What If Nations Were Less Dependent on One Another?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith via Peak Prosperity,

Autarky is more than a ten-dollar word for self-sufficiency, as it implies a number of questions that “self-sufficiency” alone might not.

Autarky vs. Self-Sufficiency

The ability to survive without trade or aid from other nations, for example, is not the same as the ability to reap enormous profits or grow one’s economy without trade with other nations. In other words, 'self-sufficiency' in terms of survival does not necessarily imply prosperity, but it does imply freedom of action without dependency on foreign approval, capital, resources, and expertise.

Freedom of action provided by independence/autarky also implies a pivotal reduction in vulnerability to foreign control of the cost and/or availability of essentials such as food and energy, and the resulting power of providers to blackmail or influence national priorities and policies.

Where self-sufficiency might suggest a binary state you’re either self-sufficient or you’re not autarky invites an exploration of which parts of one’s economy and political order are self-sufficient and which ones are critically dependent on foreign approval, capital, resources, and expertise.

In terms of military freedom of action, some nations are able to commit military forces and project power without the aid or approval of other nations. These nations have military autarky, though they might be entirely dependent on foreign countries for critical resources, capital, expertise, etc.

In this case, though their military may be self-sufficient in terms of capabilities (power projection, control of airspace, etc.), any dependency in other critical areas introduces an element of political, financial, or resource vulnerability should the key suppliers disapprove of a military action. These vulnerabilities impose often-ambiguous but nonetheless very real limits on freedom of action.

The key take-away from this brief overview is that autarky has two distinct states. One is absolute: i.e., Can a nation grow, process, and distribute enough food to feed its population if trade with other nations ceased?, and the other is relative: Is the we-can-feed-ourselves self-sufficiency of the subsistence-survival variety that requires great sacrifice and a drastic re-ordering of national priorities and capital? Or is it relatively painless in terms of national sacrifices and priorities?

Clearly, relative autarky invokes a series of trade-offs: Is the freedom of action and reduction in vulnerability gained by increasing autarky worth a national re-ordering of values, priorities, and capital, and quite possibly broad-based, long-term sacrifices?

There is an additional issue raised by autarky: Is the self-sufficiency a matter of being blessed with abundant resources, or is it the result of conscious national policy and resolve?

Autarky as Policy

Consider petroleum/fossil fuels as an example. Nations blessed with large reserves of fossil fuels are self-sufficient in terms of their own consumption, but the value of their resources on the international market generally leads to dependence on exports of oil/gas to fund the government, political elites, and general welfare. This dependence on the revenues derived from exporting oil/gas leads to what is known as the resource curse: The rest of the oil-exporting nation’s economy withers as capital and political favoritism concentrate on the revenues of exporting oil, and this distortion of the political order leads to cronyism, corruption, and misallocation of national wealth on a scale so vast that nations suffering from an abundance of marketable resources often decline into poverty and instability.

The other path to autarky is selecting and funding policies designed to directly increase self-sufficiency. One example might be Germany’s pursuit of alternative energy via state policies such as subsidies.

That policy-driven autarky requires trade-offs is apparent in Germany’s relative success in growing alternative energy production; the subsidies that have incentivized alternative energy production are now seen as costing more than the presumed gain in self-sufficiency, as fossil-fueled power generation is still needed as backup for fluctuating alt-energy production.

Though dependence on foreign energy has been lowered, Germany remains entirely dependent on its foreign energy suppliers, and as costs of that energy rise, Germany’s position as a competitive industrial powerhouse is being threatened: Industrial production is moving out of Germany to locales with lower energy costs, including the U.S. (Source)

The increase in domestic energy production was intended to reduce the vulnerability implicit in dependence on foreign energy providers, yet the increase in domestic energy production has not yet reached the critical threshold where vulnerability to price shocks has been significantly reduced.

Assessing the Trade-Offs

This highlights the critical nature of the autarchic thresholds of systemic costs and freedom of action. Above a difficult-to-define threshold, the trade-off required to increase self-sufficiency to the point of being meaningful is too high in sacrifice or cost to the economy or society; the trade-offs required aren’t worth the gain in freedom of action and self-sufficiency.

Put another way: Below a difficult-to-define threshold, an increase in self-sufficiency does not yield either lower or more reliable economic costs, nor does it decrease the nation’s vulnerability to blackmail, price shocks, etc.

In other words, though dependence always has potentially negative consequences, it can also be cheaper, more convenient, and more profitable than autarky.

The diffused benefits of autarky are often overshadowed by the presumed burdens of increasing self-sufficiency. But this trade-off can be illusory. Though the status-quo players benefiting from dependence on foreign markets, trade, and capital will shrilly claim that the nation is doomed should their foreign-derived profits be sacrificed in favor of increasing autarky, a desire for more autarky often pushes the economy and society into a highly positive and productive search for greater efficiencies and more productive uses of capital.

Is the sacrifice needed to reach self-sufficiency as steep as presumed, or is a new order of efficiency enough to meaningfully reduce dependence on foreign resources and capital?

A Thought-Experiment in American Autarky

If we look at America’s consumption of fossil fuels and its dependence on oil imports to feed its consumption, autarky forces us to ask: Exactly how difficult would it be to lower consumption enough to eliminate the need for imported oil? Would the economy suffer a death-blow if vehicle, heating, and appliance-efficiency standards were raised, and business travel declined in favor of telecommuting and teleconferencing, etc.?

The answer of those profiting from the status quo is, of course, “Yes, the U.S. will be fatally harmed if energy consumption declines,” but the reality is that such creative destruction of wasteful inefficiencies and consumption is the heart of free enterprise and the rising productivity that creates widespread prosperity.

If the U.S. had listened to the 1970s-era defenders-of-the-status-quo doomsdayers, who claimed that environmental codes and higher energy-efficiency standards would doom the nation, the U.S. economy would in fact be doomed by the absurdly inefficient energy consumption of that era. The U.S. economy has remained vibrant and productive precisely because the defenders-of-the-status-quo doomsdayers lost the political conflict between the forces of improved efficiency and productivity and the defenders of the inefficient, wasteful, and diminishing-returns status quo.

There is one other element in the calculus of dependence, vulnerability, and freedom of action implicit in any discussion of autarky. Despite the rapid increase in production of oil and gas in the U.S., America remains dependent on imports of oil. But not all foreign sources of oil, capital, expertise, etc. are equal; some suppliers may be stable, close allies, and share borders and standards of trade (for example: Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.), while others may be distant, unstable, and unreliable.

In other words, autarky may not be worth the cost if a nation is dependent on stable, close neighbors, but the value of autarky rises very quickly when a nation’s survival is dependent on distant, unstable nations with few ties other than the profitable export of resources.

Though a survey of America’s relative dependence and self-sufficiency would require a book, let’s look at a few charts to get a taste of America’s declining dependence on foreign-supplied oil.

Declines in consumption have the same effect in terms of reducing dependency as do increases in domestic production. Has the U.S. economy imploded as miles driven have declined? Or has the increased efficiency this implies boosted productivity?

U.S. imports of petroleum have declined:

U.S. domestic crude oil production has increased:

U.S. natural gas production has risen:

The U.S. oil/gas rig count is still far lower than the peak in the 1980s:

There are many issues raised by these charts, including the sustainability of increased production, the possibility of further declines in consumption, policies that affect production and consumption, and so on, but similar charts of grain, capital, expertise, goods, etc. would help to fill out the complex set of issues raised by declining consumption and increasing domestic production and productivity.

In finance, dependence can mean dependence on other nations for capital and/or profits. What is the consequence of rising autarky for an economy such as America’s that is heavily dependent on foreign markets and trade for the stupendous profitability of its corporations?

In Part II: The Consequences of American Autarky, we will discuss this and other ramifications of America’s rising autarky.

America’s ability to project power and maintain its freedom of action both presume a network of diplomatic, military, and economic alliances and trading relationships which have (not coincidentally) fueled American corporation’s unprecedented profits. 

The recent past has created an assumption that the U.S. can only prosper if it imports oil, goods, and services on a vast scale. Could the U.S. shift production from overseas to domestic suppliers, and reduce its consumption of oil and other resources imported from other nations? 

Click here to access Part II of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access).


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PR Guy's picture



The guy in this animation does a good take (a spoof on a TED talk) on different nations' views on profit



jbvtme's picture

zero point energy and community currency = liberty and freedom.  oh, and kill property and income taxes

maskone909's picture


we have had the ability to produce safe effecient nuclear reactors for over 50 years.  Thorium.  an interesting documentary.

Headbanger's picture

LMAO!  I hate fucking TED shit talks!  Just a bunch of technocratic egg head elitist  academic Tesla driving  turd ball shills for the likes of Bill Gates and fucking String (or retarded M) Theory to scam $ billions of grant money from US taxpayers to shove their heads up their galactic anuses!

Did I leave anything out??

gallistic's picture

I agree completely.

I freely admit that I have seen many presentations and TED talks.

TED is porn for a certain type of person. It merely fills a need, much like the venues that cater to people who crave Apocalyptic survival Prepper/New age/tin foil hat/Kumbaya/ etc...

Zero Hedge is also one of those places regardless of whether you have the fortitude to admit the truth.

The greatest TED talk I have seen totally shreds the illusions of these acolytes. It is spectacular and totally worth 12 minutes of your life.



SmackDaddy's picture

HB.  just wanted to tell you about my newest 357 loads.  Any hotter and I might as well just grab the 44.  Going to see how much steel I can penetrate with them.  Def some real cop-killer shit.

And dont you worry about me.  I can shoot just fine.  The sights on my 6" Colt 357 look like fucking goal posts to me at this point.  It has a fucking hair trigger in single action.  All one motion; cock it back, raise it up, stay calm, put em in the sites, exhale, and BOOM!  Hit em so hard he'll be dead before he hits the ground.  Motherfucking cop never had a chance with that little glock 9. 

0b1knob's picture

Actually there have been a number of countries which were functionally autarkies.   Somalia, Afghanistan, Burma, North Korea.  None of them are particularly nice places to live.

One of the goals of the world elite for the past generation is to destroy the indepenence of such places.   The idea that there could be  subsistence farmers somewhere in the world who don't give a flying phuck about the new world order is considered an insult by the elites.   The whole point of the nation building military occupation of Somalia was to make it dependent on the new world order.

gallistic's picture

If my life depended on me getting a blind bet right, I would wager that Smackdaddy is an immature idiot who has never fired a gun in anger and had to deal with the bloody aftermath and its consequences.

Go back to your violent porn fantasies, child.

Frozen IcQb's picture

Self-Sufficiency is rarely possible. Export surpluses when possible.

Best case is to import the most while having to export the least to pay for it.




SmackDaddy's picture

Two components really.  You need people who are mentally and physically capable and land that can provide.  The U.S. has both.  Just need to trim the fat.  We would just need to say fuck-off to DC/NYC/LA/Chicago.  Same to all the communities  that are on their 4 or 5 th generation of dependency.  Their easy enough to spot.  Sink or swim motherfuckers.

maskone909's picture

its quite rediculous.  in a world of finite resources we decide to import XXXXX because it is "cheaper", essentially wasting billions of BTU's(thermal units) of energy.  This illusion of whats "cheap" is only relative to which country debases their currency the most, destroying the savings of most of its citizens to benifit a chosen few. 

Marley's picture

Totally agree, but you're pissing in the wrong pot.  NPD's don't care about others.

maskone909's picture

when a nation shifts from being an exporter, to an importer, it is very hard to reverse its coarse.  manufacturing and infrastructure usually get gutted, jobs are lost, and debt/deficits are pushed up to unsustainable levels (sound familiar?).  So now we have a nation full of consumers that do not have the ability to produce its own goods but consumes the fruits of the worlds labor on a "promise" to repay debts.  Most high net worth peeps are just saying fuck it, and buying up land hard assets like its a fire sale.  but little timmy really really needs those nike's, and XXXXX corporation will not hire folks domestically because it might effect revenues due to the high cost labor.  The work gets outsourced to malaysia, and timmys mom buys the nike's on a maxed out credit card.  this will end bad. 

Yes We Can. But Lets Not.'s picture

What if the US were to merge with Mexico and Canada?

I'd propose this new resource super-rich country be named Autarkia.


YWCB        I think it's already called the North American Union. (and it's not super rich because of it)

Frozen IcQb's picture

Canada supplies the ice cream,

Mexico deep fries it,

                   US eats it.

atomicwasted's picture

More crap about state primacy.  Let's draw borders and then keep people and stuff inside them!  Better to just get rid of borders altogether, along with the states that define them.


atomicwasted       No borders, no religion too,IMAGINE all the people living............

DaveA's picture

No state has any right to tell me who I must buy goods from, and nothing good happens when things are stopped at the border. E.g. bicycle factories in Argentina shut down and missed a holiday season because the government decided they should use domestic parts, and stopped Chinese-made parts at the border.

Goods need not be controlled because they incur no lasting obligation. They're used for a while, then recycled or thrown away. Goods don't stop working and start popping out babies and collecting welfare.

Ponzi Fritter's picture



























hidingfromhelis's picture

Bankster borders aren't the same as nation state borders, and autarky would reduce their profits and control.  Resource imbalances and scarcity are actually a good thing in their book, so policies encouraging independence are and will be actively discouraged.

praps's picture

In reality there is no such thing as a nation.  It's a made up concept.

FeralSerf's picture

Bonaparte needed it to get all those French men into the Grand Armee without paying them.


praps         There is in my fucking reality asshat.

JR's picture

Self sufficiency has never been a goal of the internationalists: internationalism is the enemy of nationalism. The march to world government is no longer a conspiracy theory; it is a fact supported by decades of target statements from the players: the Kissingers, the Rockefellers, the Geithners, and their cohorts.

Internationalism means the death of America’s free enterprise system, representative government, and white European culture. To make the subjects of loss of sovereignty, of runaway illegal immigration and of loss of culture taboo in the media is national suicide.

The loss of sovereignty can be simply summarized: it is the loss of rights; the loss of liberty.

Liberty is only sold by fools. And the protection of liberty hinges on the protection of sovereignty.

What are the bribes of temporary employment, a flashy car, an “education,” or a house if you lose your sovereignty, and then your freedom…

The targeted goal of the central bankers since 1913 - now using the current currency war to implement that goal - is world control. Already the bankers have begun talks to replace the dollar with a one-world banker-controlled currency – the SDR.

Former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Timothy Geithner, helped set the stage in March of 2009, stating that Washington is “quite open” to Chinese proposals for the gradual development of a global reserve currency run by the International Monetary Fund.”

atomicwasted's picture

Or, the loss of sovereignty means the loss of government, which is the gain of rights and the gain of liberty.  

JR's picture

I’m not too sure that you would be proficient in the circus trick of finding the pea because when the American government pea disappears, my guess is the pea will be found under the tyranny cover, and YOU and I will have a new government. And it ain’t going to be John Adams’ government.


atomicwasted      So, what communist country do you live? Russia, China maybe? Trollania?

atomicwasted's picture

Troll?  The troll is the original post.  The absence of government is anarchy.  Communism, to the contrary, requires a giant authoritarian state, which is the exact opposite of anarchy.  Read a book sometime.  


atomicwasted         And troll doublespeak is doublespeak. You go read a book.

JR's picture

“I earnestly pray that the Omnipotent Being who has not deserted the cause of America in the hour of its extremest hazard, will never yield so fair a heritage of freedom a prey to ‘Anarchy’ or ‘Despotism.’" – George Washington

Anarchy gave Lenin the opening he’d been awaiting for decades to establish tyranny over Russia; Obama’s mentor, Saul Alinsky, said that  organizers must be entirely unpredictable and unmistakably willing -- for the sake of the moral principles in whose name they claim to act -- to watch society descend into utter "chaos and anarchy.”  His goal for America was Communism.

“[W]hen Obama and [Hillary] Clinton speak of “change,’ they mean change in the sense that a profoundly significant, though not widely known individual -- Saul Alinsky -- outlined in his writings two generations ago.”  -- John Perazzo, Democrats’ Platform for Revolution

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

hang around Zh longenough, and it will dawn on you, that, there are no western leaders of .gov or big corps/banks that are not globalist/nwo/elite/reptiles.They rule by lies and corruption to enrich and maintain the reptiles , oops I mean elite members. that is world politics and economy in a short sentance/paragraph. see the movie THEY LIVE, if you still don't quite get it. I love the pols who cry diversity diversity while the whole world becomes dull gray oneness, borders and nations to some here are evil, good work mind bending reptiles, good work.

JR's picture

One of the reptiles has passed on but the tentacles of his corruption linger on…and on. It was Edgar Bronfman,who died December 22. And one of his many beneficaries is a man called John McCain who owes his position and influence to the massive corruptive force that was Edgar Bronfman.

The full story is: The ‘King' Is Dead

January 11, 2014   AFP

• Edgar Bronfman—one of the world’s most powerful Zionists—finally dies

By Michael Collins Piper

The patriarch of a crime syndicate-connected empire that has operated in the sphere of the Rothschild dynasty is dead. On December 22, Edgar M. Bronfman—longtime head of the World Jewish Congress (WJC)—died at age 84. New York magazine once described him a “sometimes coarse, bullying businessman” but noted “there are some people who would simply call him king of the Jews.”

Rabbi Mishael Zion has hailed Bronfman as “a modern Talmudic Jew,” noting Bronfman’s favorite book was the Babylonian Talmud, the hero of which, the rabbi admitted, is not God but the “cunning human scholar.” Praising Bronfman’s work funding scholarships for Jewish youth, the rabbi said Bronfman was “the person who invited us to live Talmudically in the modern world.”

This recalls Meyer Rothschild, founder of the dynasty with whom Bronfman’s family has had a long association. An admiring biographer once said Rothschild was “a zealous believer in the Talmud and chose it alone as the guiding principle of all his actions.”

It is thus fitting that Bronfman biographer Peter C. Newman said the Bronfmans were “the Rothschilds of the New World,” estimating in 1978 that Bronfman assets totaled some $7B. In fact, Edgar Bronfman had a level of clout few could claim, precisely because of his front-line positioning in the Zionist movement and his family’s pivotal historic role in the crime syndicate.

Edgar was son of Sam Bronfman who immigrated to Canada from Russia and made his fortune in liquor, gambling, prostitution and drugs. Going “legitimate” when he assumed control of the Montreal-based Seagram distillery, Sam forged links with the New York crime syndicate headed by another Russian Jew, Meyer Lansky, and during Prohibition supplied—and thus controlled—the “spigot” of liquor funneled into the United States and distributed by the Lansky mob...

Read on at the link.... including the following subhead (others are Bronfman's War on the U.S.Military, Murder Discussed at High-Level Bronfman Meeting, Bronfman's Empire and Bronfman's Stanglehold on the Media):

Bronfman’s Connections to John McCain 

The Bronfmans were the “godfathers” behind the career of Arizona Senator John McCain (R), Israel’s most outspoken advocate in Congress. McCain’s $150M fortune comes from his marriage to Cindy Hensley, who inherited one of the nation’s largest beer distribution companies from her father, Jim Hensley. Hensley made his money as a henchman of Kemper Marley who, for 40 years, was political boss of Arizona and the Lansky syndicate’s front man in The Grand Canyon State. The Bronfmans set Marley up in business and after Hensley took the rap for Marley in a criminal case, Hensley’s reward was the beer business now in McCain family hands.


P.S.: “Bronfman bankrolled Mort Zuckerman, now a billionaire, who in turn bankrolled Dan Snyder, now billionaire owner of the Washington Redskins football team. They, too, are Bronfman heirs in their own respect…”

Son of Captain Nemo's picture

My biggest dream come true is the American government making the decision to take it's losses, "wiping the slate clean" by shutting down and abandoning 900 military bases around the globe and making a solemn oath and commitment to it's people and Constitution to rebuild itself unfettered from the bureaucratic MIC/Oil slime that's been running this Country since 1913.

Then I wake...

skank's picture

If ifs and butts were candies and nuts we'de all have a merry christmas

"If ands and butts were candy and nuts"... - John Boehner

JR's picture

Wow!!! our new quotable Tom Jefferson. Haha. Is this why it's always Christmas in DC?

If butts and nuts were America's representatives we'd have what we have now -- "an all controlling central bank, ultimately one central government for all countries, national laws supeceded by U.S. and European Human Rights legislation and last, but not least, the total loss of sovereignty and national identity by the indigenous white population being outbred by the immigrants deliberately imported to replace them."

And I'm quoting, for real, ZH blogger Lord Peter Pipsqueak.

Boehner is as cutsy as only a weak and totally bought-off lightweight sycophant can be.