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Feudal Future Podcast – The Purpose Behind the Podcast

On this episode of Feudal Future, hosts Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky sit down with…themselves! Joel and Marshall share the purpose behind the podcast as well as memorable moments and learning lessons along the way.

Feudal Future Podcast – The Reshoring Revolution

On this episode of Feudal Future, hosts Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky are joined by JR Turner, Michelle Comerford, and Harry Moser to discuss the practice of reshoring, or bringing manufacturing back to the United States.

Feudal Future Podcast – Inside the Republic of China

On this episode of Feudal Future, hosts Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky are joined by Leading Historian Ross Terrill, to discuss the history and likely future of the Republic of China.

America the Indispensable

God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.
~Otto von Bismarck

Post-millennium America does not look good at a glance. The country has struggled with the pandemic and with deepening divisions over race, class, inequality, and culture. It is in the humiliating process of losing another war, this time in Afghanistan. Since 2016, the world’s largest economy has been presided over first by the buffoonish and occasionally deranged Donald Trump, and then by an aging Joe Biden who bears scant resemblance to Franklin Roosevelt.

Yet, despite its manifest failings—the assault on the Capitol by Trump’s supporters was not a good image builder—the US remains the indispensable country, the last major counterforce to the rising authoritarian challenge of China, and its growing list of allies, including perhaps the new Islamist regime in Kabul. It remains, without question, the only nation with the natural resources, population, military, and technical skill to rally the West and salvage its threatened legacy.

The US routinely rises to the challenge late, a pattern evident in both World Wars, the initial period of the Cold War, the response to China’s late 20th century industrial juggernaut, and the terrorist threat. But in the end, it remains a huge and blessed land with enormous sokojikara, or “reserve power,” as Japanese political scientist Fuji Kamiya described it decades ago, that allows it to overcome competitors.

The case for America

Pessimism about America’s direction has resurged, following a brief improvement when Biden became president. According to an ABC/Ipsos poll, Americans’ optimism about the country’s direction has dropped 20 points since May. Concern is growing that the country is in a  precipitous decline, something that won’t improve with the bleak images from the Afghani debacle. Most Europeans believe that China will soon replace America as the world’s economic powerhouse. The Chinese, unsurprisingly, seem to feel the same. In a since-deleted tweet, Ministry official Zhao Lijian described Western efforts to slow China’s dominion as being “as stupid as Don Quixote versus the windmills … China’s win is unstoppable.”

So will our children—now living in unhappy and increasingly divided societies—grow up kowtowing to the Mandarins? Without America, that’s the future for the West and everyone else. Europe, politically divided, demographically stagnant, and anti-American, lacks the capacity and willingness to resist. Germany appears unwilling to stand up to either its largest trading partner, China, or to its now-favored supplier of energy, Russia. Weaker European states, such as Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, and even rightwing favorite Hungary have signed up to be cogs in China’s “Belt and Road initiative.” Asia’s democracies can’t hack it without America. Japan is a rich but aging country that lacks much forward momentum, something that can also be said of South Korea. India is still too poor and chaotic to match China’s regimented power.

Nevertheless, as Bismarck suggested, it’s not usually a good idea to bet against the United States. Trump’s disruptive interlude, notes Walter Russell Mead, may have concentrated the minds of others, creating “new leverage” for the US now that its support, particularly on the military side, can never again be taken for granted, particularly if they don’t seem willing to fight for themselves. Some countries, like the Philippines, have already reconsidered their China links and moved closer to Washington. Even some Europeans, notably France’s Emmanuel Macron, are ready to consider China as a strategic “rival.”

Read the rest of this piece at Quillette.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: Osman Rana, via Unsplash.

The End of Merit

The near hysteria, though justifiable, among conservatives concerning the imposition of racialist Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools fails to address how this theology both reflects and contributes to the “systemic” decline of education itself.

Over time, our educational deficit with other countries, notably China, particularly in the acquisition of practical skills in mathematics, engineering medical technology, and management, has grown, threatening our economic and political pre-eminence. Our competitors, whatever their shortcomings, are focused on economic competition and technological supremacy. In math, the OECD’s 2018 Program for International Student Assessment found the United States was outperformed by 36 countries, not only by China, but also Russia, Italy, France, Finland, Poland, and Canada.

Critical Race Theory and its growing chorus of implementers—from the highest reaches  of academia down to the grade school level—have little use for such practical skills acquisition and brook little dissent from teachers and researchers who raise objections to the new curriculum of racial grievance. Woke educators, like San Francisco’s School board member Alison Collins, claim that “merit, meritocracy and especially meritocracy based on standardized testing” are essentially “racist systems.” Some among the new racial cadres even denounce habits such as punctuality, rationality, and hard work as reflective of “racism” and “white privilege”.

In a world where brainpower pushes the economy, the denigration of habits of mind can only further weaken our economic future and undermine republican institutions. Even though the vast majority of corporate executives perceive a growing skills gap, they have failed to stop educators from abandoning skills in favor of ever greater emphasis on ephemera of race and gender.

The Skills Shortage

Only 5 percent of American college students major in engineering, compared with 33 percent in China; as of 2016, China graduated 4.7 million STEM students versus 568,000 in the United States, as well as six times as many students with engineering and computer science bachelor’s degrees. “In the U.S., you could have a meeting of tooling engineers and I’m not sure we could fill the room. In China, you could fill multiple football fields,” Apple CEO Tim Cook has observed, revealing one rationale for keeping virtually all the company’s production in the Middle Kingdom.

Elon Musk disses U.S. higher education in general, saying “colleges are basically for fun and to prove you can do your chores, but they’re not for learning.” After decades of rapid expansion, the number of college students has dropped 14 percent over the past decade. Colleges are painfully dependent on foreign student tuition, which has made them vulnerable to pandemic lockdowns. Enrollment declines have been particularly acute in the most radically transformed disciplines like English and history.

The skills shortage may be even more profound on the factory floor. Due to an aging workforce, as many as 600,000 new manufacturing jobs expected to be generated this decade cannot be filled. The percentage of the skilled manufacturing work force over the age of 55 has doubled in the last 10 years to 20 percent of active workers. And there is no deep bench of talent waiting to replace retirees—50 percent of the active workers are above the age of 45. The current shortage of welders, now 240,000, could grow to 340,000 by 2024.Manufacturing employment is expanding more rapidly than in almost four decades but there are an estimated 500,000 manufacturing jobs unfilled right now.

Read the rest of this piece at American Mind.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: CSUF, via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

Feudal Future Podcast – Madness in the Ruling Class: Who is Leading Our Country?

On this episode of Feudal Future, hosts Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky are joined by Julius Krein and Aaron Renn to discuss how attitudes & values among elites in America affect the middle class.

Winners and Losers: The Global Economy After COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the world economy in ways that will be debated by pundits and future historians for decades to come. Yet, as hard as it is to predict a disrupted future accurately, the pandemic (not to mention its probable successors) looks likely to produce clear economic winners and losers. The top digital companies—Amazon, Apple, Tencent, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Ant, Netflix, and Hulu—have thrived during quarantines and the ongoing dispersion of work. These are the most obvious winners in what leftist author Naomi Klein has called a “Screen New Deal” that seeks to create a “permanent and profitable no-touch future.” Since 2019, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have added over two-and-a-half trillion dollars to their combined valuation, and all enjoyed record breaking profits in 2020.

But it’s not just the tech oligarchs who have benefited from the pandemic disruption. Companies that keep the basic economy functioning—firms dealing in logistics, for example, or critical metals or food processing—have become, if anything, even more important. With the shipping supply chain disrupted due to the pandemic, logistics giant Maersk is set to increase its inland-based operation with the acquisition of the Swiss-based broker KGH Customs Services. The company reported its best quarter ever in the first quarter of 2021, launching a $5 billion share buyback scheme. And although the developing world has been hit hard by declines in tourism and investment, mining giants such as Glencore are investing billions to challenge China’s market dominance in rare earth minerals. The global market for cobalt is expected to double by 2025 and has launched a new “scramble for Africa,” which is also raising moral questions about whether or not the green oligarch’s love of the planet outweighs human rights abuses such as the practice of child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Even some high street businesses which have taken major hits are finding new niches. Many small businesses may never return to pre-COVID levels, as people have become used to the convenience of online purchases. Nevertheless, some are finding new uses for redundant malls, and have discovered new ways to reach more customers using social media and technology. Lower property prices are also opening up potential opportunities for entrepreneurs in pricey places such as Manhattan, San Francisco, or London. Pestilence re-shapes economies.

In his 2017 book The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, historian Kyle Harper argues that plague, as well as climate change, undermined the Roman empire, creating conditions that boosted the barbarian warlords who would later become the Medieval aristocracy. The lethal plagues of the Middle Ages likewise disrupted the great Mongol empire, at the time the largest in history, and in conjunction with cooling temperatures, undermined the stability of the great Silk Road and ended the Pax Mongolica. This opened the door to the Age of Exploration and Europe’s maritime conquest of the world. Within Medieval Europe, the Black Death killed as much as 40 percent of the population, but also precipitated the rise of the Third Estate, and in some places raised wages for scarce labor. “People were fewer,” noted historian Barbara Tuchman, “but they ate better. The pandemic also led to greater emphasis on long-distance navigation.”

During the current crisis, disintermediation has been the primary driver of the post-pandemic economy. The novel coronavirus forced businesses to adapt quickly to new circumstances, and as with all economic crises, created winners and losers. The lockdowns accelerated the use of digital technology for work, retail, and entertainment. This has not only helped the big firms but also produced a whole crop of new startups, many of which address the shift to online work. The tech oligarchies now face competition from decentralized networks based on blockchain technology which is less vulnerable to domination by giant firms with algorithms that are designed to eliminate the incentive structures that lead to central node control and promote monopolistic behavior. Domains such as Lokinet, Ethereum, Odysee, and Urbit seek to give users ownership of their own data. Even Google’s near-monopoly of web browser supremacy is set to be challenged by data-privacy-conscious alternatives such as DuckDuckGo, which has seen a 62 percent growth in search results in 2020. Users are clearly becoming more conscious of privacy and data ownership.

Read the rest of this piece at Quillette.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Hügo Krüger is a Structural Engineer with working experience in the Nuclear, Concrete and Oil and Gas Industry. He was born in Pretoria South Africa and moved to France in 2015. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Pretoria and a Masters degree in Nuclear Structures from the École spéciale des travaux publics, du bâtiment et de l’industrie (ESTP Paris). He frequently contributes to the South African English blog Rational Standard and the Afrikaans Newspaper Rapport. He fluently speaks French, Germany, English and Afrikaans. His interests include politics, economics, public policy, history, languages, Krav Maga and Structural Engineering.

Homepage photo: Steve Jurvetson, via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

Feudal Future Podcast – Power & Responsibility: Tech’s Control

On this episode of Feudal Future, hosts Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky are joined by venture capitalist Andrew Romans about the power tech wields today and their responsibility in society.

Feudal Future Podcast – The War on Space

On this episode of Feudal Future, hosts Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky are joined by geopolitical analyst, Brandon J. Weichert author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, to discuss a real life version of Star Wars.

The Rise of Corporate–State Tyranny

In explaining his shift away from Maoist economics, Deng Xiao Ping, chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, described his market-oriented changes as “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Today, American businesses, as well as the media and academic establishments that serve them, increasingly embrace what can best be described as “Chinese capitalism with American characteristics.”

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