leverage said...

Well Nathan, forecasting may look obvious ex post facto but it usually isn't. But the timing was not bad.

Here's is a longer interview in any case anyone it's interested on the book:

Matt Franko said...

OMG Tom,

I didnt know Howe worked with the contemptible Pete Peterson! I may have to take back everything.

Is there no one who that asshole has not corrupted?

Matt Franko said...


After he disclosed that fact, I am now thinking he could be completely 100% bought and paid for by Peterson.

Tom, "Grain of salt" now required when assessing Howe's work imo... he's tainted.


Anonymous said...

Oh I expect they'll cobble together an agreement at the last minute and manage to muddle through yet again... just like in the movies.

Twenty years of claiming the sky is falling precludes anyone from making predictions - a US default has got to be the most overly anticipated event of our times!

I predict I won't be buying his book.

Tom Hickey said...

Matt, Howe has always been a conservative. That's been known for a long time.

I contrast Strauss and Howe with Ravi Batra. Opposite ends of the political spectrum but similar conclusions about trends from different premises.

Chewitup said...

I read Strauss and Howe back in 2003 and found the book very apolitical. Their premise is the repeating four generation cycle we've gone through. After a major crisis, we work together as a nation. Gradually we become more individualistic and much less risk averse as the older generations die off. (as Minsky pointed out) It's a pretty good description of how our nation has progressed since the 1600's.

Tom Hickey said...

@ Chewitup

Right. The gorilla in the room is the baby boomer generation. Its a huge demographic that has skewed American life as it has moved through life's passages, and it will continue this influence until it largely dies off. It has wealth and political power, and those who are retried or approaching retirement vote their interests. There is a generational aspect to this kerfuffle.

But as Ravi Batra shows from his historical analysis, that is not all there is to it either.

And I don't think that the two of the together present the whole picture. There are a number of factos involved. I think that Strauss and Howe have hit on an important one, but it would be pretty obvious even without them if one has been watching the passages of the boomers.

Chewitup said...

As of now anyway, it seems the gorillas still have the ability to compromise. Howe worries about the GenXers narcissism and their inability to compromise. I think we see that a bit with with the newer Congressmen and the President.
Do you think MMT may be getting generational resistance because the chief proponents are boomers?

Matt Franko said...

Tom, Chewitup,

I too read the book a while back.

Did not know Howe was conservative, but have read some things by him that showed he was out of paradigm, ok most are.

Heres how they define the Fourth turning: "a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one. Old Artists disappear, Prophets enter elderhood, Nomads enter midlife, Heroes enter young adulthood—and a new generation of child Artists is born."

Who is who?

Prophets: Pete Peterson (SOB), other old farts in govt running around saying "we're broke"?

Nomads: Barak Obama, Michelle Bachmann, Paul Ryan : "All of these older people say "we're broke" you better listen to them"?

Heroes: Not clear to me who they are....

Any suggestions.... Resp,

Or else Tom, the "crisis" was not the GFC, but will be something real coming up soon like a true energy and resource shortage....

Tom Hickey said...

Matt, it will only be possible to determine the timeline in hindsight. The crisis could have been 9/11, the Iraq invasion, the collapse of the housing bubble in late 2006, the GFC which began in 2008, the coming depression, or even the onset of climate change which deniers successfully submerged recognition of for a while until it hit with a vengeance.

I do think that we are past the beginning of a time of crisis that may span up several decades before it shakes out as a new world order. I doubt it will leave the West and US in particular as king of the mountain any longer, at least in the way that has existed post-WWII. A new era and new Zeitgeist is being born, and I don't think that neoliberal capitalism will dominate it as the basis of the global economic system.

Obviously, if that is the case there are big shifts in the works. In the end, I see cooperation and coordination dominating competition and control. I suspect that the coming Hero generation that shape the new future will be fed up with the conflict that the old system produces institutionally, as well as the endemic corruption into which it devolves.

I am not concerned with Howe's conservative bent and neither is progressive Thom Hartmann. The analysis of Strauss and Howe seems to be based on sociology and history more than ideology. I am less concerned with the details and predictions in this kind of work, such as Batra's also. I look at the lens through which they are look, and then try to see through it myself. I think it is a useful lens based on sound research and creative thinking.

Mario said...

useful indeed and glad I watched it. The gen gap is definitely valid in my eyes.

Of course he's out of paradigm (SS is broke, etc. blah, blah, blah). And the fact that Peterson is involved at all is quite upsetting to say the least. LOL

The heroes could be those internet hacks (age doesn't matter so long as they are young at heart and come with an open, functioning mind) that read, post, share on Warren and Mike's blogs and elsewhere and just generally think and expand outside and through the sludge of the media/mainstream du jour. ;)

The result? I don't know. But I don't think war will come of it...the boomers aren't interested and the younger generation is too peaceful and non-violent for that. They are all mini-Ghandis and don't even know it yet! LOL

I do think we could see an explosion of local communities, farms, organic foods, ecological technologies, and more local politics at the local level...democracy ala Jefferson. That would be cool but it also might not be too sustainable without proper Federal spending and coordination, etc. However if poverty really hits hard we may see more community action and co-op type "gatherings" and again people "coming together." Indeed I think we are already seeing some of that happening now...albiet in embryonic stages. Ultimately the corporations of today started out as "mom and pop" shops way back when. The same will likely be true tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

The mantra of Personal Responsibility is ascendant, particularly in the US. It remains to be seen whether a majority will actually live up to that standard.

With all due respect, what does inter-generational bickering have to do with anything?
All it suggests is that the world we live in changes, well within a person's lifespan.

Crake said...

Tom, have you seen the Rod Serling TV movie "Patterns" (it was one of his first production - it is not twilight zone like - but on "patterns" he saw forming in corporate America. I just watched it on Netflix streaming. Its shows "financier" types destroying a company and the hero just going along with it for his pay day. Rod Serling must have been a visionary to see this "pattern" 50 years ago. The reason I am putting it here, is it has a generational them in it. Son running a large company is opposite of his dad. His dad grew and ran the business. The son manages by numbers and acquisitions.

Watch it if you get a chance.

Tom Hickey said...

Crake, I haven't seen it but 50 years is nothing. Marx saw it a hundred and fifty years ago.

Capitalism and liberal democracy are incompatible. Recall that capital did not grow up under liberal democracy but under a system in which the ruling elite was solidly entrenched in power, and if it was a democracy it was a democracy ruled by the bourgeoisie (owners, rentiers) not the workers (producers).

The way modern liberal democracies are constructed as republics, the design favors the hijacking of the apparatus of the state by the moneyed class through cronyism and corruption. The capitalism tends toward monopoly capital and in late stage capitalism finance capital dominates productive capital. At this stage, the process is complete and the system breaks down.

We are not witnessing that late stage, exacerbated by the closing of the era of "unlimited growth," which a credit-based economy requires.

The phase transition to a new world order is already underway. It will not be completed without significant opposition of vested interests and much travail. But when the smoke clears, humanity will emerge on a new footing , or not. If not, the global population will be a whole lot smaller. And we are probably going to lose a significant chunk of population in any case.

Mario said...


yes I think the main point is simply that as a population our memory shrinks due to the older generations leaving the picture. This helps to explain the lapse of intelligence and the downward cycles in human history & what some people call "civilization."

Tom, don't you think MMT provides a way for Marx's visions to harmonize within a capitalist democratic state? The whole concept of creating equal opportunity for all producers to expand can be aided by MMT...however the owning of land is still an issue as far as I can see, but with a better health care system, a jobs program, and decent retirement benefits plus labor rights I think Marx would be quite happy with that. He wasn't against capitalism per say...he was really against a government that was not blind to its citizens and thereby alienated some while also allowing harsh "skews" to arise in the economy. Indeed he even stated in the 2nd preface to the Manifesto that much of its demands had already been fulfilled and he was actually opposed to re-publishing it for that reason. So many people fail to realize that about Marx. He is actually far closer to a 20th century liberal than he is to to an agent of the USSR. He thought distributive economies were a completely stupid idea and says so in his essays, much to the surprise of many "utopians" that were his contemporaries.

Tom Hickey said...

Laura, I agree with much of what you say, but the problem as I see it is that neoliberal capitalism is based on unlimited growth, which presupposes unlimited resources. We are hitting up against the limites of growth.

I also do not think that it is possible to leash neoliberal capitalism. That system is finished and this is the swan song. When the smoke clears there will be a new world order based on a steady state sustainable system that is planned by scientists and engineers. That is, if we make through the smoke. That is not a sure thing.

What is the time frame for this? I would say a decade is a minimum, and 50 to 75 is probably the extreme on the other side. If we don't make it by then, we have lost. My best guess would be in the 20 to 30 year range. Hopefully we can avoid nuclear war during this period. Humanity is going to have enough to deal with without that.

The Great Awakening is going to occur when the public finally wakes up to the fact that climate change is closing in on us more quickly than expected. Right now, it is the militaries that on the case and preparing for resource conflicts. That is not a good lead in to crisis over availability of real resources that are economically and militarily vital for a nation's survival.

Tom Hickey said...

"We are not witnessing that late stage, exacerbated by the closing of the era of "unlimited growth," which a credit-based economy requires."

Should obviously be:

"We are NOW witnessing that late stage, exacerbated by the closing of the era of "unlimited growth," which a credit-based economy requires."

Mario said...


we shall see. My pov is not as doomy as yours but of course I respect your opinion for obvious reasons.

John Zelnicker said...

Very interesting forecast, Tom. Makes a lot of sense to me. I just hope you are right about avoiding nuclear war. It will be bad enough as various locations become uninhabitable, we don't need to poison the whole earth.

Tom Hickey said...

That really is a concern, John. In addition to the obvious horrors of total war, we are going to need all the arable land and water we can muster without destroying a great deal of it unnecessarily. That just narrows the options even more.

Tom Hickey said...

Mario, I've been commenting on the energy blogs that the problem is conservation of real resources and technology to do more with less. Lack of "affordability" is not a valid reason for dong our best in the face of an awesome challenge that threatens the species. A correct understanding of monetary economics shows that "affordability" is never a problem for government that are monopoly issuers of a non-convertible, flexible rate currency. Even if the cause looks hopeless we have a moral obligation to do our utmost, and cost is not a consideration if it credibly promises to advance a solution.

Chewitup said...

Boy o boy. So much to contemplate. It's easy to envision a clash of civilizations, as well as or even hand in hand with an energy, and general resource scarcity to provide for eight billion people. There are many who believe that in a short time computers will have the capacity to design themselves, rendering our species superfluous. The artificially intelligent will then figure out the optimum environment for their human pets.
Personally, I'm glad you all are out here to provide some sane discussion of this grand theater we seem to be acting.

Crake said...

Wonder if MMT could get Howard Bloom into its camp?

I have not listened to a radio program, with him, from Saturday but based on his wiritings I have read and programs I have heard him, I think he could be "won."

Here is a summary from his Saturday show on Coast to Coast AM:

Multi-disciplinary scientist Howard Bloom joined Ian Punnett for a discussion on rethinking how capitalism works and the state of the U.S. economy. Bloom argued that money usually trickles up, so lowering taxes for the very wealthy does little to stimulate a faltering economic system. "If you want to get money into an economy, you put money in the pockets of the poor because those are the people who are going to spend it right away," he explained.

The failure of congressional leadership to raise the 'debt ceiling' limit has led to a loss of hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars, from the U.S. stock market, Bloom continued. Further, any compromise requiring $2.3 trillion in spending to be pulled from the economy will lead to higher unemployment, he predicted.