Taking Stock Of The 21st Century: What's Fundamentally Different

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

The constant dismissal of unprecedented extremes as "same as it ever was" is actually a pernicious form of perception management, i.e. propaganda.

Anyone suggesting that things are unraveling in fundamental ways quickly encounters a standard reflex response: "same as it ever was."

Environmental degradation? Same as it ever was: humans have been trashing the environment for thousands of years.

The influence of money in politics? Same as it ever was: money has always been the mother's milk of politics.

The dominance of central bankers? Same as it ever was: the banks and the Federal Reserve have been colluding for decades.

Income inequality? Same as it ever was: there will always be rich and poor, etc.

The rise of the National Security State/Empire? Same as it ever was: Manifest Destiny, etc.

History lessons are all well and good, but this constant refrain of "same as it ever was" is actually a pernicious form of perception management, i.e. propaganda. The claim that "there is nothing new under the sun" (and therefore there is nothing we can do but throw up our hands in passive acceptance of the status quo) may well be true of human nature, but it purposefully masks all the fundamental changes that are not "same as it ever was."

The seas, for example: we're losing the oceans. The scale of destruction is not "same as it ever was." The Consequences of Oceanic Destruction (Foreign Affairs) Over the last several decades, human activities have so altered the basic chemistry of the seas that they are now experiencing evolution in reverse: a return to the barren primeval waters of hundreds of millions of years ago.

Or how about youth employment? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no. It has entered a new structural decline without precedent.

How about the cost of college tuition? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about self-employment? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about small business? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about labor's share of the economy? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about household income? Is this "same as it ever was?" If real income had been declining for the past 50 years at this rate, it would be near-zero by now.

How about the ratio of full-time workers to retirees drawing Social Security benefits? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no. The ratio is now two full-time workers to one beneficiary, and the Baby Boom has only started to retire. On the employment side, the "end of work" dynamics have only started their creative destruction of jobs. "Same as it ever was?" Not even close.

How about money velocity? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about the positive effects of central-state borrowing and spending, i.e. the Keynesian Multiplier? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.


How about the structural gap between Federal spending and tax revenues? Is this "same as it ever was?" It's easy to project a fantasy-based future in which "deficits never matter" or tax revenues soar even in a stagnant economy beset by skyrocketing Federal retirement/healthcare costs. The desire to believe in fantasies may be "same as it ever was," but the fiscal reality is not.

How about the nation's monetary base? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about corporate profits? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about the correlation of the Federal Reserve balance sheet and the S&P 500? Is this "same as it ever was?"

How about the gap between nominal new highs in the stock market and the real (inflation-adjusted) stock market? Is this "same as it ever was?"

How about the number of times per week that a representative of the Federal Reserve gives a speech whose implicit message is the importance of the Federal Reserve? Is this "same as it ever was?" Did Fed-Heads fan out every week 20 or 30 years ago to deliver dozens of speeches and media appearances? The answer is no; so what are these people selling that they have to do their shuck-and-jive act so repetitively? What sort of desperation is driving this full-court press of propaganda?

The desperation is obvious, and so is the agenda: mask the reality that things are unraveling, and that it's no longer "same as it ever was."

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cossack55's picture

Hard to fight stupid.  In re: the oceans, well, it might get a little dicey when oxygen drops below the 17% level.  Long live the Plankton!!

CH1's picture

we're losing the oceans


I've been hearing enviro apocalypse stories for 50 years. "Donate now!"


vortmax's picture

I clearly remember my middle school textbooks saying the world's coastal cities would be underwater due to global warming by the year 2000. The only things that change in the propaganda are the dates.

Stuck on Zero's picture

I just spent two weeks on Glover's Reef 60 miles off the coast of Belize.  It's a United Nations protected site.  Compared to its pristine condition ten years ago it is absolutely trashed today.  Lionfish have eaten everything on the reef under 4" in length and every cubic meter of water on the reef is filled with floating trash.  It looks like a giant garbage dump.  Beaches and shallow reef areas pile up with trash five feet deep. I was told that all the trash in Honduras is dumped in the rivers and it floats down the rivers into the Caribbean.  We don't see it so much in the U.S. because we're fairly well off and obervant of the environment.  Not so for much of the rest of the world.


Notarocketscientist's picture

The world's largest fishery off the east coast of Canada instituted fishing bans two decades ago - and in spite of this the fisheries have not recovered http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collapse_of_the_Atlantic_northwest_cod_fishery


The problem with stupid fucks like you who say 'I've been told this was coming for 50 years' - yes of course we have been told that - and now it is happening because dunces like you say 'oh but there's a lot of fish left'

There is - until there is none - and then we are fucked.  And we are right fucked now because most of the fisheries of the world are in a serious state of depletion


Think about this you fucking moron - 7.2 billion people and growing fast - mega industrial trawlers tearing across the oceans with helicopters helping to spot fish schools - massive nets dragging the seas pulling out millions of tonnes of fish




I suppose you think fish farming is the answer - dumb fucks like you would think that of course - it's not http://blogs.nicholas.duke.edu/thegreengrok/farmedfish-pnas092009/

Diogenes's picture

Dere's more fish in de sea, bye, den was ever took out of 'er.

That was the Newfy's motto for 50 years. Their answer to falling catches was bigger, more powerful fishing boats and bigger, more efficient nets.

Until the cod fish stocks collapsed completely.

lailapa's picture

World War III - The first private war in history

Those who won all battles shall lose the war.



People who caused the first private world war shall be defeated by a private man but unfortunately for them it is the people who shall punish them


0b1knob's picture

"same as it ever was"   reminds me of a song:


What next?  Life During Wartime?   The Road to Nowhere?  Or will we get older and Stop Making Sense?

Only the Talking Heads on teevee can tell us.

29.5 hours's picture



New trend: Banksters threaten to shoot the hostages...

Banks warn Fed interest cut could force them to charge depositors
0b1knob's picture

threaten to shoot the hostage.  And the hostage is Obama?



bugs_'s picture

Taking Stock in the 21'st Century, by Carl iCahn with special foreword by iVan Boesky.

michael_engineer's picture

" What sort of desperation is driving this full-court press of propaganda?"

some commentary from more than 2 years back might seem even more pertinent now.  These might actually be the droids you are looking for


Some of the links are now broken but it's still a good read.  You do the analysis and the gut check.

And if this isn't a sign of a business model with very serious problems, I don't know what is :


From that article : "depositors already have to cope with near-zero interest rates, but paying just to leave money in the bank would be highly unusual and unwelcome for companies and households"

So sorry dear ZH reader, your recency bias on valid business models has been deeply undermined.  You should have been paying more attention.  We're not in Kansas anymore.

It doesn't look like there is safety in numbers anymore in some places : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20131124/ml-egypt/

United we stand, divided we fall?

Anusocracy's picture

Disunited by government we fail, united by freedom we succeed.

U4 eee aaa's picture

Something has changed. Our foolish human idealism that we were going to make the world a better place got a good solid kicking in the teeth

CH1's picture

Our foolish human idealism that we were going to make the world a better place got a good solid kicking in the teeth

We can still make the world a better place - but we will NEVER, EVER do it via the same system that robs and kills us.

Walk away from the system. Rulership - of whatever flavor - IS coercion.

foodisgood's picture

It is all over for whomever belives the hype.

Which makes it easy for me as I can now see zombies of end time proportions now that I have hung out with all you naggers.  Abundance has never reached the proportions of today - babies.



icanhasbailout's picture

Insert obligatory "this time is different" here

DOGGONE's picture

Heads are still up asses.

Go read the third Comment following the no-need-to-read post here:
The URL in the Comment is now


Have posted the sentiment, "same as it ever was" about the topic on occasion. Same shit different century. If we know the strategies and game plan they employ, then why aren't we waiting for them when they come down the road?....That is also "same as it ever was", stupidity. Their examples to the contrary are props for the sting.


Best example of humans giving TPTB the finger and NOT playing the game is the population of India. They dress their women in golden bobbles to bypass the fiat pushers so they don't steal their wealth.

rationaldemocracy's picture

Why have you ignored the following progressive improvements

1) civil rights for colored people in America (democratic achievement)

2) the INTERNET and the complete and utter re-distribution of virtually all knowledge (democratic achievement...seriously look it up).

3) De-colonization (democratic achievement)

4) a creation of a homeland for the Jews (real Americans defends Israel so don't get nasty on this point please) (democratic achievement)

5) vaccination (a program started by the Soviet Union)

6) Real social welfare (democratic achievement)

7) planed parent hood (democratic achievement)


 Same as it ever was?

Do you really think that dying at age 6 from polio, slavery, 15 children families and 20 hour work days was better?

Finally the federal reserve - this is a policy used by governments to ensure that the economy "runs better"

For some reason most countries have one, so most countries must agree with this policy. Image if we were the only country without a central bank, people on here would be screaming at how backwards we are (well I guess needlesly complaining about the fed is "same as it ever was" on ZH)



RD         Stop waving your little red book and call us when the darkman and the fed have finished stripping you of everything you own. I'll bet you won't be cheerleading for the "progressive team".

OBTW.........Did you just graduate from the Chairman Mao school of Central Planning? Chicoms may have a position open for you.

Flying Tiger Comics's picture

Boiling Frog.


No need to beat the point to death.

aka_ces's picture

Compared to the socio-economic trends of peak USA democracy, say from about 1945 to 1980, the period since then is not the same as it ever was.  Though prior to 1945, I don't have the impression things were so great for widespread, real opportunity.  As for the more important environmental trends, it seems a long slide down from the 18th century, accelerating.



AKA        Please extend your thoughts on socio-economic peak democracy of 45-80. Were you alive in that period? Also who do you think caused this environmental trend downward since the 1700s?

aka_ces's picture

So many responses to your first sentence -- you could just look at the archive of ZH articles.  'about' is an approximation -- no claims to high-precision.  I've been "alive" since the midpoint of that period.  Not that one needs to be alive to get a sense of broad historical trends that precede one's existence; I don't think a historian lacks credibility for not being alive during the period studied.  Your last question, if you can't answer "industrialization," then I just don't know ... I don't think one needs to be a Luddite to see that. 


Just interested in how you came about the opinion that 45-80 was any different. TPTB had both sides of every election from 45-80 just as they do now. If by democracy you are speaking of personal rights, the illusion was much stronger then. They don't have a problem with you knowing the extent of your serfdom now. Historians who write the revisionist history for the textbooks you had in school were allowed to do so by TPTB only after altered script was approved by them. My question was WHO do you think caused the environmental slide. Serfs don't build and operate the factories that dump the toxic waste into the waterways or into the air, again TPTB. Ever notice how that is always twisted to become OUR FAULT. There is  big money and uber KONTROL going forward under the guise of environmentalism.       

aka_ces's picture

Different in the sense that the average US citizen had a possibility of personal and material development and advancement that seems without historical precedent.  Yes, TPTB are always there, but they either were not paying as much attention as usual (distracted by the Cold War ?) or found broad-based opportunity advantageous to their ends (winning the Cold War?).  I think that broader-based economic power did translate to broader-based political power, e.g. the Freedom of Information Act of July 4 1966. But of course, again, no escaping TPTB; power is always relative.  With the Cold War over, it's back to the usual.  The WHO of industrialization ?  TPTB + scientists&engineers.  I'd look to Nietzsche and Marx for a deeper understanding of individual psychologies and the mechanics of societal forces.


aka                  "I'd look to Neitzsche and Marks for a deeper understanding of individual psychologies and the mechanics of societal forces."                                                                                                                  


Of course you would look to Marks and Nietzsche, just as I was suspect, you are communist troll. Try to hide your pinko leanings if you want to troll on ZH. Maybe you and (rationaldemocracy) can get together and build a clubhouse. Marx and Nietzsche, what a hoot, knew who you were when you posted the first time! If you are an American, which I doubt, please kill yourself immediately. If you are Ruskie, well then dasvidaniya!

DonFromWyoming's picture

The USA has reverted to the pre-war mean, nothing more.  1945 - 1970 was an aberation as the USA had a virtual monopoly on heavy manufacturing because the rest of the industrialized world had been destroyed in WW II.  Plus the baby boomers meant that a larger percentage of the population was very productive.  It's been all downhill since the 80's.  Except if you were a bankster.

Besides I hate graphs that don't have zero at the bottom of the Y axis.


cape_royds's picture

Not sure I agree with that.

The USA enjoyed a postwar advantage, but it didn't last long since W. Euros & Japan recovered very rapidly from WWII. Even the USSR & Pact countries staged a pretty remarkable postwar rebound: they were laggards only in comparison to the incredible phoenix-like Japan and FRG.

No, the majority of the USA's good run, at least after the mid-'50's, cannot be attributed to the aftereffects of the war.

As for demographics, during the Baby Boom's childhood, the dependency ratio in US society was considerably higher than it is now.

I don't have the answer. I'm just saying that neither "mean reversion" nor demographics are satisfactory explanations for the post-1970's liquidation of a socially mobile US working class.

Trampy's picture



Inmate of open-air prison run by lunatics and populated almost entirely by zombies is desperately seeking a pen-pal ... because God gave Eve to Adam, and Aldous Huxley gave someone to Winston Smith.

For mutual support in these trying times, am seeking fellow non-zombie intelligent, open-minded, and well-informed inmate for discussing topics of mutual interest, such as:

  1. Both actual and notional nuclear accidents, and nuclear technology of all sorts;

  2. Historical Revisionism of WW1 and WW2 as a battle of truth-telling historians versus the well-funded OSS/CIA myth-telling “historians” per Harry Elmer Barnes, 1889–1968;

  3. John Kenneth Galbraith as an exceptionally honest economist, JFK's ambassador to India;

  4. Bankers v. The People going way back to Andrew Jackson;

  5. contemporary Capitalist Crisis as predicted by Karl Marx;

  6. 1984, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz as works of history;

  7. Newspeak, shunning, straw man, murder, etc. as effective social controls;

  8. zerohedge.com as island of sanity, albeit sorely lacking collegiality; and

  9. identifiable weaknesses in the prison system which might allow its escape.