The Pronk Pops Show 1376, January 13, 2019, Story 1: U-3 Unemployment Rate 3.5%, U-6 Unemployment Rate 6.8% and 145,000 Non-farm Payroll Jobs Created in December 2019 — Labor Participation Rate Stuck at 63.3% — Not In Labor Force 95,625,000 — Videos — Story 2: Global Long Term (Secular) Stagnation, Excess Capacity and Massive Debt Levels — Videos — Story 3: The Peace and Prosperity President Trump With A Non-interventionist Foreign and Domestic Policies — Back To Realpolitik with Offshore Balancing? — Videos

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The Pronk Pops Show Podcasts

Pronk Pops Show 1376 January 13, 2020

Pronk Pops Show 1375 December 13, 2019

Pronk Pops Show 1374 December 12, 2019

Pronk Pops Show 1373 December 11, 2019

Pronk Pops Show 1372 December 10, 2019

Pronk Pops Show 1371 December 9, 2019

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Pronk Pops Show 1369 December 5, 2019

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Pronk Pops Show 1367 December 3, 2019

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Pronk Pops Show 1365 November 22, 2019

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Pronk Pops Show 1332 October 2, 2019

Pronk Pops Show 1331 October 1, 2019


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Story 1: U-3 Unemployment Rate 3.5%, U-6 Unemployment Rate 6.8% and 145,000 Non-farm Payroll Jobs Created in December 2019 — Labor Participation Rate Stuck at 63.3% — Not In Labor Force 95,625,000 — Videos —

The ShadowStats Alternate Unemployment Rate for December 2019 is 20.8%.

See the source image

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December jobs report: ‘Best labor market for workers’

CNN’s King: Trump’s Booming Economy, Low Unemployment Rate A “Good Calling Card” For 2020

47% of Americans approve of Donald Trump’s job as president

Keiser Report 1485

Bad monetary and fiscal policy is good for gold

U.S. Economic Outlook 2020: On Firmer Ground

Civilian Labor Force Level


Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

Data extracted on: January 10, 2020 (6:05:45 PM)

Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey


Series Id:           LNS11000000
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title:        (Seas) Civilian Labor Force Level
Labor force status:  Civilian labor force
Type of data:        Number in thousands
Age:                 16 years and over


Series Id:           LNS11000000
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title:        (Seas) Civilian Labor Force Level
Labor force status:  Civilian labor force
Type of data:        Number in thousands
Age:                 16 years and over
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2000 142267(1) 142456 142434 142751 142388 142591 142278 142514 142518 142622 142962 143248
2001 143800 143701 143924 143569 143318 143357 143654 143284 143989 144086 144240 144305
2002 143883 144653 144481 144725 144938 144808 144803 145009 145552 145314 145041 145066
2003 145937(1) 146100 146022 146474 146500 147056 146485 146445 146530 146716 147000 146729
2004 146842(1) 146709 146944 146850 147065 147460 147692 147564 147415 147793 148162 148059
2005 148029(1) 148364 148391 148926 149261 149238 149432 149779 149954 150001 150065 150030
2006 150214(1) 150641 150813 150881 151069 151354 151377 151716 151662 152041 152406 152732
2007 153144(1) 152983 153051 152435 152670 153041 153054 152749 153414 153183 153835 153918
2008 154063(1) 153653 153908 153769 154303 154313 154469 154641 154570 154876 154639 154655
2009 154210(1) 154538 154133 154509 154747 154716 154502 154307 153827 153784 153878 153111
2010 153484(1) 153694 153954 154622 154091 153616 153691 154086 153975 153635 154125 153650
2011 153263(1) 153214 153376 153543 153479 153346 153288 153760 154131 153961 154128 153995
2012 154381(1) 154671 154749 154545 154866 155083 154948 154763 155160 155554 155338 155628
2013 155763(1) 155312 155005 155394 155536 155749 155599 155605 155687 154673 155265 155182
2014 155352(1) 155483 156028 155369 155684 155707 156007 156130 156040 156417 156494 156332
2015 157030(1) 156644 156643 157060 157651 157062 156997 157172 156733 157167 157463 158035
2016 158342(1) 158653 159103 158981 158787 158973 159123 159579 159817 159734 159551 159710
2017 159647(1) 159767 160066 160309 160060 160232 160339 160690 161212 160378 160510 160538
2018 161068(1) 161783 161684 161742 161874 162269 162173 161768 162078 162605 162662 163111
2019 163142(1) 163047 162935 162546 162782 163133 163373 163894 164051 164401 164347 164556
1 : Data affected by changes in population controls.

Employment Level



Series Id:           LNS12000000
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title:        (Seas) Employment Level
Labor force status:  Employed
Type of data:        Number in thousands
Age:                 16 years and over

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2000 136559(1) 136598 136701 137270 136630 136940 136531 136662 136893 137088 137322 137614
2001 137778 137612 137783 137299 137092 136873 137071 136241 136846 136392 136238 136047
2002 135701 136438 136177 136126 136539 136415 136413 136705 137302 137008 136521 136426
2003 137417(1) 137482 137434 137633 137544 137790 137474 137549 137609 137984 138424 138411
2004 138472(1) 138542 138453 138680 138852 139174 139556 139573 139487 139732 140231 140125
2005 140245(1) 140385 140654 141254 141609 141714 142026 142434 142401 142548 142499 142752
2006 143150(1) 143457 143741 143761 144089 144353 144202 144625 144815 145314 145534 145970
2007 146028(1) 146057 146320 145586 145903 146063 145905 145682 146244 145946 146595 146273
2008 146378(1) 146156 146086 146132 145908 145737 145532 145203 145076 144802 144100 143369
2009 142152(1) 141640 140707 140656 140248 140009 139901 139492 138818 138432 138659 138013
2010 138438(1) 138581 138751 139297 139241 139141 139179 139438 139396 139119 139044 139301
2011 139250(1) 139394 139639 139586 139624 139384 139524 139942 140183 140368 140826 140902
2012 141584(1) 141858 142036 141899 142206 142391 142292 142291 143044 143431 143333 143330
2013 143292(1) 143362 143316 143635 143882 143999 144264 144326 144418 143537 144479 144778
2014 145150(1) 145134 145648 145667 145825 146247 146399 146530 146778 147427 147404 147615
2015 148145(1) 148045 148128 148511 148817 148816 148830 149181 148826 149246 149463 150128
2016 150621(1) 150908 151157 151006 151119 151187 151465 151770 151850 151907 152063 152216
2017 152129(1) 152368 152978 153224 153001 153299 153471 153593 154371 153779 153813 153977
2018 154486(1) 155142 155191 155324 155665 155750 155993 155601 156032 156482 156628 156825
2019 156627(1) 156866 156741 156696 156844 157148 157346 157895 158298 158544 158536 158803
1 : Data affected by changes in population controls.

Not in Labor Force



Series Id:           LNS15000000
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title:        (Seas) Not in Labor Force
Labor force status:  Not in labor force
Type of data:        Number in thousands
Age:                 16 years and over


Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2009 80529 80374 80953 80762 80705 80938 81367 81780 82495 82766 82865 83813
2010 83349 83304 83206 82707 83409 84075 84199 84014 84347 84895 84590 85240
2011 85441 85637 85623 85603 85834 86144 86383 86111 85940 86308 86312 86589
2012 87888 87765 87855 88239 88100 88073 88405 88803 88613 88429 88836 88722
2013 88900 89516 89990 89780 89827 89803 90156 90355 90481 91708 91302 91563
2014 91563 91603 91230 92070 91938 92107 92016 92099 92406 92240 92350 92695
2015 92694 93256 93437 93205 92804 93601 93880 93924 94592 94374 94284 93901
2016 94055 93924 93665 93988 94388 94424 94497 94275 94274 94587 94989 95031
2017 94435 94479 94348 94279 94707 94725 94812 94667 94350 95388 95439 95571
2018 95712 95151 95414 95529 95579 95373 95670 96297 96212 95909 96045 95777
2019 95097 95345 95602 96147 96079 95905 95852 95538 95587 95444 95673 95625


Series Id:           LNS14000000
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title:        (Seas) Unemployment Rate
Labor force status:  Unemployment rate
Type of data:        Percent or rate
Age:                 16 years and over

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2000 4.0 4.1 4.0 3.8 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.1 3.9 3.9 3.9 3.9
2001 4.2 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.3 4.5 4.6 4.9 5.0 5.3 5.5 5.7
2002 5.7 5.7 5.7 5.9 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.7 5.7 5.7 5.9 6.0
2003 5.8 5.9 5.9 6.0 6.1 6.3 6.2 6.1 6.1 6.0 5.8 5.7
2004 5.7 5.6 5.8 5.6 5.6 5.6 5.5 5.4 5.4 5.5 5.4 5.4
2005 5.3 5.4 5.2 5.2 5.1 5.0 5.0 4.9 5.0 5.0 5.0 4.9
2006 4.7 4.8 4.7 4.7 4.6 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.5 4.4 4.5 4.4
2007 4.6 4.5 4.4 4.5 4.4 4.6 4.7 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.7 5.0
2008 5.0 4.9 5.1 5.0 5.4 5.6 5.8 6.1 6.1 6.5 6.8 7.3
2009 7.8 8.3 8.7 9.0 9.4 9.5 9.5 9.6 9.8 10.0 9.9 9.9
2010 9.8 9.8 9.9 9.9 9.6 9.4 9.4 9.5 9.5 9.4 9.8 9.3
2011 9.1 9.0 9.0 9.1 9.0 9.1 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.8 8.6 8.5
2012 8.3 8.3 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.1 7.8 7.8 7.7 7.9
2013 8.0 7.7 7.5 7.6 7.5 7.5 7.3 7.2 7.2 7.2 6.9 6.7
2014 6.6 6.7 6.7 6.2 6.3 6.1 6.2 6.1 5.9 5.7 5.8 5.6
2015 5.7 5.5 5.4 5.4 5.6 5.3 5.2 5.1 5.0 5.0 5.1 5.0
2016 4.9 4.9 5.0 5.0 4.8 4.9 4.8 4.9 5.0 4.9 4.7 4.7
2017 4.7 4.6 4.4 4.4 4.4 4.3 4.3 4.4 4.2 4.1 4.2 4.1
2018 4.1 4.1 4.0 4.0 3.8 4.0 3.8 3.8 3.7 3.8 3.7 3.9
2019 4.0 3.8 3.8 3.6 3.6 3.7 3.7 3.7 3.5 3.6 3.5 3.5


U-6 Labor Unemployment Rate


Series Id:           LNS13327709
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title:        (seas) Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of all civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers
Labor force status:  Aggregated totals unemployed
Type of data:        Percent or rate
Age:                 16 years and over
Percent/rates:       Unemployed and mrg attached and pt for econ reas as percent of labor force plus marg attached

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2000 7.1 7.2 7.1 6.9 7.1 7.0 7.0 7.1 7.0 6.8 7.1 6.9
2001 7.3 7.4 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.9 7.8 8.1 8.7 9.3 9.4 9.6
2002 9.5 9.5 9.4 9.7 9.5 9.5 9.6 9.6 9.6 9.6 9.7 9.8
2003 10.0 10.2 10.0 10.2 10.1 10.3 10.3 10.1 10.4 10.2 10.0 9.8
2004 9.9 9.7 10.0 9.6 9.6 9.5 9.5 9.4 9.4 9.7 9.4 9.2
2005 9.3 9.3 9.1 8.9 8.9 9.0 8.8 8.9 9.0 8.7 8.7 8.6
2006 8.4 8.4 8.2 8.1 8.2 8.4 8.5 8.4 8.0 8.2 8.1 7.9
2007 8.4 8.2 8.0 8.2 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.4 8.4 8.4 8.4 8.8
2008 9.2 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.7 10.1 10.5 10.8 11.0 11.8 12.6 13.6
2009 14.2 15.2 15.8 15.9 16.5 16.5 16.4 16.7 16.7 17.1 17.1 17.1
2010 16.7 17.0 17.1 17.1 16.6 16.4 16.4 16.5 16.8 16.6 16.9 16.6
2011 16.2 16.0 15.9 16.1 15.8 16.1 15.9 16.1 16.4 15.8 15.5 15.2
2012 15.2 15.0 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 14.8 14.6 14.8 14.4 14.4 14.4
2013 14.6 14.4 13.8 14.0 13.8 14.2 13.8 13.6 13.5 13.6 13.1 13.1
2014 12.7 12.6 12.6 12.3 12.2 12.0 12.1 12.0 11.7 11.5 11.4 11.2
2015 11.3 11.0 10.8 10.9 10.9 10.4 10.3 10.2 10.0 9.8 10.0 9.9
2016 9.8 9.7 9.8 9.8 9.9 9.5 9.7 9.6 9.7 9.6 9.4 9.2
2017 9.3 9.1 8.8 8.6 8.5 8.5 8.5 8.5 8.3 8.0 8.0 8.1
2018 8.1 8.2 7.9 7.8 7.7 7.8 7.5 7.3 7.5 7.4 7.6 7.6
2019 8.0 7.2 7.3 7.3 7.1 7.2 7.0 7.2 6.9 6.9 6.9 6.7

Labor Force Participation Rate


Series Id:           LNS11300000
Seasonally Adjusted
Series title:        (Seas) Labor Force Participation Rate
Labor force status:  Civilian labor force participation rate
Type of data:        Percent or rate
Age:                 16 years and over


Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2000 67.3 67.3 67.3 67.3 67.1 67.1 66.9 66.9 66.9 66.8 66.9 67.0
2001 67.2 67.1 67.2 66.9 66.7 66.7 66.8 66.5 66.8 66.7 66.7 66.7
2002 66.5 66.8 66.6 66.7 66.7 66.6 66.5 66.6 66.7 66.6 66.4 66.3
2003 66.4 66.4 66.3 66.4 66.4 66.5 66.2 66.1 66.1 66.1 66.1 65.9
2004 66.1 66.0 66.0 65.9 66.0 66.1 66.1 66.0 65.8 65.9 66.0 65.9
2005 65.8 65.9 65.9 66.1 66.1 66.1 66.1 66.2 66.1 66.1 66.0 66.0
2006 66.0 66.1 66.2 66.1 66.1 66.2 66.1 66.2 66.1 66.2 66.3 66.4
2007 66.4 66.3 66.2 65.9 66.0 66.0 66.0 65.8 66.0 65.8 66.0 66.0
2008 66.2 66.0 66.1 65.9 66.1 66.1 66.1 66.1 66.0 66.0 65.9 65.8
2009 65.7 65.8 65.6 65.7 65.7 65.7 65.5 65.4 65.1 65.0 65.0 64.6
2010 64.8 64.9 64.9 65.2 64.9 64.6 64.6 64.7 64.6 64.4 64.6 64.3
2011 64.2 64.1 64.2 64.2 64.1 64.0 64.0 64.1 64.2 64.1 64.1 64.0
2012 63.7 63.8 63.8 63.7 63.7 63.8 63.7 63.5 63.6 63.8 63.6 63.7
2013 63.7 63.4 63.3 63.4 63.4 63.4 63.3 63.3 63.2 62.8 63.0 62.9
2014 62.9 62.9 63.1 62.8 62.9 62.8 62.9 62.9 62.8 62.9 62.9 62.8
2015 62.9 62.7 62.6 62.8 62.9 62.7 62.6 62.6 62.4 62.5 62.5 62.7
2016 62.7 62.8 62.9 62.8 62.7 62.7 62.7 62.9 62.9 62.8 62.7 62.7
2017 62.8 62.8 62.9 63.0 62.8 62.8 62.8 62.9 63.1 62.7 62.7 62.7
2018 62.7 63.0 62.9 62.9 62.9 63.0 62.9 62.7 62.8 62.9 62.9 63.0
2019 63.2 63.1 63.0 62.8 62.9 63.0 63.0 63.2 63.2 63.3 63.2 63.2

Employment Situation Summary

Transmission of material in this news release is embargoed until	      USDL-20-0010
8:30 a.m. (EST) Friday, January 10, 2020

Technical information: 
 Household data:       (202) 691-6378  *  *
 Establishment data:   (202) 691-6555  *  *

Media contact:	       (202) 691-5902  *

                       THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION -- DECEMBER 2019

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 145,000 in December, and the unemployment
rate was unchanged at 3.5 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported
today. Notable job gains occurred in retail trade and health care, while mining
lost jobs.

This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household survey
measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic characteristics.
The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings by industry.
For more information about the concepts and statistical methodology used in these
two surveys, see the Technical Note.
|                                                                                       |
|                  Revision of Seasonally Adjusted Household Survey Data                |
|                                                                                       |
|  Seasonally adjusted household survey data have been revised using updated seasonal   |
|  adjustment factors, a procedure done at the end of each calendar year. Seasonally    |
|  adjusted estimates back to January 2015 were subject to revision. The unemployment   |
|  rates for January 2019 through November 2019 (as originally published and as revised)|
|  appear in table A, along with additional information about the revisions.            |

Household Survey Data

In December, the unemployment rate held at 3.5 percent, and the number of unemployed
persons was unchanged at 5.8 million. A year earlier, the jobless rate was 3.9 percent,
and the number of unemployed persons was 6.3 million. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.1 percent), adult
women (3.2 percent), teenagers (12.6 percent), Whites (3.2 percent), Blacks (5.9 percent),
Asians (2.5 percent), and Hispanics (4.2 percent) showed little or no change in December.
(See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 1.2 million,
was unchanged in December and accounted for 20.5 percent of the unemployed. (See table

The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 63.2 percent in December. The
employment-population ratio was 61.0 percent for the fourth consecutive month but was
up by 0.4 percentage point over the year. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 4.1 million, changed
little in December but was down by 507,000 over the year. These individuals, who would
have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been
reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. (See table A-8.)

In December, 1.2 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by
310,000 from a year earlier. (Data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were
not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job 
sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had
not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)

Among the marginally attached, there were 277,000 discouraged workers in December, down
by 98,000 from a year earlier. (Data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers
are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for
them. The remaining 969,000 persons marginally attached to the labor force in December
had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.
(See table A-16.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 145,000 in December. Notable job gains
occurred in retail trade and health care, while mining lost jobs. In 2019, payroll
employment rose by 2.1 million, down from a gain of 2.7 million in 2018. (See table B-1.)

In December, retail trade added 41,000 jobs. Employment increased in clothing and 
accessories stores (+33,000) and in building material and garden supply stores (+7,000);
both industries showed employment declines in the prior month. Employment in retail trade
changed little, on net, in both 2019 and 2018 (+9,000 and +14,000, respectively). 

Employment in health care increased by 28,000 in December. Ambulatory health care services
and hospitals added jobs over the month (+23,000 and +9,000, respectively). Health care
added 399,000 jobs in 2019, compared with an increase of 350,000 in 2018. 

Employment in leisure and hospitality continued to trend up in December (+40,000). The
industry added 388,000 jobs in 2019, similar to the increase in 2018 (+359,000). 

Mining employment declined by 8,000 in December. In 2019, employment in mining declined
by 24,000, after rising by 63,000 in 2018. 

Construction employment changed little in December (+20,000). Employment in the industry
rose by 151,000 in 2019, about half of the 2018 gain of 307,000. 

In December, employment in professional and business services showed little change
(+10,000). The industry added 397,000 jobs in 2019, down from an increase of 561,000
jobs in 2018.  

Employment in transportation and warehousing changed little in December (-10,000).
Employment in the industry increased by 57,000 in 2019, about one-fourth of the 2018
gain of 216,000. 

Manufacturing employment was little changed in December (-12,000). Employment in the
industry changed little in 2019 (+46,000), after increasing in 2018 (+264,000). 

In December, employment showed little change in other major industries, including wholesale
trade, information, financial activities, and government. 

In December, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose
by 3 cents to $28.32. Over the last 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by
2.9 percent. In December, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and
nonsupervisory employees, at $23.79, were little changed (+2 cents). (See tables B-3 and

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.3
hours in December. In manufacturing, the average workweek and overtime remained at 40.5
hours and 3.2 hours, respectively. The average workweek of private-sector production and
nonsupervisory employees held at 33.5 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for October was revised down by 4,000 from
+156,000 to +152,000, and the change for November was revised down by 10,000 from +266,000
to +256,000. With these revisions, employment gains in October and November combined were
14,000 lower than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports
received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and
from the recalculation of seasonal factors.) After revisions, job gains have averaged
184,000 over the last 3 months. 

The Employment Situation for January is scheduled to be released on Friday, February 7,
2020, at 8:30 a.m. (EST).

|										       |
|                   Upcoming Changes to Household Survey Data			       |
|										       |
|  With the publication of The Employment Situation for January 2020 on February 7,    |
|  2020, two not seasonally adjusted series currently displayed in Summary table       |
|  A--persons marginally attached to the labor force and discouraged workers--will     |
|  be replaced with new seasonally adjusted series. The new seasonally adjusted	       |
|  series will be available in the BLS online database back to 1994. Not seasonally    |
|  adjusted data for persons marginally attached to the labor force and for	       |
|  discouraged workers will continue to be published in table A-16. These series       |
|  will also be available in the BLS online database back to 1994.		       |
| 										       |
|  Persons marginally attached to the labor force and discouraged workers are inputs   |
|  into three alternative measures of labor underutilization displayed in table A-15.  |
|  Therefore, with the publication of The Employment Situation for January 2020, data  |
|  for U-4, U-5, and U-6 in table A-15 will reflect the new seasonally adjusted	       |
|  series. Revised data back to 1994 will be available in the BLS online database.     |
|  Not seasonally adjusted series for the alternative measures will be unaffected.     |
| 										       |
|  Beginning with data for January 2020, occupation estimates in table A-13 will       |
|  reflect the introduction of the 2018 Census occupation classification system into   |
|  the household survey. This occupation classification system is derived from the     |
|  2018 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. In addition, industry       |
|  estimates in table A-14 will reflect the introduction of the 2017 Census industry   |
|  classification system, which is derived from the 2017 North American Industry       |
|  Classification System (NAICS). Historical data on occupation and industry will      |
|  not be revised. Beginning with data for January 2020, estimates will not be	       |
|  strictly comparable with earlier years.  					       |
| 										       |
|  Also beginning with data for January 2020, estimates of married persons will        |
|  include those in opposite- and same-sex marriages. Prior to January 2020, these     |
|  estimates included only those in opposite-sex marriages. This will affect marital   |
|  status estimates in tables A-9 and A-10.  Historical data will not be revised.      |
| 										       |
|  Also effective with the release of The Employment Situation for January 2020, new   |
|  population controls will be used in the household survey estimation process. These  |
|  new controls reflect the annual update of intercensal population estimates by the   |
|  U.S. Census Bureau. In accordance with usual practice, historical data will not     |
|  be revised to incorporate the new controls; consequently, household survey data     |
|  for January 2020 will not be directly comparable with data for December 2019 or     |
|  earlier periods. A table showing the effects of the new controls on the major labor |
|  force series will be included in the January 2020 news release. In addition, the    |
|  population controls for veterans, which are derived from a Department of Veterans   |
|  Affairs' population model and are updated periodically, will also be updated with   |
|  the release of January data. 						       |

|                 								       |
|                 Upcoming Revisions to Establishment Survey Data		       |
|										       |
|  Effective with the release of The Employment Situation for January 2020 on February |
|  7, 2020, the establishment survey will revise nonfarm payroll employment, hours,    |
|  and earnings data to reflect the annual benchmark process and updated seasonal      |
|  adjustment factors. Not seasonally adjusted data beginning with April 2018 and      |
|  seasonally adjusted data beginning with January 2015 are subject to revision.       |
|  Consistent with standard practice, additional historical data may be revised as a   |
|  result of the benchmark process.						       |

             Revision of Seasonally Adjusted Household Survey Data

At the end of each calendar year, BLS routinely updates the seasonal adjustment
factors for the national labor force series derived from the household survey. As
a result of this process, seasonally adjusted data for January 2015 through
November 2019 were subject to revision. (Not seasonally adjusted data were not
subject to revision.)

Table A shows the unemployment rates for January 2019 through November 2019, as
first published and as revised. The rates were unchanged for all 11 months.
Revised seasonally adjusted data for other major labor force series beginning
in December 2018 appear in table B.

More information on this year's revisions to seasonally adjusted household series
is available at 
Detailed information on the seasonal adjustment methodology is found at

Historical data for the household series contained in the A tables of this news
release can be accessed at Revised historical
seasonally adjusted data are available at and

Table A. Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in 2019 and changes due to revision
January - November 2019

Month                 As first published          As revised              Change

January.............                 4.0                 4.0                 0.0
February............                 3.8                 3.8                 0.0
March...............                 3.8                 3.8                 0.0
April...............                 3.6                 3.6                 0.0
May.................                 3.6                 3.6                 0.0
June................                 3.7                 3.7                 0.0
July................                 3.7                 3.7                 0.0
August..............                 3.7                 3.7                 0.0
September...........                 3.5                 3.5                 0.0
October.............                 3.6                 3.6                 0.0
November............                 3.5                 3.5                 0.0
Table B. Employment status of the civilian population by sex and age, seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, sex, and age 2018 2019
Dec. Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.


Civilian noninstitutional population(1)

258,888 258,239 258,392 258,537 258,693 258,861 259,037 259,225 259,432 259,638 259,845 260,020 260,181

Civilian labor force

163,111 163,142 163,047 162,935 162,546 162,782 163,133 163,373 163,894 164,051 164,401 164,347 164,556

Participation rate

63.0 63.2 63.1 63.0 62.8 62.9 63.0 63.0 63.2 63.2 63.3 63.2 63.2


156,825 156,627 156,866 156,741 156,696 156,844 157,148 157,346 157,895 158,298 158,544 158,536 158,803

Employment-population ratio

60.6 60.7 60.7 60.6 60.6 60.6 60.7 60.7 60.9 61.0 61.0 61.0 61.0


6,286 6,516 6,181 6,194 5,850 5,938 5,985 6,027 5,999 5,753 5,857 5,811 5,753

Unemployment rate

3.9 4.0 3.8 3.8 3.6 3.6 3.7 3.7 3.7 3.5 3.6 3.5 3.5

Men, 20 years and over

Civilian noninstitutional population(1)

116,739 116,436 116,513 116,586 116,665 116,752 116,843 116,939 117,040 117,140 117,242 117,331 117,413

Civilian labor force

83,483 83,586 83,588 83,566 83,421 83,569 83,568 83,771 83,852 83,841 83,911 84,057 84,008

Participation rate

71.5 71.8 71.7 71.7 71.5 71.6 71.5 71.6 71.6 71.6 71.6 71.6 71.5


80,496 80,474 80,677 80,570 80,609 80,761 80,780 80,975 81,046 81,146 81,196 81,377 81,390

Employment-population ratio

69.0 69.1 69.2 69.1 69.1 69.2 69.1 69.2 69.2 69.3 69.3 69.4 69.3


2,987 3,112 2,911 2,995 2,812 2,808 2,788 2,796 2,806 2,695 2,715 2,679 2,618

Unemployment rate

3.6 3.7 3.5 3.6 3.4 3.4 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.2 3.2 3.2 3.1

Women, 20 years and over

Civilian noninstitutional population(1)

125,393 125,099 125,177 125,252 125,332 125,419 125,509 125,604 125,705 125,806 125,907 125,998 126,082

Civilian labor force

73,673 73,643 73,667 73,508 73,440 73,439 73,655 73,585 74,116 74,313 74,542 74,291 74,584

Participation rate

58.8 58.9 58.8 58.7 58.6 58.6 58.7 58.6 59.0 59.1 59.2 59.0 59.2


71,123 71,004 71,169 71,056 71,136 71,038 71,209 71,120 71,665 71,990 72,130 71,881 72,200

Employment-population ratio

56.7 56.8 56.9 56.7 56.8 56.6 56.7 56.6 57.0 57.2 57.3 57.0 57.3


2,550 2,639 2,497 2,451 2,304 2,401 2,447 2,465 2,451 2,323 2,411 2,411 2,383

Unemployment rate

3.5 3.6 3.4 3.3 3.1 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.1 3.2 3.2 3.2

Both sexes, 16 to 19 years

Civilian noninstitutional population(1)

16,756 16,704 16,702 16,698 16,696 16,690 16,686 16,682 16,687 16,691 16,696 16,692 16,686

Civilian labor force

5,955 5,913 5,792 5,862 5,685 5,774 5,910 6,017 5,926 5,897 5,948 5,999 5,964

Participation rate

35.5 35.4 34.7 35.1 34.1 34.6 35.4 36.1 35.5 35.3 35.6 35.9 35.7


5,205 5,149 5,019 5,115 4,951 5,044 5,159 5,250 5,184 5,162 5,218 5,278 5,213

Employment-population ratio

31.1 30.8 30.1 30.6 29.7 30.2 30.9 31.5 31.1 30.9 31.3 31.6 31.2


750 765 773 747 734 730 751 767 742 735 730 721 752

Unemployment rate

12.6 12.9 13.3 12.7 12.9 12.6 12.7 12.7 12.5 12.5 12.3 12.0 12.6

(1) The population figures are not adjusted for seasonal variation.

NOTE: Seasonally adjusted data have been revised to reflect updated seasonal adjustment factors.


Employment Situation Summary Table A. Household data, seasonally adjusted

Summary table A. Household data, seasonally adjusted
[Numbers in thousands]
Category Dec.
Change from:

Employment status

Civilian noninstitutional population

258,888 259,845 260,020 260,181 161

Civilian labor force

163,111 164,401 164,347 164,556 209

Participation rate

63.0 63.3 63.2 63.2 0.0


156,825 158,544 158,536 158,803 267

Employment-population ratio

60.6 61.0 61.0 61.0 0.0


6,286 5,857 5,811 5,753 -58

Unemployment rate

3.9 3.6 3.5 3.5 0.0

Not in labor force

95,777 95,444 95,673 95,625 -48

Unemployment rates

Total, 16 years and over

3.9 3.6 3.5 3.5 0.0

Adult men (20 years and over)

3.6 3.2 3.2 3.1 -0.1

Adult women (20 years and over)

3.5 3.2 3.2 3.2 0.0

Teenagers (16 to 19 years)

12.6 12.3 12.0 12.6 0.6


3.4 3.2 3.2 3.2 0.0

Black or African American

6.6 5.5 5.6 5.9 0.3


3.3 2.8 2.6 2.5 -0.1

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

4.4 4.1 4.2 4.2 0.0

Total, 25 years and over

3.1 2.9 2.9 2.8 -0.1

Less than a high school diploma

5.8 5.5 5.3 5.2 -0.1

High school graduates, no college

3.8 3.7 3.7 3.7 0.0

Some college or associate degree

3.3 2.8 2.9 2.7 -0.2

Bachelor’s degree and higher

2.2 2.1 2.0 1.9 -0.1

Reason for unemployment

Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs

2,892 2,691 2,804 2,686 -118

Job leavers

827 846 776 829 53


1,968 1,698 1,663 1,655 -8

New entrants

600 622 581 551 -30

Duration of unemployment

Less than 5 weeks

2,117 1,978 2,026 2,065 39

5 to 14 weeks

2,007 1,747 1,753 1,730 -23

15 to 26 weeks

899 884 865 812 -53

27 weeks and over

1,311 1,259 1,219 1,186 -33

Employed persons at work part time

Part time for economic reasons

4,655 4,397 4,288 4,148 -140

Slack work or business conditions

2,895 2,747 2,634 2,657 23

Could only find part-time work

1,487 1,278 1,259 1,215 -44

Part time for noneconomic reasons

21,230 21,544 21,532 21,586 54

Persons not in the labor force (not seasonally adjusted)

Marginally attached to the labor force

1,556 1,229 1,246 1,246

Discouraged workers

375 341 325 277

– Over-the-month changes are not displayed for not seasonally adjusted data.
NOTE: Persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race. Detail for the seasonally adjusted data shown in this table will not necessarily add to totals because of the independent seasonal adjustment of the various series. Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.

Employment Situation Summary Table B. Establishment data, seasonally adjusted

Summary table B. Establishment data, seasonally adjusted
Category Dec.

(Over-the-month change, in thousands)

Total nonfarm

227 152 256 145

Total private

224 164 243 139


40 -29 52 -1

Mining and logging

4 2 -8 -9


16 14 2 20


20 -45 58 -12

Durable goods(1)

14 -51 48 -7

Motor vehicles and parts

1.2 -43.6 39.3 -0.8

Nondurable goods

6 6 10 -5

Private service-providing

184 193 191 140

Wholesale trade

12.5 10.7 -2.5 8.3

Retail trade

-5.9 30.9 -14.1 41.2

Transportation and warehousing

-1.1 2.8 11.9 -10.4


-0.2 -1.4 1.2 0.8


-2 0 8 3

Financial activities

1 16 14 6

Professional and business services(1)

37 35 53 10

Temporary help services

13.5 -5.4 4.0 6.4

Education and health services(1)

67 31 72 36

Health care and social assistance

52.9 37.8 63.8 33.9

Leisure and hospitality

65 70 38 40

Other services

11 -2 10 5


3 -12 13 6

(3-month average change, in thousands)

Total nonfarm

233 188 200 184

Total private

236 170 197 182


Total nonfarm women employees

49.7 50.0 50.0 50.0

Total private women employees

48.3 48.6 48.6 48.7

Total private production and nonsupervisory employees

82.4 82.2 82.2 82.2


Total private

Average weekly hours

34.5 34.3 34.3 34.3

Average hourly earnings

$27.53 $28.20 $28.29 $28.32

Average weekly earnings

$949.79 $967.26 $970.35 $971.38

Index of aggregate weekly hours (2007=100)(3)

110.7 111.4 111.6 111.7

Over-the-month percent change

0.5 -0.1 0.2 0.1

Index of aggregate weekly payrolls (2007=100)(4)

145.6 150.1 150.9 151.2

Over-the-month percent change

0.8 0.1 0.5 0.2

(Over 1-month span)(5)

Total private (258 industries)

65.9 55.2 65.7 57.0

Manufacturing (76 industries)

65.1 38.2 65.8 44.7

(1) Includes other industries, not shown separately.
(2) Data relate to production employees in mining and logging and manufacturing, construction employees in construction, and nonsupervisory employees in the service-providing industries.
(3) The indexes of aggregate weekly hours are calculated by dividing the current month’s estimates of aggregate hours by the corresponding annual average aggregate hours.
(4) The indexes of aggregate weekly payrolls are calculated by dividing the current month’s estimates of aggregate weekly payrolls by the corresponding annual average aggregate weekly payrolls.
(5) Figures are the percent of industries with employment increasing plus one-half of the industries with unchanged employment, where 50 percent indicates an equal balance between industries with increasing and decreasing employment.
(P) Preliminary

NOTE: Data have been revised to reflect March 2018 benchmark levels and updated seasonal adjustment factors.

Story 2: Global Long Term (Secular) Stagnation, Excess Capacity and Massive Debt Levels — Videos


What is Secular Stagnation

May 4, 2016

2020 FINANCIAL CRISIS | Has it started? The $500 Billion Dollar Question

Global economic outlook 2020 | Recession or growth?

Investigating ‘Secular Stagnation’

Oct 13, 2016

Summers on U.S. Economy, Inflation and `Secular Stagnation’

Secular Stagnation and the Future of Global Macroeconomic Policy

Lawrence Summers, “Secular Stagnation and Monetary Policy” | 2016 Homer Jones Lecture

Larry Summers at IMF Economic Forum, Nov. 8

Nov 8, 2013

“Too much Maths, too little History: The problem of Economics”

Next economic downturn scares billionaire hedge fund founder Ray Dalio – Davos 2019

Davos 2019 – Rethinking Global Financial Risk

Full interview with billionaire investor Ray Dalio | Managing Asia

Ray Dalio on US China Trade War

Ray Dalio’s hedge fund bets $1 billion that stocks will fall: WSJ

Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio Discusses the Impact of China’s Growth on the World Economy

Billionaire Ray Dalio on success, mediation, the markets and more

Why Ray Dalio Thinks The Stock Crash Of 1937 Matters In 2019/2020

Ray Dalio: Central banks will get so desperate they will give money away

Mar 4, 2016

How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio

Will the Market Crash in 2020? | Phil Town

This July 16, 2019, file photo shows the Capitol Dome in Washington. The U.S. budget deficit through the first three months of this budget year is up 11.8% from the same period a year ago, putting the country on track to record its first $1 trillion deficit in eight years. The Treasury Department said Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, that the deficit from October through December totaled $356.6 billion. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

The U.S. budget deficit through the first three months of this budget year is up 11.8% from the same period a year ago, putting the country on track to record its first $1 trillion deficit in eight years.

In its monthly budget report, the Treasury Department said Monday that the deficit from October through December totaled $356.6 billion, up from $318.9 billion for the same period last year.

Both government spending and revenues set records for the first three months of this budget year but spending rose at a faster clip than tax collections, pushing the deficit total up.

The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the deficit for the current 2020 budget year will hit $1 trillion and will remain over $1 trillion for the next decade. The country has not experienced $1 trillion annual deficits since the period from 2009 through 2012 following the 2008 financial crisis.

The actual deficit for the 2019 budget year, which ended Sept. 30, was $984.4 billion, up 26% from the 2018 imbalance, reflecting the impact of the $1.5 trillion tax cut President Donald Trump pushed through Congress in 2017 and increased spending for military and domestic programs that Trump accepted as part of a budget deal with Democrats.

The projections of trillion-dollar deficits are in contrast to Trump’s campaign promise in 2016 that even with his proposed tax cuts, he would be able to eliminate future deficits with cuts in spending and growth in revenues that would result from a stronger economy.

For the first three months of the 2020 budget year, revenues have totaled $806.5 billion, up 4.8% from the same three months a year ago, while government spending has totaled $948.9 billion, an increase of 6.3% from a year ago.

Both the spending amounts and revenue amounts are records for the first three months of a budget year. The deficit in December totaled $13.3 billion, slightly lower than the $13.5 billion deficit in December 2019.

Secular stagnation: it’s time to admit that Larry Summers was right about this global economic growth trap

No laughing matter. Asia SocietyCC BY-SA

Summers would go on to suggest that secular stagnation “may be the defining macroeconomic challenge of our times”. There followed a major debate between heavyweight economists about whether he was right, but for several years the global economy contradicted him by growing steadily.

Now, however, this looks to be at an end. Look no further than the OECD projections from March 6, which foresee all advanced economies growing much more slowly than anticipated a few months ago. The left-hand chart below shows the OECD projections from last May, while the right-hand chart shows the latest outlook, complete with red arrows to indicate the sharpest downward revisions.


The overarching global theme seems to be Donald Trump’s trade war and the fact that central banks have been tightening monetary policy: the US Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates four times in the past year, while the European Central Bank is no longer “printing” money through its programme of quantitative easing. There are additional local reasons, such as UK fears about a hard Brexit, or excessive levels of private sector debt in China. Underlying all of this, however, is the growing feeling that secular stagnation is a major drag behind the scenes.

Back in fashion

The theory was originally put forward in 1938 by the Harvard economist Alvin Hansen in response to the Great Depression. He argued that America’s economy was suffering from a lack of investment opportunities linked to waning technological innovation; and not enough new workers due to an ageing population, too little immigration, and the closing of the old economic frontier in the American West.

In Hansen’s view, the weak growth in the economy was therefore here to stay – “secular” means “long term” in this context. Yet he would soon be proved spectacularly wrong as World War II provided a big temporary boost to the economy in the form of military spending, followed by a post-war baby boom and rapid technological progress in the 1950s and 1960s. Little more was heard of secular stagnation until Larry Summers’ intervention.

At the core of the theory today is real interest rates. This refers to the long-term interest rate, meaning the rate of return on ten-year government bonds, after inflation has been stripped out. For example, if a country’s long-term interest rate is 1% but the rate of inflation is 2.5%, the real interest rate is -1.5%.

When you take a global average of real interest rates from different countries, my own research shows that the global rate has declined from more than 5% in the early 1980s to below 0% after the financial crisis of 2007-09. Today, real interest rates remain negative in many advanced economies, including Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and the entire eurozone.

Summers has pointed to several structural factors behind this long-term decline. In an echo of what appeared true in 1938, rich countries are ageing as birth rates decline and people live longer. This has pushed down real interest rates because investors think these trends will mean they will make lower returns from investing in future, making them more willing to accept a lower return on government debt as a result.

Other factors that make investors similarly pessimistic include rising global inequality and the slowdown in productivity growth. It is a major paradox that labour productivity, the most important source of long-run economic growth, is actually rising much slower today than for decades, even though technological progress has seemingly accelerated.

This decline in real interest rates matters because economists believe that to overcome an economic downturn, a central bank must drive down the real interest rate to a certain level to encourage more spending and investment. This is referred to as the level required to reach full employment. Because real interest rates are so low, Summers and his supporters believe that the rate required to reach full employment is so far into negative territory that it is effectively impossible.

The remedy

Summers argues that this problem is why the massive cuts to headline interest rates after the financial crisis did not solve the problem. In other words, monetary policy was actually much less expansionary than many people believe (even though quantitative easing was actually helpful here). Not only that, there is now substantial evidence that austerity policies in places like southern Europe made things significantly worse.

The upshot is that in the eurozone and elsewhere, there is little or no room to cut interest rates when the next recession comes – probably fairly soon given the current expansion is already a few years old. Central bankers will meanwhile be wary of using more quantitative easing, since it has generated a lot of political backlash.

‘No stagnation here, mate.’ Markus Mainka

So what to do instead? Interestingly, the one country not to have had a recession in almost 30 years is Australia, which has enjoyed very high population growth and has never seen interest rates as low as many countries. This suggests that in the long run, more immigration might be a vital part of curing secular stagnation. Summers also heavily prescribes increased government spending, arguing that it might actually be more prudent than cutting back – especially if the money is spent on infrastructure, education and research and development.

Of course, governments in Europe and the US are instead trying to shut their doors to migrants. And austerity policies have taken their toll on infrastructure and public research. This looks set to ensure that the next recession will be particularly nasty when it comes. Alvin Hansen may have been wrong in the 1930s but his analysis is looking increasingly persuasive today. Unless governments change course radically, we could be in for a sobering period ahead.

Global debt hits an all-time high of $188 TRILLION – more than DOUBLE the world’s economic output – the IMF warns

  • IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva warned global debt has surged to a all-time high
  • Debt is at $188 trillion – which is around 230 per cent of world’s economic output
  • Kristalina Georgieva said high debt burdens left many governments vulnerable

Global debt has hit an all-time high of $188 trillion, which is more than double the output of the global economy, the IMF warned today.

The global debt load has surged to a new record of around 230 per cent of world’s output, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said.

While private sector borrowing accounts for the vast majority of the total, the rise puts governments and individuals at risk if the economy slows, she said.

‘Global debt – both public and private – has reached an all-time high of $188 trillion.  This amounts to about 230 per cent of world output,’ Georgieva said in a speech to open a two-day conference on debt.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during a news conference last month. She warned debt burdens on governments around the world

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during a news conference last month. She warned debt burdens on governments around the world

That is up from the previous record of $164 trillion in 2016, according to IMF figures.

While interest rates remain low, borrowers can use debt to make investments in productive activities or weather a bout of low commodity prices.

But it can become ‘a drag on growth’, she said.

‘The bottom line is that high debt burdens have left many governments, companies, and households vulnerable to a sudden tightening of financial conditions,’ she cautioned.

Corporate debt accounts for about two thirds of the total but government borrowing has risen as well in the wake of the global financial crisis.

‘Public debt in advanced economies is at levels not seen since the Second World War,’ she warned. And ’emerging market public debt is at levels last seen during the 1980s debt crisis.’

She called for steps to ensure ‘borrowing is more sustainable,’ including making lending practices more transparent and preparing for debt restructuring with ‘non-traditional lenders’ – an apparent reference to China, which has become a major creditor to developing nations including in Africa.


Secular stagnation

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In economics, secular stagnation is a condition when there is negligible or no economic growth in a market-based economy.[1] In this context, the term secular means long-term (from Latin “saeculum“—century or lifetime), and is used in contrast to cyclical or short-term. It suggests a change of fundamental dynamics which would play out only in its own time. The concept was originally put forth by Alvin Hansen in 1938. According to The Economist, it was used to “describe what he feared was the fate of the American economy following the Great Depression of the early 1930s: a check to economic progress as investment opportunities were stunted by the closing of the frontier and the collapse of immigration”.[2][3] Warnings of impending secular stagnation have been issued after all deep recessions since the Great Depression, but the hypothesis has remained controversial.[4][5]


Sectoral balances in U.S. economy 1990-2017. By definition, the three balances must net to zero. The green line indicates a private sector surplus, where savings exceeds investment. Since 2008, the foreign sector surplus and private sector surplus have been offset by a government budget deficit.[6]

The term secular stagnation refers to a market economy with a chronic (secular or long-term) lack of demand. Historically, a booming economy with low unemployment and high GDP growth (i.e., an economy at or above capacity) would generate inflation in wages and products. However, an economy facing secular stagnation behaves as if it is operating below capacity, even when the economy appears to be booming; inflation does not appear. Savings by households exceeds investment by businesses, which in a healthy economy would cause interest rates to fall, stimulating spending and investment thereby bringing the two into balance. However, an economy facing secular stagnation may require an interest rate below zero to bring savings and investment into balance. The surplus of savings over investment may be generating price appreciation in financial assets or real estate. For example, the U.S. had low unemployment but low inflation in the years leading up to the Great Recession, although a massive housing bubble developed.[7]

The idea of secular stagnation dates back to the Great Depression, when some economists feared that the United States had permanently entered a period of low growth.[8] The Economist explained in 2018 that many factors may contribute to secular stagnation, by either driving up savings or reducing investment. Households paying down debt (i.e., deleveraging) increase savings and are spending less; businesses react to the lack of demand by investing less. This was a major factor in the slow U.S. GDP growth during 2009-2012 following the Great Recession. Another possible cause is income inequality, which shifts more money to the wealthy, who tend to save it rather than spend it, thus increasing savings and perhaps driving up financial asset prices. Aging populations (which spend less per capita) and a slowdown in productivity may also reduce investment. Governments facing secular stagnation may choose to: a) accept slower growth; b) accept an asset bubble to temporarily stimulate the economy; or c) absorb the savings surplus through higher budget deficits, which reduces national savings but increases the risk of financial crises. Central banks face a difficult dilemma; do they raise interest rates to ward off inflation (e.g., implement monetary policy austerity) assuming the economy is in a cyclical boom, or assume the economy (even if temporarily booming) is in secular stagnation and therefore take a more stimulative approach?[7]

Stagnation and the financial explosion: the 1980s

An analysis of stagnation and what is now called financialization was provided in the 1980s by Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy, coeditors of the independent socialist journal Monthly Review. Magdoff was a former economic advisor to Vice President Henry A. Wallace in Roosevelt’s New Deal administration, while Sweezy was a former Harvard economics professor. In their 1987 book, Stagnation and the Financial Explosion, they argued, based on Keynes, Hansen, Michał Kalecki, and Marx, and marshaling extensive empirical data,[citation needed] that, contrary to the usual way of thinking, stagnation or slow growth was the norm for mature, monopolistic (or oligopolistic) economies, while rapid growth was the exception.[9]

Private accumulation had a strong tendency to weak growth and high levels of excess capacity and unemployment/underemployment, which could, however, be countered in part by such exogenous factors as state spending (military and civilian), epoch-making technological innovations (for example, the automobile in its expansionary period), and the growth of finance.[10] In the 1980s and 1990s Magdoff and Sweezy argued that a financial explosion of long duration was lifting the economy, but this would eventually compound the contradictions of the system, producing ever bigger speculative bubbles, and leading eventually to a resumption of overt stagnation.


Economists have asked whether the low economic growth rate in the developed world leading up to and following the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007-2008 was due to secular stagnation. Paul Krugman wrote in September 2013: “[T]here is a case for believing that the problem of maintaining adequate aggregate demand is going to be very persistent – that we may face something like the ‘secular stagnation’ many economists feared after World War II.” Krugman wrote that fiscal policy stimulus and higher inflation (to achieve a negative real rate of interest necessary to achieve full employment) may be potential solutions.[11]

Larry Summers presented his view during November 2013 that secular (long-term) stagnation may be a reason that U.S. growth is insufficient to reach full employment: “Suppose then that the short term real interest rate that was consistent with full employment [i.e., the “natural rate”] had fallen to negative two or negative three percent. Even with artificial stimulus to demand you wouldn’t see any excess demand. Even with a resumption in normal credit conditions you would have a lot of difficulty getting back to full employment.”[12][13]

Robert J. Gordon wrote in August 2012: “Even if innovation were to continue into the future at the rate of the two decades before 2007, the U.S. faces six headwinds that are in the process of dragging long-term growth to half or less of the 1.9 percent annual rate experienced between 1860 and 2007. These include demography, education, inequality, globalization, energy/environment, and the overhang of consumer and government debt. A provocative ‘exercise in subtraction’ suggests that future growth in consumption per capita for the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution could fall below 0.5 percent per year for an extended period of decades”.[14]


This chart compares U.S. potential GDP under two CBO forecasts (one from 2007 and one from 2016) versus the actual real GDP. It is based on a similar diagram from economist Larry Summers from 2014.[15]

Secular stagnation was dusted off by Hans-Werner Sinn in a 2009 article [16] dismissing the threat of inflation, and became popular again when Larry Summers invoked the term and concept during a 2013 speech at the IMF.[17]

However, The Economist criticizes secular stagnation as “a baggy concept, arguably too capacious for its own good”.[2] Warnings of impending secular stagnation have been issued after all deep recessions, but turned out to be wrong because they underestimated the potential of existing technologies.[4]

Paul Krugman, writing in 2014, clarified that it refers to “the claim that underlying changes in the economy, such as slowing growth in the working-age population, have made episodes like the past five years in Europe and the United States, and the last 20 years in Japan, likely to happen often. That is, we will often find ourselves facing persistent shortfalls of demand, which can’t be overcome even with near-zero interest rates.”[18] At its root is “the problem of building consumer demand at a time when people are less motivated to spend”.[19]

One theory is that the boost in growth by the internet and technological advancement in computers of the new economy does not measure up to the boost caused by the great inventions of the past. An example of such a great invention is the assembly line production method of Fordism. The general form of the argument has been the subject of papers by Robert J. Gordon.[20] It has also been written about by Owen. C. Paepke and Tyler Cowen.[21]

Secular stagnation has also been linked to the rise of the digital economy. Carl Benedikt Frey, for example, has suggested that digital technologies are much less capital-absorbing, creating only little new investment demand relative to other revolutionary technologies.[22]

Another is that the damage done by the Great Recession was so long-lasting and permanent, so many workers will never get jobs again, that we really can’t recover.[19]

A third is that there is a “persistent and disturbing reluctance of businesses to invest and consumers to spend”, perhaps in part because so much of the recent gains have gone to the people at the top, and they tend to save more of their money than people—ordinary working people who can’t afford to do that.[19]

A fourth is that advanced economies are just simply paying the price for years of inadequate investment in infrastructure and education, the basic ingredients of growth.

A fifth is related to decreased mortality and increased longevity, thus changes in the demographic structure in advanced economies, affecting both demand, through increased savings, and supply, through reduced innovation activities.[23]

And a sixth is that economic growth is largely related to the concept of energy returned on energy invested (EROEI), or energy surplus, which with the discovery of fossil fuels shot up to very high and historically unprecedented levels. This allowed, and in effect fueled, dramatic increases in human consumption since the Industrial Revolution and many related technological advances. Under this argument, diminishing and increasingly difficult to access fossil fuel reserves directly lead to significantly reduced EROEI, and therefore put a brake on, and potentially reverse, long-term economic growth, leading to secular stagnation.[24] Linked to the EROEI argument are those stemming from the Limits to Growth school of thinking, whereby environmental and resource constraints in general are likely to impose an eventual limit on the continued expansion of human consumption and incomes. While ‘limits to growth’ thinking went out of fashion in the decades following the initial publication in 1972, a recent study[25] shows human development continues to align well with the ‘overshoot and collapse’ projection outlined in the standard run of the original analysis, and this is before factoring in the potential effects of climate change.

A 2018 CUSP working paper by Tim Jackson, The Post-Growth Challenge,[26] argues that low growth rates might in fact be ‘the new normal’.[27]

See also


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Stephen Walt: Can the U.S. Still Have a Successful Foreign Policy?


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Oct 21, 2019

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The rise and fall of the liberal international order

John Mearsheimer – The Future of NATO in the Age of Trump | ROEC

Nov 4, 2018

John Mearsheimer: We are Moving to a Multipolar World with Three Great Powers

John J. Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of Liberal Hegemony”

John J. Mearsheimer, “The Roots of Liberal Hegemony”

Why are Iran and Saudi Arabia enemies?

Trump’s Iran Policy Is Brain-Dead

Lacking coherent objectives and a strategy for achieving them, moves like the assassination of Qassem Suleimani are foreign policy as theater—and could leave the United States worse off.

A man holds a picture of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani during a demonstration in Tehran on Jan. 3.

A man holds a picture of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani during a demonstration in Tehran on Jan. 3. ATTA KENARE/ AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

Well, that didn’t take long. 2020 is less than a week old, and U.S. President Donald Trump has managed to stumble into another pointless and dangerous crisis with Iran. It is the near-inevitable result of his myopic approach to the entire Middle East (and especially Iran) and another demonstration of Washington’s inability to formulate a coherent and effective policy toward any important global issue.

When did this country get so bad at strategy?

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In fairness, the problem predates Trump, although his own incompetence, impulsiveness, indifference to advice, and uncanny ability to pick third-rate advisors has made the problem worse. The end result may be more innocent lives lost—some of them American—and a further erosion in the United States’ global position. And that’s assuming that Trump’s ordering of the killing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Suleimani doesn’t lead to all-out war.

With respect to Iran, the assassination is a strategic error entirely of Trump’s own making. Egged on by Saudi Arabia, Israel, hawkish institutes like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and some of his wealthy backers, the president abandoned the multilateral agreement that had successfully capped Iran’s nuclear program and also created a diplomatic opening that a savvier administration could have used to address Iran’s regional activities. He then began his campaign of so-called maximum pressure—a comprehensive program of economic warfare against Iran that sought to eliminate the country’s enrichment capacity, force Iran to change its foreign policy to suit the United States, and maybe topple the regime itself. Ordinary Iranians are suffering mightily as a result of U.S. sanctions, but the regime has neither caved to Trump’s demands nor collapsed. Instead, it has moved gradually to restart its nuclear program, cultivated closer ties with Russia and China, and retaliated against U.S. allies in the region. The logic of Tehran’s response is straightforward and utterly predictable: If the United States wants to make life difficult for Iran, its leaders will demonstrate that they can make life difficult for the United States too. It wouldn’t take more than a shred of strategic thinking to anticipate Iran’s response and recognize that unilateral pressure was not going to work.

By eschewing diplomacy and relying solely on threats and coercion, Trump gave himself no choice but to back down or escalate once it became clear that maximum pressure had backfired. When an Iraqi militia with ties to Iran staged a rocket attack in early December 2019 that killed a U.S. contractor, Trump responded with airstrikes against the militia camps that killed some two dozen Iraqis. Pro-Iranian Iraqi demonstrators proceeded to besiege the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, although with no loss of life. The demonstrators eventually dispersed, and the situation seemed to be deescalating. But then Trump approved the assassination of Suleimani, a very senior and highly respected Iranian official, in Baghdad early Friday morning.

To understand how this chain of events might look from Iran’s perspective, consider how the United States might respond if a foreign adversary killed a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of the CIA, or maybe even the vice president. Washington would not just shrug it off. To say this is not to defend Suleimani, who was by all accounts an ardent foe of the United States. It is rather to ask the proper strategic question: Did assassinating a prominent official of a foreign government advance the country’s national interest? Will this act make Americans safer and richer, or increase their influence around the world? The answer is: no and no.

For starters, Iran will almost inevitably respond, just as the United States would were the situation reversed. The regime will do so at a time and with means of its own choosing, and in ways designed to maximize the pain and political impact. Second, the assassination is going to inflame Iranian nationalism and strengthen hard-line forces in Iran, further reducing any possibility of regime change there. Third, killing Suleimani on Iraqi soil is a violation of Iraqi sovereignty that put its fragile government on even shakier ground, and it is worth noting that caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has already condemned the U.S. action. Fourth, Trump has now given Iran even more incentive to acquire nuclear weapons, a step that would force Washington to go to all-out war or back down and accept an Iranian bomb. All this over a country that has serious disputes with some of the United States’ regional partners but does not threaten the security or prosperity of the United States itself in any meaningful way.

And finally, there’s the precedent the United States is setting. As the political scientist Ward Thomas explained in a seminal article in 2000, there has long been a powerful international norm against assassinations by governments, largely because the leaders of powerful states understand that it is in their mutual self-interest not to try to kill each other. The taboo didn’t completely eliminate the use of this tactic, of course, and Thomas argues that the norm has begun to break down in recent decades. But do we really want to live in a world where assassination is regarded as a perfectly normal way of doing business and becomes more and more commonplace? Surely hawkish American politicians who think killing Suleimani was acceptable don’t really want to run the risk of ending up on somebody else’s target list. And to be sure, if Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the killing of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, or if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un decided to redouble his grandfather’s efforts to murder politicians in South Korea, it would be far harder for the United States to object.

Moreover, although taking out bad guys may appeal to a crude desire for vengeance, it rarely solves the underlying political problem. A lot of bad leaders have departed this mortal coil in recent decades, yet the political challenges they embodied continue to bedevil us. Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the Taliban’s Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and many other U.S. foes are gone, but their deaths didn’t magically solve the foreign-policy problems with which they were associated. Indeed, there is some evidence that “decapitation” (that is, killing top leaders) tends to empower extremists and incline them toward even greater violence.

In short, the Trump administration’s approach to Iran—including this most recent incident—appears devoid of strategic logic or purpose. Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and the rest of the administration’s foreign-policy team are like chess players who have failed to consider more than one move at a time and thus miss what should be an obvious fact of life in international politics: The other player gets to move their pieces too. Their denunciations, reinforcements, sanctions, and drone strikes are foreign policy as performance art, instead of the tough-minded and careful realpolitik that should inform a great nation’s approach to the world.iran

Now for the really bad news: The lack of strategic thinking—formulating a clear objective and developing a coherent plan to achieve it that anticipates how others are likely to respond—isn’t limited to the United States’ dealings with Iran. And it goes well beyond the Trump administration, besides. Indeed, I’d argue that the country’s ability to formulate clear and effective strategies has been steadily eroding for some time. In my next column, I’ll offer some additional illustrations of the problem and explain why genuine strategic thinking is now an endangered species in the Land of the Free.

Trump’s Iran Policy Is Brain-Dead

Has Trump Become a Realist?

America finally has a president who grasps the basic logic of offshore balancing in the Middle East.

Donald Trump attends a roundtable discon April 16, 2018 in Hialeah, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Donald Trump attends a roundtable discon April 16, 2018 in Hialeah, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

There’s reason to think Donald Trump is becoming a closet realist or even — dare I say it? — an offshore balancer.

Admittedly, it’s hard to credit him with having a coherent strategy of any kind, given the recurring contradictions in what he says and his penchant for reversing course without warning or explanation. But in the Middle East, at least, one could argue that Trump is trying — in his own ill-informed, impulsive, and erratic way — to return to the strategy of offshore balancing that the United States pursued more or less successfully in this region from 1945 to 1992.

To review: After World War II, U.S. leaders recognized that the Middle East was of increasing strategic importance. Oil and natural gas were fueling the world economy, and the Middle East contained enormous and readily accessible reserves. Accordingly, preventing any single power from dominating the region and gaining effective control of these critical resources became a central U.S. objective. But the United States didn’t try to protect Middle East oil by colonizing the region or garrisoning it with its own troops. Instead, it relied on Great Britain (until the late 1960s) and a variety of local clients to maintain a regional balance of power and prevent the Soviet Union from acquiring excessive influence.

When the United States did intervene with military force — as it did in Lebanon in 1958 — it kept its presence small and didn’t stay long. Concerns about a potential Soviet grab for the Gulf led the United States to create a new Rapid Deployment Force after the 1979 Iranian revolution, but Washington kept it offshore and over the horizon and didn’t bring it into the region until Iraq seized Kuwait in 1990. Because that invasion posed a serious threat to the regional balance of power, it made good sense for the United States (and many others) to intervene to expel Iraq and demolish much of its military machine.

The United States abandoned this sensible strategy after the first Gulf War, however, opting first for dual containment and then regional transformation. The first approach helped produce 9/11; the second brought us the debacle in Iraq and played no small role in the emergence of the Islamic State and the wider chaos we see there today. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Trump was critical of past U.S. involvement and promised to act differently as president.

In that light, consider what Trump has done since he took office.

First, as his recent actions in Syria remind us, he has shown no enthusiasm whatsoever for an expanded U.S. role in that conflict and especially not if it might involve a major U.S. ground force presence. Remember that a couple of weeks ago he was talking about getting out entirely, to the horror of nearly everyone in the foreign-policy mainstream. Like his predecessors, he’s willing to order missile strikes on thugs such as Bashar al-Assad — earning the usual cheers from liberal interventionists who never saw a military action they couldn’t find some rationale for supporting — but he’s not going to do more than that, and there’s no sign of a U.S.-led diplomatic initiative (such as the one Aaron Stein has proposed) that might actually move that brutal conflict closer to a solution. Blowing things up from a safe distance is all Trump seems willing to contemplate, even when it won’t affect the situation in Syria in the slightest.

The rest of Trump’s approach to the Middle East has been to let America’s local clients — Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Syrian Kurdish militias, etc. — do more to counter various regional opponents (Iran, Syria, and increasingly Russia), as well as nonstate troublemakers, including al Qaeda and offshoots such as the Islamic State. Hezbollah and Hamas fall under that bad guy umbrella, too. To aid these efforts, the United States will sell or give its allies lots of sophisticated weapons (which helps reduce the trade deficit) and provide them with diplomatic cover at the United Nations. Washington will also turn a blind eye to whatever foolish cruelties its regional partners decide to inflict on mostly helpless victims and forget about trying to promote democracy, human rights, regional transformation, or any of that idealistic sob stuff.

Isn’t this more restrained approach what I (and other realists) have been recommending for years, to little avail? The United States stays out of the region and lets the locals duke it out so long as none of them comes close to winning it all. Over time, it can worry less and less about the entire Middle East as the world weans itself off fossil fuels (and the country’s own shale gas production provides whatever residual it needs). In the meantime, the United States can focus its attention on regions that matter more, such as East and Southeast Asia. Shouldn’t I be cheering (and claiming credit) for Trump’s handling of these issues?

Not quite.

There’s no question that Trump is appropriately wary of what he sees as open-ended military quagmires, and that’s a step in the right direction after the follies of the past 25 years. But that wariness hardly makes him unique at this point. No sensible leader starts a war if he or she knows in advance that it will be an open-ended and costly affair, and for the United States, the more demanding challenge is getting out of the endless wars of choice it has stumbled into by mistake. And here Trump has visibly failed.

Tweeted misgivings and sometimes sensible rhetoric aside, the cold, hard truth is that Trump has done next to nothing to reduce the U.S. footprint in the greater Middle East. In addition to sending more troops to the unwinnable Afghan war, he has authorized the Defense Department to ramp up U.S. counterterrorism activities in several places and sent more troops to do the job. By one estimate, the U.S. military presence in the region has increased by about 33 percent on Trump’s watch, to a total of roughly 54,000 troops and civilian support personnel.

To be clear, that’s not exactly what people like me mean by “offshore.”

Second, the central goal of offshore balancing is to prevent any hostile power from dominating a critical strategic region and, if possible, to get others to bear most of the burden of that effort. Well, as Trump (or George W. Bush) might say: “Mission accomplished.” Preserving a balance of power in the region is easier today than it has ever been because the Middle East is already as divided as it has ever been and there’s no outside power (like the old Soviet Union) that might aspire to such a goal. (Russia’s role in Syria is limited to keeping Assad in power — full stop — and that’s a very modest objective.) The idea that any single power is going to dominate or control the entire region is presently remote and likely to remain so for decades. The United States couldn’t do it when it was the uncontested unipolar power, and China, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, or Iran wouldn’t be able to do it if they tried.

Yet Trump’s headlong support for America’s present clients rests on the assumption that the regional balance of power is actually quite delicate. Poorly informed and easily bamboozled, he has swallowed the Saudi/Israeli/Emirati view that Iran is a rapacious potential hegemon that is on the brink of establishing a new Persian Empire. In Trump’s mind, therefore, the United States has little choice but to give its local allies uncritical and unconditional support. (One suspects the equally gullible Jared Kushner had a role in this feverish vision, too.) At the same time, Trump inexplicably thinks walking away from the nuclear deal with Iran will make containing the country easier because he fails to grasp that sabotaging the deal will make it more likely that Iran ends up a nuclear weapons state like North Korea. The United States could launch a preventive war, but that possibility has quagmire written all over it and is hardly what offshore balancers would recommend. America’s local clients may be delighted if it took this fateful step (and if it worked, of course), but that would only prove that Washington’s allies were better at passing the buck to it than it was at passing the buck back to them.

Needless to say, Trump’s uncritical embrace of U.S. allies’ self-interested worldview is at odds with the sober realism that offshore balancers recommend. And as I’ve already explained in an earlier column, paranoia about Iran is badly at odds with reality and just gets in the way of a more sensible Middle East strategy.

Furthermore, giving present allies unconditional support while ostracizing Iran reduces America’s leverage over everyone’s behavior and thus limits its ability to shape events in positive ways. It encourages allies to take U.S. support for granted — and why shouldn’t they, given the fawning adoration on display for leaders such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — and gives them little incentive to do what they can to stay in America’s good graces.

Even worse, such an uncritical stance encourages what Barry Posen, a security studies expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calls “reckless driving,” meaning the tendency for allies to take unnecessary risks and pursue foolhardy policies because they believe their powerful patron will bail them out if they get into difficulties. That overconfidence explains why the Israeli government thinks building settlements poses no risks and helps us understand why Mohammed bin Salman is waging a costly and inhumane war in Yemen, trying (and failing) to ostracize Qatar, and interfering in Lebanon and Syria to no good purpose. It is partly because he is headstrong and impulsive but also because he’s confident that America has his back now no matter how badly his initiatives fare.

If the United States were truly acting like an offshore balancer (i.e., the way Great Britain did in its great-power heyday), it would have diplomatic relations and businesslike dealings with all countries in the Middle East, not just the ones that have successfully convinced it to back their agendas and ignore its own interests. Offshore balancers want U.S. diplomats talking to everyone pretty much all of the time and to drive a hard bargain with friends and foes alike. That’s the luxury America’s providential position in the Western Hemisphere affords it, and you’d think a selfish guy like Trump would understand it easily. The United States should have regular dealings with its adversaries not because it likes them or agrees with them but because that is the best way to advance U.S. interests. Frequent interactions with both friends and (current) foes give Washington the opportunity to explain how it sees things, make it easier for it to understand what others are thinking, and facilitate devising strategies that will get them to give the United States most of what it wants.

Lastly, talking to everyone reminds enemies that they might become friends if they play their cards right and reminds current friends that they aren’t the only game in town and that they shouldn’t take American support for granted. When U.S. officials meet with their counterparts in in Riyadh or Tel Aviv or Cairo, I want everyone in the room to know that some other U.S. officials are busy discussing regional affairs in Tehran and Moscow, too. And vice versa, of course. That’s how other great powers do it: Why shouldn’t the United States?

To sum up: Trump has a ways to go before he can be considered a true offshore balancer. He seems to grasp part of the logic — it’s better to let others contend than to do the heavy lifting yourself — but he lacks the knowledge, skill, and subtlety to make a sophisticated strategy like this work. I’m not expecting him to improve either, because he may not have that much time left. And even if he does, learning on the job just doesn’t seem to be in his skill set.

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

United States non-interventionism

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Non-interventionism is the diplomatic policy whereby a nation seeks to avoid alliances with other nations in order to avoid being drawn into wars not related to direct territorial self-defense, has had a long history among government and popular opinion in the United States. At times, the degree and nature of this policy was better known as isolationism, such as the period between the world wars.



Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Whig Prime Minister, proclaimed in 1723: “My politics are to keep free from all engagements as long as we possibly can.” He emphasized economic advantage and rejected the idea of intervening in European affairs to maintain a balance of power.[1] Walpole’s position was known to Americans. However, during the American Revolution, the Second Continental Congress debated about forming an alliance with France. It rejected non-interventionism when it was apparent that the American Revolutionary War could be won in no other manner than a military alliance with France, which Benjamin Franklin successfully negotiated in 1778.[2]

After Britain and France went to war in 1792, George Washington declared neutrality, with unanimous support of his cabinet, after deciding that the treaty with France of 1778 did not apply.[3] Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796 explicitly announced the policy of American non-interventionism:

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.[4]

No entangling alliances (19th century)

President Thomas Jefferson extended Washington’s ideas about foreign policy in his March 4, 1801 inaugural address. Jefferson said that one of the “essential principles of our government” is that of “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”[5] He also stated that “Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be” the motto of the United States.[6]

In 1823, President James Monroe articulated what would come to be known as the Monroe Doctrine, which some have interpreted as non-interventionist in intent: “In the wars of the European powers, in matters relating to themselves, we have never taken part, nor does it comport with our policy, so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded, or seriously menaced that we resent injuries, or make preparations for our defense.” It was applied to Hawaii in 1842 in support of eventual annexation there, and to support U.S. expansion on the North American continent.

After Tsar Alexander II put down the 1863 January Uprising in Poland, French Emperor Napoleon III asked the United States to “join in a protest to the Tsar.”[7] Secretary of State William H. Seward declined, “defending ‘our policy of non-intervention—straight, absolute, and peculiar as it may seem to other nations,'” and insisted that “[t]he American people must be content to recommend the cause of human progress by the wisdom with which they should exercise the powers of self-government, forbearing at all times, and in every way, from foreign alliances, intervention, and interference.”[7]

President Ulysses S. Grant attempted to Annex the Dominican Republic in 1870, but failed to get the support of the Radical Republicans in the Senate.[8] The United States’ policy of non-intervention was wholly abandoned with the Spanish–American War, followed by the Philippine–American War from 1899–1902.

20th century non-interventionism

Wake Up, America! Civilization Calls, poster by James Montgomery Flagg, 1917

Theodore Roosevelt‘s administration is credited with inciting the Panamanian Revolt against Colombia in order to secure construction rights for the Panama Canal (begun in 1904).

The President of the United States Woodrow Wilson, after winning reelection with the slogan “He kept us out of war,” was able to navigate neutrality in World War I for about three years. Early on, their historic shunning of foreign entanglements, and the presence in the US of immigrants with divided loyalties in the conflict helped maintain neutrality. Various causes compelled American entry into World War I, and Congress would vote to declare war on Germany;[9] this would involve the nation on the side of the Triple Entente, but only as an “associated power” fighting the same enemy, not one officially allied with them.[10] A few months after the declaration of War, Wilson gave a speech to congress outlining his aims to end the conflict, labeled the Fourteen Points. While this American proclamation was less triumphalist than the aims of some of its allies, it did propose in the final point, that a general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike. After the war, Wilson traveled to Europe and stayed for months to labor on the post-war treaty; no president had previously enjoined such sojourn outside of the country. In that Treaty of Versailles, Wilson’s association was formulated as the League of Nations.

Protest march to prevent American involvement in World War II before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Isolationism Between the World Wars

In the wake of the First World War, the non-interventionist tendencies gained ascendancy. The Treaty of Versailles, and thus, United States’ participation in the League of Nations, even with reservations, was rejected by the Senate in the final months of Wilson’s presidency. Republican Senate leader Henry Cabot Lodge supported the Treaty with reservations to be sure Congress had final authority on sending the U.S. into war. Wilson and his Democratic supporters rejected the Lodge Reservations,

The strongest opposition to American entry into the League of Nations came from the Senate where a tight-knit faction known as the Irreconcilables, led by William Borah and George Norris, had great objections regarding the clauses of the treaty which compelled America to come to the defense of other nations. Senator William Borah, of Idaho, declared that it would “purchase peace at the cost of any part of our [American] independence.”[11] Senator Hiram Johnson, of California, denounced the League of Nations as a “gigantic war trust.”[12] While some of the sentiment was grounded in adherence to Constitutional principles, most of the sentiment bore a reassertion of nativist and inward-looking policy.[13]

The United States acted independently to become a major player in the 1920s in international negotiations and treaties. The Harding Administration achieved naval disarmament among the major powers through the Washington Naval Conference in 1921-22. The Dawes Plan refinanced war debts and helped restore prosperity to Germany, In August 1928, fifteen nations signed the Kellogg–Briand Pact, brainchild of American Secretary of State Frank Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand.[14] This pact that was said to have outlawed war and showed the United States commitment to international peace had its semantic flaws.[15] For example, it did not hold the United States to the conditions of any existing treaties, it still allowed European nations the right to self-defense, and it stated that if one nation broke the Pact, it would be up to the other signatories to enforce it.[16] The Kellogg–Briand Pact was more of a sign of good intentions on the part of the US, rather than a legitimate step towards the sustenance of world peace.

The economic depression that ensued after the Crash of 1929, also continued to abet non-intervention. The attention of the country focused mostly on addressing the problems of the national economy. The rise of aggressive expansionism policies by Fascist Italy and the Empire of Japan led to conflicts such as the Italian conquest of Ethiopia and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. These events led to ineffectual condemnations by the League of Nations. Official American response was muted. America also did not take sides in the brutal Spanish Civil War.

Non-interventionism before entering World War II

As Europe moved closer to war in the late 1930s, the United States Congress continued to demand American neutrality. Between 1936 and 1937, much to the dismay of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Congress passed the Neutrality Acts. For example, in the final Neutrality Act, Americans could not sail on ships flying the flag of a belligerent nation or trade arms with warring nations. Such activities had played a role in American entrance into World War I.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded PolandBritain and France subsequently declared war on Germany, marking the start of World War II. In an address to the American People two days later, President Roosevelt assured the nation that he would do all he could to keep them out of war.[17] However, his words showed his true goals. “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger,” Roosevelt said.[17] Even though he was intent on neutrality as the official policy of the United States, he still echoed the dangers of staying out of this war. He also cautioned the American people to not let their wish to avoid war at all costs supersede the security of the nation.[17]

The war in Europe split the American people into two camps: non-interventionists and interventionists. The two sides argued over America’s involvement in this World War II. The basic principle of the interventionist argument was fear of German invasion. By the summer of 1940, France suffered a stunning defeat by Germans, and Britain was the only democratic enemy of Germany.[18][19] In a 1940 speech, Roosevelt argued, “Some, indeed, still hold to the now somewhat obvious delusion that we … can safely permit the United States to become a lone island … in a world dominated by the philosophy of force.”[20] A national survey found that in the summer of 1940, 67% of Americans believed that a German-Italian victory would endanger the United States, that if such an event occurred 88% supported “arm[ing] to the teeth at any expense to be prepared for any trouble”, and that 71% favored “the immediate adoption of compulsory military training for all young men”.[21]

Ultimately, the ideological rift between the ideals of the United States and the goals of the fascist powers empowered the interventionist argument. Writer Archibald MacLeish asked, “How could we sit back as spectators of a war against ourselves?”[22] In an address to the American people on December 29, 1940, President Roosevelt said, “the Axis not merely admits but proclaims that there can be no ultimate peace between their philosophy of government and our philosophy of government.”[23]

However, there were still many who held on to non-interventionism. Although a minority, they were well organized, and had a powerful presence in Congress.[24] Pro-German or anti-British opinion contributed to non-interventionism. Roosevelt’s national share of the 1940 presidential vote declined by seven percentage points from 1936. Of the 20 counties in which his share declined by 35 points or more, 19 were largely German-speaking. Of the 35 counties in which his share declined by 25 to 34 points, German was the largest or second-largest original nationality in 31.[25] Non-interventionists rooted a significant portion of their arguments in historical precedent, citing events such as Washington’s farewell address and the failure of World War I.[26] “If we have strong defenses and understand and believe in what we are defending, we need fear nobody in this world,” Robert Maynard Hutchins, President of the University of Chicago, wrote in a 1940 essay.[27] Isolationists believed that the safety of the nation was more important than any foreign war.[28]

As 1940 became 1941, the actions of the Roosevelt administration made it more and more clear that the United States was on a course to war. This policy shift, driven by the President, came in two phases. The first came in 1939 with the passage of the Fourth Neutrality Act, which permitted the United States to trade arms with belligerent nations, as long as these nations came to America to retrieve the arms, and pay for them in cash.[24] This policy was quickly dubbed, ‘Cash and Carry.’[29] The second phase was the Lend-Lease Act of early 1941. This act allowed the President “to lend, lease, sell, or barter arms, ammunition, food, or any ‘defense article’ or any ‘defense information’ to ‘the government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.'”[30] American public opinion supported Roosevelt’s actions. As United States involvement in the Battle of the Atlantic grew with incidents such as the sinking of the USS Reuben James(DD-245), by late 1941 72% of Americans agreed that “the biggest job facing this country today is to help defeat the Nazi Government”, and 70% thought that defeating Germany was more important than staying out of the war.[31]

After the attack on Pearl Harbor caused America to enter the war in December 1941, isolationists such as Charles Lindbergh‘s America First Committee and Herbert Hoover announced their support of the war effort.[32] Isolationist families’ sons fought in the war as much as others.[25]

Non-interventionism after World War II

Ohio Senator Robert A Taft was a leading opponent of interventionism after 1945, although it always played a secondary role to his deep interest in domestic affairs. Historian George Fujii, citing the Taft papers, argues:

Taft fought a mostly losing battle to reduce government expenditures and to curtail or prevent foreign aid measures such as the British loan of 1945 and the Marshall Plan. He feared that these measures would “destroy the freedom of the individual, freedom of States and local communities, freedom of the farmer to run his own farm and the workman to do his own job” (p. 375), thereby threatening the foundations of American prosperity and leading to a “totalitarian state” (p. 377).[33]

In 1951, in the midst of bitter partisan debate over the Korean War, Taft increasingly spoke out on foreign policy issues. According to his biographer James T. Patterson:

Two basic beliefs continued to form a fairly consistent core of Taft’s thinking on foreign policy. First, he insisted on limiting America’s overseas commitments. [Taft said] “Nobody today can be an isolationist…. The only question is the degree to which we shall take action throughout the entire world.” America had obligations that it had to honor – such as NATO – and it could not turn a blind eye to such countries as Formosa or Israel. But the United States had limited funds and problems at home and must therefore curb its commitments….This fear of overcommitment was rooted in Taft’s even deeper faith in liberty, which made him shrink from a foreign policy that would cost large sums of money, increase the power of the military, and transform American society into what he called a garrison state.[34]

Norman A. Graebner argues:

Differences over collective security in the G.O.P. were real in 1952, but Taft tried during his pre-convention campaign to moderate his image as a “go-it-aloner” in foreign policy. His whole effort proved unsuccessful, largely because by spring the internationalist camp had a formidable candidate of its own in Dwight D. Eisenhower. As the personification of post-1945 American commitment to collective security, particularly in Europe, General Eisenhower had decided to run because he feared, apparently, that Taft’s election would lead to repudiation of the whole collective security effort, including NATO.[35]

Eisenhower won the nomination and secured Taft’s support by promising Taft a dominant voice in domestic policies, while Eisenhower’s internationalism would set the foreign-policy agenda.[36] Graebner argues that Eisenhower succeeded in moving the conservative Republicans away from their traditional attacks on foreign aid and reciprocal trade policies, and collective security arrangements, to support for those policies.[37] By 1964 the Republican conservatives rallied behind Barry Goldwater who was an aggressive advocate of an anti-communist internationalist foreign policy. Goldwater wanted to roll back Communism and win the Cold War, asking “Why Not Victory?”[38]

Non-interventionism in the 21st century

During the presidency of Barack Obama, some members of the United States federal government, including President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, considered intervening militarily in the Syrian Civil War.[39][40] A poll from late April 2013 found that 62% of Americans thought that the “United States has no responsibility to do something about the fighting in Syria between government forces and antigovernment groups,” with only twenty-five percent disagreeing with that statement.[41] A writer for The New York Times referred to this as “an isolationist streak,” a characterization international relations scholar Stephen Walt strongly objected to, calling the description “sloppy journalism.”[41][42] According to Walt, “the overwhelming majority of people who have doubts about the wisdom of deeper involvement in Syria—including yours truly—are not ‘isolationist.’ They are merely sensible people who recognize that we may not have vital interests there, that deeper involvement may not lead to a better outcome and could make things worse, and who believe that the last thing the United States needs to do is to get dragged into yet another nasty sectarian fight in the Arab/Islamic world.”[42]

In December 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that their newest poll, “American’s Place in the World 2013,” had revealed that 52 percent of respondents in the national poll said that the United States “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.”[43] This was the most people to answer that question this way in the history of the question, one which pollsters began asking in 1964.[44] Only about a third of respondents felt this way a decade ago.[44]

A July 2014 poll of “battleground voters” across the United States found “77 percent in favor of full withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2016; only 15 percent and 17 percent interested in more involvement in Syria and Ukraine, respectively; and 67 percent agreeing with the statement that, ‘U.S. military actions should be limited to direct threats to our national security.'”[45]

Conservative policies

Rathbun (2008) compares three separate themes in conservative policies since the 1980s: conservatismneoconservatism, and isolationism. These approaches are similar in that they all invoked the mantle of “realism” and pursued foreign policy goals designed to promote national interests. Conservatives, however, were the only group that was “realist” in the academic sense in that they defined the national interest narrowly, strove for balances of power internationally, viewed international relations as amoral, and especially valued sovereignty. By contrast, neoconservatives based their foreign policy on nationalism, and isolationists sought to minimize any involvement in foreign affairs and raise new barriers to immigration.[46] Former Republican Congressman Ron Paul favored a return to the non-interventionist policies of Thomas Jefferson and frequently opposed military intervention in countries like Iran and Iraq.

Supporters of non-interventionism


Government officials

Public figures

See also



External links

Offshore balancing

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Offshore balancing is a strategic concept used in realist analysis in international relations. It describes a strategy in which a great power uses favored regional powers to check the rise of potentially-hostile powers. This strategy stands in contrast to the dominant grand strategy in the United States, liberal hegemony. Offshore balancing calls for a great power to withdraw from onshore positions and focus its offshore capabilities on the three key geopolitical regions of the world: Europe, the Persian Gulf, and Northeast Asia.


Christopher Layne[1] attributes the introduction of the term “offshore balancing” to himself in his 1997 article.[2] Several experts on strategy, such as John Mearsheimer[3]Stephen Walt[4]Robert Pape[5], Sumantra Maitra[6], Patrick Porter[7] and Andrew Bacevich, have embraced the approach. They argue that offshore balancing has its historical roots in British grand strategy regarding Europe, which was eventually adopted and pursued by the United States and Japan at various points in their history. [8]

According to political scientist John Mearsheimer, in his University of Chicago “American Grand Strategy” class, offshore balancing was the strategy used by the United States in the 1930s and also in the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War. Mearsheimer argues that when the United States gave Lend-Lease aid to Britain in the 1940s, the United States engaged in offshore balancing by being the arsenal of democracy, not the fighter for it.

That is consistent with offshore balancing because the US initially did not want to commit American lives to the European conflict. The United States supported the losing side (Iraq) in the Iran–Iraq War to prevent the development of a regional hegemon, which could ultimately threaten US influence. Furthermore, offshore balancing can seem like isolationism when a rough balance of power in international relations exists, which was the case in the 1930s. It was also the strategy used during the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union.


The grand strategy of “offshore balancing” arguably permits a great power to maintain its power without the costs of large military deployments around the world. It can be seen as the informal-empire analogue to federalism in formal ones (for instance the proposal for the Imperial Federation in the late British Empire). Offshore balancing, as its name implies, is a grand strategy that can be pursue only by island states on the edges of Eurasia and by isolated great powers, such as the United States.

The strategy calls for such states to maintain a rough balance of power in the three key geopolitical regions of the world: Europe, the Persian Gulf, and Northeast Asia. The three regions are the focus, since Europe and Northeast Asia are the major industrial centers of the world, which contain all of the other great powers and the Persian Gulf for its importance to the global oil market. Outside of these regions, an offshore balancer should not worry about developments. Also, a state pursuing offshore balancing should first seek to pass the buck to local powers and intervene only if the threat is too great for the other powers in the region to handle.[9]

Notable thinkers associated with offshore balancing



Further reading



Stephen Walt

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Stephen Walt
Stephen Martin Walt

July 2, 1955 (age 64)

Alma mater Stanford University (B.A.)
University of California, Berkeley
School Neorealism
Institutions Harvard University
University of Chicago
Princeton University
Main interests
International relations theory
Notable ideas
Defensive realismBalance of threat theory

Stephen Martin Walt (born July 2, 1955) is an American professor of international affairs at Harvard University‘s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He belongs to the realist school of international relations.[1] He made important contributions to the theory of defensive neorealism and has authored the balance of threat theory. Books he has authored (or co-authored) include Origins of AlliancesRevolution and War, and The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.[2]

Early life and education

Walt was born in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where his father, a physicist, worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory. His mother was a teacher. The family moved to the Bay Area when Walt was about eight months old. Walt grew up in Los Altos Hills.[3]

Walt pursued his undergraduate studies at Stanford University. He first majored in chemistry with an eye to becoming a Biochemist. He then shifted to history, and finally to International Relations.[3]

After attaining his B.A., Walt began graduate work at UC Berkeley, graduating with a M.A. in Political Science in 1978, and a Ph.D. in Political Science in 1983.


Walt taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, where he served as Master of the Social Science Collegiate Division and Deputy Dean of Social Sciences. As of 2015, he holds the Robert and Renee Belfer Professorship in International Affairs in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.[2][4]

Other professional activities

Walt was elected a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in May 2005.[4]

He spoke at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University in 2010.[5] In 2012, Walt took part in a panel at the one-state solution conference at the Kennedy School, along with Ali Abunimah and Eve Spangler.[6]

Walt spoke at Clark University in April 2013.[7] He gave a talk at the College of William and Mary in October 2013 about “Why US Foreign Policy Keeps Failing.”[8]

He delivered the 2013 F.H. Hinsley Lecture at Cambridge University.[9]

Views and opinions

American power and culture

In a comprehensive 2005 article, “Taming American Power”, Walt argued that the US should “make its dominant position acceptable to others – by using military force sparingly, by fostering greater cooperation with key allies, and, most important of all, by rebuilding its crumbling international image.” He proposed the US “resume its traditional role as an ‘offshore balancer'”, intervening “only when absolutely necessary” and keeping “its military presence as small as possible.”[10]

In a late 2011 article for The National Interest entitled “The End of the American Era”, Walt wrote that America is losing its position of world dominance.[11]

Walt gave a speech in 2013 to the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies entitled “Why does US foreign policy keep failing?” The Institute later described him as seeing “an overwhelming bias among US foreign policy institutions toward an activist foreign policy” and “a propensity to exaggerate threats, noting the chances of being struck by lightning have been far greater since 2001 than death by terrorist attack.” He also characterized the US as lacking “diplomatic skill and finesse” and advised Europeans “to think of themselves and not rely on the US for guidance or advice on solving their security issues.” Ultimately, he argued, “the United States is simply not skilled enough to run the world.”[12]

“Why are Americans so willing to pay taxes in order to support a world-girdling national security establishment,” asked Walt in 2013, “yet so reluctant to pay taxes to have better schools, health care, roads, bridges, subways, parks, museums, libraries, and all the other trappings of a wealthy and successful society?” He said this question was especially puzzling given that “the United States is the most secure power in history and will remain remarkably secure unless it keeps repeating the errors of the past decade or so.”[13]

Foreign policy views

A critic of military interventionism, Walt stated, “Hawks like to portray opponents of military intervention as ‘isolationist’ because they know it is a discredited political label. Yet there is a coherent case for a more detached and selective approach to U.S. grand strategy, and one reason that our foreign policy establishment works so hard to discredit is their suspicion that a lot of Americans might find it convincing if they weren’t constantly being reminded about looming foreign dangers in faraway places. The arguments in favor of a more restrained grand strategy are far from silly, and the approach makes a lot more sense to than neoconservatives’ fantasies of global primacy or liberal hawks’ fondness for endless quasi-humanitarian efforts to reform whole regions.”[14]


In 1998, Walt wrote that “deep structural forces” were “beginning to pull Europe and America apart.”[15]

Walt argues that NATO must be sustained because of four major areas where close cooperation is beneficial to European and American interest.[16]

  1. Defeating international terrorism; Walt sees a need for cooperation between Europe and the United States in managing terrorist networks and stopping the flow of money to terror cells.[16]
  2. Limiting the spread of weapons of mass destruction; Walt argues that anti-proliferation efforts are most successful when Europe and the U.S. work in concert to bring loose nuclear material into responsible custody. He cites the case of Libya’s willingness to abandon its nascent fission program after being pressured multilaterally as evidence of this.[16]
  3. Managing the world economy; lowering barriers to trade and investment particularly between the U.S. and the E.U. will accelerate economic growth. Notable differences in trade policy stem mainly in areas of agricultural policy.[16]
  4. Dealing with failed states; failed states are breeding grounds for anti-Western movements. Managing failed states such as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Somalia require a multinational response since the U.S. has insufficient wealth to modernise and rebuild these alone. In this area European allies are especially desirable because they have more experience with peacekeeping and “nation-building”.[16]

Eastern Europe and Russia

Walt believes extending invitations for NATO membership to countries in the former Soviet bloc is a “dangerous and unnecessary goal” and that nations such as Ukraine ought to be “neutral buffer state(s) in perpetuity”.[17] From this perspective, he believed that arming Ukrainian armed forces after the annexation of the Crimea by Russia “is a recipe for a longer and more destructive conflict.”[17]

Middle East

Walt said in December 2012 that America’s “best course in the Middle East would be to act as an ‘offshore balancer’: ready to intervene if the balance of power is upset, but otherwise keeping our military footprint small. We should also have normal relationship with states like Israel and Saudi Arabia, instead of the counterproductive ‘special relationships’ we have today.”[18]

An article by Stephen Walt, ″What Should We Do if the Islamic State Wins? Live with it″, appeared on June 10, 2015 in Foreign Policy Magazine.[19] He explained his view that the Islamic State is unlikely to grow into a long-lasting world power on Point of Inquiry, the podcast of the Center for Inquiry in July 2015.[20]


Walt has been a critic of the Israel lobby in the United States and the influence he says it has on foreign policy. He wrote that President Obama erred by breaking with the principles in his Cairo speech by allowing continued Israeli settlement activity and by participating in a “well-coordinated assault” against the Goldstone Report.[4]

Walt suggested in 2010 that, owing to State Department diplomat Dennis Ross‘s alleged partiality toward Israel, he might give President Obama advice that was against US interests.[21] Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), defended Ross and criticized Walt, in a piece published by Foreign Affairs (which had published Walt’s piece a few days earlier).[22] Satloff wrote that Ross’s connection to WINEP is innocuous (Ross was a distinguished fellow at WINEP throughout George W. Bush’s administration, and Mearsheimer and Walt’s book described WINEP as “part of the core” of the Israel lobby in the United States) and that Walt mistakenly believes the U.S. cannot simultaneously “advance strategic partnership both with Israel and with friendly Arab and Muslim states”[22]

After the Itamar attack, in which a Jewish family was killed on the West Bank in March 2011, Walt condemned the murderers, but added that “while we are at it, we should not spare the other parties who have helped create and perpetuate the circumstances”, listing “every Israeli government since 1967, for actively promoting the illegal effort to colonize these lands”, “Palestinian leaders who have glorified violence”, and “the settlers themselves, some of whom routinely use violence to intimidate the Palestinians who live in the lands they covet”.[23]

Walt criticized the US for voting against a Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s West Bank settlements, calling the vote a “foolish step” because “the resolution was in fact consistent with the official policy of every president since Lyndon Johnson.”[24]


Walt has frequently criticized America’s policy with respect to Iran. In 2011, Walt told an interviewer that the American reaction to an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the United States “might be part of a larger American diplomatic effort to put Iran on the hot seat.”[25]

“Washington continues to insist on a near-total Iranian capitulation,” wrote Walt in December 2012. “And because Iran has been effectively demonized here in America, it would be very hard for President Obama to reach a compromise and then sell it back home.”[26]

Walt said in November 2013 that “Americans often forget just how secure the United States is, especially compared with other states,” thanks to its power, resources, and geography, and thus “routinely blows minor threats out of all proportion. I mean: Iran has a defense budget of about $10 billion…yet we manage to convince ourselves that Iran is a Very Serious Threat to U.S. vital interests. Ditto the constant fretting about minor-league powers like Syria, North Korea, Muammar al-Qaddafi’s Libya, and other so-called ‘rogue states.'” Therefore, whatever happens in the Middle East, “the United States can almost certainly adjust and adapt and be just fine.”[13]


After visiting Libya, Walt wrote in Foreign Policy in January 2010 that while “Libya is far from a democracy, it also doesn’t feel like other police states that I have visited. I caught no whiff of an omnipresent security service—which is not to say that they aren’t there…. The Libyans with whom I spoke were open and candid and gave no sign of being worried about being overheard or reported or anything like that. … I tried visiting various political websites from my hotel room and had no problems, although other human rights groups report that Libya does engage in selective filtering of some political websites critical of the regime. It is also a crime to criticize Qaddafi himself, the government’s past human rights record is disturbing at best, and the press in Libya is almost entirely government-controlled. Nonetheless, Libya appears to be more open than contemporary Iran or China and the overall atmosphere seemed far less oppressive than most places I visited in the old Warsaw Pact.”[27]

David E. Bernstein, Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law, criticized Walt in 2011 for accepting funding from the Libyan government for a trip to Libya, where he addressed that country’s Economic Development Board and then wrote what Bernstein called “a puff piece” about his visit. Bernstein said it was ironic that “Walt, after fulminating about the American domestic ‘Israel Lobby'” had thus become “a part of the ‘Libya lobby'”. Bernstein found it ironic that “Walt, a leading critic of the friendship the U.S. and Israel, concludes his piece with the hope ‘that the United States and Libya continue to nurture and build a constructive relationship.’ Because, you know, Israel is so much nastier than Qaddafi’s Libya.”[28]

Under the headline “Is Stephen Walt Blind, a Complete Fool, or a Big Liar?”, Martin Peretz of the New Republic mocked Walt for praising Libya, which Peretz called a “murderous place” and for viewing its dictator as “civilized”. Peretz contrasted Walt’s view of Libya, which, Peretz noted, he had visited for less than a day.[29]


In August 2013, Walt argued that even if it turned out that Bashar al-Assad of Syria had used chemical weapons, the U.S. should not intervene. “Dead is dead, no matter how it is done”, wrote Walt. Yes, “Obama may be tempted to strike because he foolishly drew a ‘red line’ over this issue and feels his credibility is now at stake. But following one foolish step with another will not restore that lost standing.”[30] In September 2013, Walt wrote an open letter asking his congressman to vote against a strike on Syria. Dr. Josef Olmert pointed out “at least two glaring inaccuracies”, including Walt’s failure to recognize that Syria is already a failed state and already riven by sectarian struggle, “something that ‘realist’ liberals find somehow hard to accept.” Olmert noted that despite Walt’s professed belief that Israel is at the center of all Middle East conflicts, Israel in fact has nothing to do with the conflicts in Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, or other countries in the region, which “are mostly the makings of the Arabs, ones which ought to be solved by them.”[31]


Walt posits that offshore balancing is the most desirable strategy when dealing with China.[32][33] In 2011 Walt argued that China will seek to gain regional hegemony and a broad sphere of influence in Asia which was comparable in size to the USA’s position in the western hemisphere.[32] If this happens, he predicts that China would be secure enough on the mainland to give added attention to shaping events to its favour in far flung areas. Given that China is resource poor, the nation will likely aim to safeguard vital sea lanes in areas such as the Persian Gulf.[34][35]

In a December 2012 interview, Walt said that “the United States does not help its own cause by exaggerating Chinese power. We should not base our policy today on what China might become twenty or thirty years down the road.”[36]

“Balance of Threat” theory

Walt developed the ‘balance of threat‘ theory, which defined threats in terms of aggregate power, geographic proximity, offensive power, and aggressive intentions. It is a modification of the “balance of power” theory developed by neorealist Kenneth Waltz.[37]

Snowden case

In July 2013, Walt argued that President Obama should give Edward Snowden an immediate pardon. “Mr Snowden’s motives,” wrote Walt, “were laudable: he believed fellow citizens should know their government was conducting a secret surveillance programme enormous in scope, poorly supervised and possibly unconstitutional. He was right.” History, Walt suggested, “will probably be kinder to Mr Snowden than to his pursuers, and his name may one day be linked to the other brave men and women – Daniel EllsbergMartin Luther King JrMark FeltKaren Silkwood and so on – whose acts of principled defiance are now widely admired.”[38]


In his 1987 book The Origins of Alliances, Walt examines the way in which alliances are made, and “proposes a fundamental change in the present conceptions of alliance systems.”[39]

Revolution and War (1996) exposes “the flaws in existing theories about the relationship between revolution and war” by studying in detail the French, Russian, and Iranian revolutions and providing briefer views of the American, Mexican, Turkish, and Chinese revolutions.[40]

Taming American Power (2005) provides a thorough critique of U.S. strategy from the perspective of its adversaries.[41] Anatol Lieven called it “a brilliant contribution to the American foreign policy debate.”[42]

The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy was published on 16 October 2018.

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

In March 2006, John Mearsheimer and Walt, then academic dean of the Kennedy School of Government, published a working paper entitled “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”[43] and an article entitled “The Israel Lobby” in the London Review of Books on the negative effects of “the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby.” They defined the Israel lobby as “the loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.”[44] Mearsheimer and Walt took the position that “What the Israel lobby wants, it too often gets.”[45]

The articles, as well as the bestselling book Walt and Mearsheimer later developed, generated considerable media coverage throughout the world. Contending that Walt and Mearsheimer are members of a “school that essentially wishes that the war with jihadism had never started”, Christopher Hitchens concluded that, “Wishfulness has led them to seriously mischaracterize the origins of the problem….”[46] Former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck wrote the “tsunami” of responses condemning the report proved the existence of the lobby and “Opinions differ on the long-term costs and benefits for both nations, but the lobby’s views of Israel’s interests have become the basis of U.S. Middle East policies.”[47]

Personal life

Walt is married to Rebecca E. Stone,[48] who ran for Massachusetts House of Representatives in the 2018 election.[49] The couple has two children.[50]

Titles and positions


External links

John Mearsheimer

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John Mearsheimer
John Mearsheimer.jpg

John Joseph Mearsheimer
Born December 14, 1947 (age 72)

Education United States Military Academy
University of Southern California
Cornell University
School Neorealism
Institutions University of Chicago
Main interests
International relations theoryinternational securitydeterrence theory[1][2][2]
Notable ideas
Offensive neorealism

John Joseph Mearsheimer (/ˈmɪərʃmər/;[3] born December 14, 1947) is an American political scientist and international relations scholar, who belongs to the realist school of thought. He is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago.

Mearsheimer proposed the theory of offensive realism which describes the interaction between great powers as dominated by a rational desire to achieve hegemony in a world of insecurity and uncertainty regarding other states’ intentions. He was a vocal opponent of the Iraq War in 2003 and was almost alone in opposing Ukraine’s decision to give up its nuclear weapons in 1994 and predicted that, without a deterrent, they would face Russian aggression.

His most controversial views concern alleged influence by interest groups over US government actions in the Middle East which he wrote about in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. In accordance with his theory, Mearsheimer considers that China’s growing power will likely bring it into conflict with the United States. His work is frequently taught to and read by twenty-first century students of political science and international relations.


Early years

Mearsheimer was born in December 1947 in BrooklynNew York. He was raised in New York City until the age of eight, when his parents moved his family to Croton-on-Hudson, New York, a suburb located in Westchester County.[4] When he was 17, Mearsheimer enlisted in the U.S. Army. After one year as an enlisted member, he chose to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. He attended West Point from 1966 to 1970. After graduation, he served for five years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.[5][6]

In 1974, while in the Air Force, Mearsheimer earned a Masters Degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California. He subsequently entered Cornell University and in 1980 earned a Ph.D. in government, specifically in international relations. From 1978 to 1979, he was a research fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.; from 1980 to 1982, he was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University‘s Center for International Affairs. During the 1998–1999 academic year, he was the Whitney H. Shepardson Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.[4]


Since 1982, Mearsheimer has been a member of the faculty of the Department of Political Science Faculty at the University of Chicago.[7] He became an associate professor in 1984, a full professor in 1987, and was appointed the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor in 1996. From 1989 to 1992, he served as chairman of the department. He also holds a position as a faculty member in the Committee on International Relations graduate program, and is the co-director of the Program on International Security Policy.[8]

Mearsheimer’s books include Conventional Deterrence (1983) which won the Edgar S. Furniss Jr. Book Award, Nuclear Deterrence: Ethics and Strategy (co-editor, 1985); Liddell Hart and the Weight of History (1988); The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2001), which won the Lepgold Book PrizeThe Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007); and Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics (2011). His articles have appeared in academic journals like International Security and popular magazines like the London Review of Books. He has written op-ed pieces for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune.[8]

Mearsheimer has won several teaching awards. He received the Clark Award for Distinguished Teaching when he was a graduate student at Cornell in 1977, and he won the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of Chicago in 1985. In addition, he was selected as a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar for the 1993–1994 academic year. In that capacity, he gave a series of talks at eight colleges and universities. In 2003, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[8]


Conventional deterrence

Mearsheimer’s first book Conventional Deterrence (1983) addresses the question of how decisions to start a war depend on the projected outcome of military conflict. In other words, how do decision makers’ beliefs about the outcome of war affect the success or failure of deterrence? Mearsheimer’s basic argument is that deterrence is likely to work when the potential attacker believes that a successful attack will be unlikely and costly. If the potential attacker, however, has reason to believe the attack will likely succeed and entail low costs, then deterrence is likely to break down. This is now widely accepted to be the way the principle of deterrence works. Specifically, Mearsheimer argues that the success of deterrence is determined by the strategy available to the potential attacker. He lays out three strategies. First, a war-of-attrition strategy, which entails a high level of uncertainty about the outcome of war and high costs for the attacker. Second, a limited-aims strategy, which entails fewer risks and lower costs. And, third, a blitzkrieg strategy, which provides a way to defeat the enemy rapidly and decisively, with relatively low costs. For Mearsheimer, failures in the modern battlefield are due mostly to the potential attacker’s belief that it can successfully implement a blitzkrieg strategy in which tanks and other mechanized forces are employed swiftly to effect a deep penetration and disrupt the enemy’s rear.[9] The other two strategies are unlikely to lead to deterrence failures because they would entail a low probability of success accompanied by high costs (war of attrition) or limited gains and the possibility of the conflict turning into a war of attrition (limited aims). If the attacker has a coherent blitzkrieg strategy available, however, an attack is likely to ensue, as its potential benefits outweigh the costs and risks of starting a war.[10]

Besides analyzing cases from World War II and the Arab–Israeli conflict, Mearsheimer extrapolates implications from his theory for the prospects of conventional deterrence in Central Europe during the late Cold War. Here, he argues that a Soviet attack is unlikely because the Soviet military would be unable to successfully implement a blitzkrieg strategy. The balance of forces, the difficulty of advancing rapidly with mechanized forces through Central Europe, and the formidable NATO forces opposing such a Soviet attack made it unlikely, in Mearsheimer’s view, that the Soviets would start a conventional war in Europe.[11]

Nuclear proliferation and nuclear deterrence

In 1990 Mearsheimer published an essay[12] where he predicted that Europe would revert to a multipolar environment similar to that in the first half of the twentieth century if American and Soviet forces left following the end of the Cold War. In another article that year, in The Atlantic, he predicted that this multipolar environment would increase nuclear proliferation in Europe, especially in Germany.[13]

In this essay and in the 1993 Foreign Affairs article “The case for a Ukrainian nuclear deterrent”,[14] he argued that to reduce the dangers of war, the United States should encourage Germany and Ukraine to develop a nuclear arsenal, while working to prevent the rise of hyper-nationalism. Mearsheimer presented several possible scenarios for a post-Cold-War Europe from which American and Russian forces had departed. He believed that a Europe with nuclear proliferation was most likely to remain at peace, because without a nuclear deterrent Germany would be likely to once more try to conquer the continent (See pages 32–33).[12] Mearsheimer argued that it would be strategically unwise for Ukraine to surrender its nuclear arsenal (remnants of the Soviet stockpile). However, in 1994 Ukraine consented to get rid of its entire former Soviet nuclear stockpile, a process that was complete by 1996. When challenged on the former assertion at a lecture given to the International Politics department at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth, he maintained that in spite of European integration and expansion, he still believed that his predictions would come true if the United States military left Europe.[15]

Also, in op-ed pieces written in 1998 and 2000 for The New York Times, Mearsheimer supported India’s decision to acquire nuclear weapons. In support of this position, he argued that India has good strategic reasons to want a nuclear deterrent, especially in order to balance against China and Pakistan, guaranteeing regional stability. He also criticized United States counter-proliferation policy towards India, which he considered unrealistic and harmful to American interests in the region.[16]

Offensive neorealism

Mearsheimer is the leading proponent of offensive neorealism. It is a structural theory which, unlike the classical realism of Hans Morgenthau, places the principal emphasis on security competition among great powers within the anarchy of the international system, and not principally on the human nature of statesmen and diplomats. In contrast to another structural realist theory, the defensive neorealism of Kenneth Waltz, offensive neorealism maintains that states are not satisfied with a given amount of power, but seek hegemony for security because the anarchic makeup of the international system creates strong incentives for states to seek opportunities to gain power at the expense of competitors.[17] Mearsheimer summed this view up in his 2001 book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics:

Given the difficulty of determining how much power is enough for today and tomorrow, great powers recognize that the best way to ensure their security is to achieve hegemony now, thus eliminating any possibility of a challenge by another great power. Only a misguided state would pass up an opportunity to be the hegemon in the system because it thought it already had sufficient power to survive.[18]

He has also dismissed democratic peace theory, which claims that democracies never or rarely go to war with one another.[19]

Mearsheimer usually does not believe it is possible for a state to become a global hegemon and occasionally recognizes the global hegemon as an accomplished fact (see chapter “Night Watchman” below). When the global hegemon is theoretically impossible, it is because there is too much landmass and too many oceans which he posits have effective stopping power and act as giant moats. Instead he believes that states can only achieve regional hegemony. Furthermore, he argues that states attempt to prevent other states from becoming regional hegemons, since peer competitors could interfere in a state’s affairs. States which have achieved regional hegemony, such as the U.S., will act as offshore balancers, interfering in other regions only when the great powers in those regions are not able to prevent the rise of a hegemon.

Endorsement of E. H. Carr

In a 2004 speech, Mearsheimer praised the British historian E. H. Carr for his 1939 book The Twenty Years’ Crisis and argued that Carr was correct when he claimed that international relations was a struggle of all against all with states always placing their own interests first.[20] Mearsheimer maintained that Carr’s points were still as relevant for 2004 as for 1939, and went on to deplore what he claimed was the dominance of “idealist” thinking about international relations among British academic life.[20]

Night Watchman

Night Watchman is “global hegemon” in Mearsheimer’s terminology—theoretical impossibility as stated in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.[21] Nevertheless, in 1990 Mearsheimer mentioned an existing “watchman”: Democracies lived at peace because “America’s hegemonic position in NATO… mitigated the effects of anarchy on the Western democracies and induced cooperation among them … With the United States serving as a night watchman, fears about relative gains among the Western European states were mitigated…”[22]

Afterwards, Mearsheimer lost the watchman. A decade later, he described the “international anarchy” as having not changed with the end of the Cold War, “and there are few signs that such change is likely any time soon. States remain the principal actors in world politics and there is still no night watchman standing above them.”[23] Five more years later, Mearsheimer confirmed that “in an anarchic system there is no night watchman for state to call when trouble comes knocking at their door.”[24]

Precisely two decades since Mearsheimer detected the watchman in the world for the last time, he rediscovered him again. Watchman exists and, moreover, keeps Europe at peace. The article titled by question “Why Is Europe Peaceful Today?” unambiguously answers: “The reason is simple: the United States is by far the most powerful country in the world and it effectively acts as a night watchman.”[25]

Gulf War

In January and early February 1991, Mearsheimer published two op-eds in the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times arguing that the war to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi forces should be quick and lead to a decisive US victory, with less than 1,000 American casualties. This view countered the conventional wisdom at the start of the war, that predicted a conflict lasting for months and costing thousands of American lives. Mearsheimer’s argument was based on several points. First, the Iraqi Army was a Third World military, unprepared to fight mobile armored battles. Second, US armored forces were better equipped and trained. Third, US artillery was also far better than its Iraqi counterpart. Fourth, US airpower, unfettered by the weak Iraqi air force, should prove devastating against Iraqi ground forces. Fifth and finally, the forward deployment of Iraqi reserves boded ill for their ability to counter US efforts to penetrate the Iraqi defense line along the Saudi–Kuwaiti border. These predictions came true in the course of the war.[26][27]

Noelle-Neumann controversy

In October 1991, Mearsheimer was drawn into a bitter controversy at the University of Chicago regarding Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, a visiting professor from Germany. Noelle-Neumann was a prominent German pollster and a leading academic on public opinion research, who authored the highly regarded book, The Spiral of Silence. The debate centered on an article written by Leo Bogart called “The Pollster and the Nazis”. It described Noelle-Neumann’s past employment as a writer and editor for the Nazi newspaper Das Reich from 1940–42. Noelle-Neumann’s response to the article was to claim “texts written under a dictatorship more than 50 years ago cannot be read as they were in 1937, 1939 or 1941. Severed from the time and place where they were written, they are no longer real, for reality is in part based on time and place.”[28]

As chairman of Chicago’s political science department at the time, Mearsheimer sat down with Noelle-Neumann to discuss the article and the allegations. After meeting with her for over three hours, Mearsheimer publicly declared, “I believe that Noelle-Neumann was an anti-Semite,”[28] and he spearheaded a campaign asking her for an apology.[29] He joined other University of Chicago faculty in writing a joint piece for Commentary Magazine that reacted to Noelle-Neumann’s reply to the accusation against her. They declared, “by providing rhetorical support for the exclusion of Jews, her words helped make the disreputable reputable, the indecent decent, the uncivilized civilized, and the unthinkable thinkable.”[30] Mearsheimer said “Knowing what we know now about the Holocaust, there is no reason for her not to apologize. To ask somebody who played a contributing role in the greatest crime of the 20th century to say ‘I’m sorry’ is not unreasonable.”[31]

Israel lobby

In March 2006, Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, began to write jointly about the Israel lobby. Stephen Walt was the former academic dean and professor of International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and together they published a Harvard University Kennedy School of Government working paper[32] and a London Review of Books article[33] discussing the power of the Israel lobby in shaping the foreign policy of the United States. They define the Israel lobby as “a loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction”. They emphasize that it is not appropriate to label it a “Jewish lobby“, because not all Jews feel a strong attachment to Israel and because some of the individuals and groups who work to foster U.S. support for Israel are not Jewish; according to Mearsheimer and Walt, Christian Zionists play an important role. Finally, they emphasize that the lobby is not a cabal or a conspiracy but simply a powerful interest group like the National Rifle Association or the farm lobby. Their core argument is that the policies that the lobby pushes are not in the United States’ national interest, nor ultimately that of Israel. Those pieces generated extensive media coverage and led to a wide-ranging and often heated debate between supporters and opponents of their argument. The article was subsequently turned into a book entitled The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.

Statements on Israeli wars and a Palestinian state

Mearsheimer was critical of Israel’s war against Lebanon in the summer of 2006. He argued that Israel’s strategy was “doomed to fail” because it was based on the “faulty assumption” that Israeli air power could defeat Hezbollah, which was essentially a guerrilla force. The war, he argued, was a disaster for the Lebanese people, as well as a “major setback” for the United States and Israel.[34] The lobby, he said, played a key role in enabling Israel’s counterproductive response by preventing the United States from exercising independent influence.[35]

Mearsheimer was also critical of Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip that began in December 2008. He argued that it would not eliminate Hamas’s capability to fire missiles and rockets at Israel, and that it would not cause Hamas to end its fight with Israel. In fact, he argued that relations between Israel and the Palestinians were likely to get worse in the years ahead.[36]

Mearsheimer emphasizes that the only hope for Israel to end its conflict with the Palestinians is to end the occupation and allow the Palestinians to have their own state in Gaza and the West Bank. Otherwise, Israel is going to turn itself into an “apartheid state.” That would be a disastrous outcome not only for Israel, but also for the United States and especially the Palestinians.[37]

Mearsheimer’s criticisms of Israel further extended to Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons. In remarks made at the International Spy Museum in 2010, Mearsheimer asserted that a nuclear Israel was contrary to U.S. interests and questioned Israel’s accountability in the matter, stating that there was “no accountability for Israel on any issue” because, he surmised, “The Israelis can do almost anything and get away with it.”[38]

The “Future of Palestine” lecture

In April 2010, Mearsheimer delivered the Hisham B. Sharabi Memorial Lecture at the Palestine Center in Washington, DC, which he titled “The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. the New Afrikaners.” He argued that “the two-state solution is now a fantasy” because Israel will incorporate the Gaza Strip and the West Bank into a “Greater Israel”, which would become an apartheid state. This state, according to Mearsheimer, would not be politically viable, most American Jews would not support it, and it would eventually become a democratic bi-national state, politically dominated by its Palestinian majority. He suggested that “American Jews who care deeply about Israel” could be divided into three categories: the “new Afrikaners” who will support Israel even if it is an apartheid state, “righteous Jews,” who believe that individual rights are universal, and apply equally to Jews and Palestinians, and the largest group who he called the “great ambivalent middle”. He concludes that most of the “great ambivalent middle” would not defend an apartheid Israel because “American Jews are among the staunchest defenders of traditional liberal values” resulting in the “new Afrikaners” becoming increasingly marginalized over time. Mearsheimer stated that he “would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as “‘new Afrikaners'” and specifically listed Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation LeagueDavid Harris of the American Jewish CommitteeMalcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish OrganizationsRonald Lauder of the World Jewish CongressMorton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, as well as businessmen such as Sheldon AdelsonLester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman and “media personalities” like Fred HiattCharles KrauthammerBret Stephens and Martin Peretz.[39]

Statements on Gilad Atzmon

In 2011, John Mearsheimer wrote of Gilad Atzmon‘s book The Wandering Who: “Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it increasingly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.”[40]

Atzmon has been called an antisemite and Holocaust denier, and Jeffrey Goldberg said the book espoused Neo-Nazi views.[41] Alan Dershowitz wrote an article in response titled: “Why are John Mearsheimer and Richard Falk Endorsing a Blatantly Anti-Semitic Book?” and the book “argues that Jews seek to control the world.”[42]

Mearsheimer said he had “no reason to amend it or embellish” his review,[41] and defended his position. Writing with regard to the charge by Jeffrey Goldberg that Atzmon is anti-semitic, and by implication so is his own positive review of Atzmon’s work, Mearsheimer responded: “Atzmon’s basic point is that Jews often talk in universalistic terms, but many of them think and act in particularistic terms. One might say they talk like liberals but act like nationalists… It is in this context that he discusses what he calls the “Holocaust religion,” Zionism, and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Again, to be perfectly clear, he has no animus toward Judaism as a religion or with individuals who are Jewish by birth.”[40][40]

The rise and containment of China

Mearsheimer asserts that China’s rise will not be peaceful[43][44][45] and that the U.S. will seek to contain China and prevent it from achieving regional hegemony.[46][47][48][49] Although military, and perhaps diplomatic containment of China is possible, economic containment of China is not.[50] Mearsheimer believes that China will attempt to dominate the Indo-Pacific region just as, he asserts, the U.S. set out to dominate the western hemisphere. The motivation for doing so would be to gain a position of overwhelming security and superiority against its neighbors which it sees as potential challengers to its status.[51] Additionally, he maintains that the U.S. will attempt to form a balancing coalition that consists primarily of India, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia to counter the growing strength and power projection capabilities of China.[52] He points to increased alliances and warming U.S.–Vietnam and U.S.–India relations as evidence of this.[53][54]

Mearsheimer asserts that Australia should be concerned with China’s accretion of power because it will lead to an intense security competition between China and the US that would destabilize the region.[55] He also argues that China is implementing the militarily aggressive philosophy of the U.S. naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, who argued for sea control and decisive battle.[51]

Why Leaders Lie

Mearsheimer wrote a book that analyzes lying in international politics. He argues in Why Leaders Lie (Oxford University Press, 2011) that leaders lie to foreign audiences as well as their own people because they think it is good for their country. For example, he maintains that President Franklin D. Roosevelt lied about the Greer incident in September 1941, because he was deeply committed to getting the United States into World War II, which he thought was in America’s national interest.[56]

His two main findings are that leaders actually do not lie very much to other countries, and that democratic leaders are actually more likely than autocrats to lie to their own people.[57] Thus, he starts his book by saying that it is not surprising that Saddam Hussein did not lie about having WMD—he truthfully said he had none—but that George Bush and some of his key advisors did lie to the American people about the threat from Iraq. Mearsheimer argues that leaders are most likely to lie to their own people in democracies that fight wars of choice in distant places. He says that it is difficult for leaders to lie to other countries because there is not much trust among them, especially when security issues are at stake, and you need trust for lying to be effective. He says that it is easier for leaders to lie to their own people because there is usually a good deal of trust between them.[56]

Types of lies

Mearsheimer does not consider the moral dimension of international lying, which he views from a utilitarian perspective. He argues that there are five types of international lies.[58]

  1. Inter-state lies are where the leader of one country lies to a leader of another country, or more generally, any foreign audience, to induce a desired reaction.
  2. Fear-mongering is where a leader lies to his or her own domestic public.
  3. Strategic cover-ups employ lies to prevent controversial policies and deals from being made known publicly.
  4. Nationalist myths are stories about a country’s past that portray that country in a positive light while its adversaries in a negative light.
  5. Liberal lies are given to clear up the negative reputation of institutions, individuals, or actions.

He explains the reasons why leaders pursue each of these different kinds of lies. His central thesis is that leaders lie more frequently to domestic audiences than to leaders of other states. This is because international lying can have negative effects including blowback and backfiring. “Blowback” is where telling international lies helps cause a culture of deceit at home. “Backfiring” is where telling a lie leads to a failed policy. He also emphasizes that there are two other kinds of deception besides lying: “concealment,” which is where a leader remains silent about an important matter, and “spinning,” which is where a leader tells a story that emphasizes the positive and downplays or ignores the negative.[56]

The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (Yale University Press, 2018)

In his 2018 book, The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities, Mearsheimer presents a critique of the geopolitical strategy he refers to as ‘liberal hegemony’. Mearsheimer’s definition of liberal hegemony includes a three-part designation of it as an extension of Woodrow Wilson’s original initiatives to make a world safe by turning its governments into democracies, turning geopolitical economic initiatives towards open markets compatible with democratic governments, and thirdly opening up and promoting other democratically liberal international social and culture societies on a global scale of inclusion. Mearsheimer states in an interview broadcast on CSPAN that this represents a ‘great delusion’ and that much more weight should be associated with nationalism as a policy of enduring geopolitical value rather than the delusions he associated with liberal hegemony.


Nuclear weapons and Ukraine

After the break up of the Soviet Union, the new independent Ukraine had a large arsenal of nuclear weapons on its territory. However, in 1994 Ukraine agreed to give up nuclear arms, became a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and within two years had removed all atomic weapons. Almost alone among observers, Mearsheimer was opposed to that decision because he saw a Ukraine without a nuclear deterrent as likely to be subjected to aggression by Russia. [59]

2014 Crimean Crisis

In September 2014 Mearsheimer wrote the article “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault. The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin” published in Foreign Affairs. The essay was highly critical of American policy towards Russia since the conclusion of the Cold War.[60] Mearsheimer argued that Russian intervention in Crimea and Ukraine had been motivated by what he saw as the irresponsible strategic objectives of NATO in Eastern Europe. He compared US-led NATO expansion into Eastern Europe and planned inclusion of Ukraine to the hypothetical scenario of a Chinese military alliance in North America, stating, “Imagine the American outrage if China built an impressive military alliance and tried to include Canada and Mexico.”

Mearsheimer argued that Russia’s annexation of the Crimea was fueled by concerns that it would lose access to its Black Sea Fleet naval base at Sevastopol if Ukraine continued to move towards NATO and European integration. Mearsheimer concluded that US policy should shift towards recognising Ukraine as a buffer state between NATO and Russia rather than attempting to absorb Ukraine into NATO.[60][citation needed] Mearsheimer’s article provoked Michael McFaul and Stephen Sestanovich to publish their response in November/December 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs.[61]


Mearsheimer has been critical of US policy toward China, which he regards as fated to engage in “intense security competition” and possible war, if it continues on its steep trajectory of economic growth.[62] His recommended US policy towards China is containment, which calls for the US to keep China from occupying territory and expanding its influence in Asia.[63] Mearsheimer recommended that US policy makers form a balancing coalition with China’s neighbors. According to Mearsheimer, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Russia, and Vietnam could be potential allies of the United States against a great-power China’s attempt to dominate.[62]

Mearsheimer argued in a 2019 article for International Security that the “liberal international order was crumbling by 2019″ and that the liberal order will be replaced by “three realist orders: a thin international order that facilitates cooperation, and two bounded orders—one dominated by China, the other by the United States—poised for waging security competition between them.”[64]

Leaving theory behind: Why simplistic hypothesis testing is bad for International Relations.

John J. Mearsheimer and Stepen M. Walt from Harvard University wrote the article Leaving theory behind: Why simplistic hypothesis testing is bad for International Relations. They point out that in recent years International Relations scholars have devoted less effort to creating and refining theories or using them to guide empirical research. Instead there is a focus on what they call a simplistic hypothesis testing which emphasizes discovering well-verified empirical regularities. They state that that is a mistake, because insufficient attention to theory leads to misspecified empirical models or misleading measures of key concepts. They also point out that because of the poor quality data in International Relations it is less likely that these efforts will produce cumulative knowledge. This will only lead to a short term gain and make International Relationship scholarship less useful to concerned citizens and policymakers.

Theories gives a scholar an overarching framework of the myriad realms of activity. Theories are like maps, they both aim to simplify a complex reality, but unlike maps theories provide a causal story where a theory says that one or more factors can explain a particular phenomenon. Theories attempt to simplify assumptions about the most relevant factors in the aim to explain how the world works. Some grand theories like realism or liberalism claim to explain broad patterns of state behavior while middle-range theories focus on more narrowly defined phenomena like coercion. Deterrence and economic sanctions. They list eight reasons why theories are important. The problems that arise from inadequate attention to theory is that it isn’t possible to construct good models or interpret statistical findings correctly. By privileging hypothesis testing this is overlooked. It might make sense to pay more attention to hypothesis testing if it produced a lot of useful knowledge about international relations, however, Mearsheimer and Walt claim that this is not the case and simplistic hypothesis test is inherently flawed. One of the consequences is that it will result in omitted variable bias. This is often treated as a methodological issue, though it should be treated as a theoretical matter. Selection bias is also a problem that arise from inadequate attention to theory. To examine this clearer the authors point out James Fearson’s critique of Paul Huth and Bruce Russett’s analyses of extended deterrence. Mearsheimer and Walt also point out that contemporary International Relations scholarship faces challenging measurement issues that are because of inadequate attention to theory and cause misleading measures. A few examples are given to support their claim, including Dan Reiter and Allan Stam’s work called Democracies at War. There Mearsheimer and Walt state that it is a sophisticated study that however contains questionable measures of key concepts and that the measure they employ to test their idea do not capture the theories core concepts. Poor data, absence of explanation and lack of cumulation is also some problems that arise from inadequate attention to theory by focusing too much on simplistic hypothesis testing.[65]

Personal Life

John Mearsheimer currently lives in Chicago and is married to his second wife, Pamela. They have 2 children together. John also has multiple children from his first marriage.


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