The Great Race at the Finish Line
Off the keyboard of RE
Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner
A fairly popular perspective around the Collapse Blogosphere is that the overall collapsing economy will result in just the Uber Rich still driving around in Carz, while J6P makes it to work and the grocery store on foot, bicycles and trains. Is it really possible though to maintain a network of roads and bridges suitable for Carz when only the Uber Rich can afford both the hardware of the Car and the Konsumable of Gas to run it?
Back at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution when Carz were invented, they were a Toy for the very rich. They drove no faster than the typical Horse driven Carriage on the same roads designed for those vehicles. Maybe 15-20mph tops there. Yes horses CAN run faster than that, but if you are inside the stage coach and the horses are at full gallop yanking the coach behind on a dirt road, you likely hit your head on the ceiling innumerable times and come out seriously Brain Damaged.
Our Industrialist Ubermeisters though were enamored of this new technology, and wanted to build ever faster and more powerful Carz they could zip around in, just as they had built Private Railroad Cars to tack onto the back of trains carrying the Hoi Polloi.
Thes new toys were GREAT, and the Uber Rich started Racing them around tracks, and even organized up Races across countries in the new fangled Horseless Carriages. A Spoof of this called “The Great Race” with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon produced by Hollywood back in the 60s showed the vast number of PROBLEMS these guys had racing their carz “Around the World”
Of course, being stuck on a melting Iceberg isn’t a REAL problem early drivers dealt with, but rutted and muddy dirt roads were, along with many roads regularly washed out in the Springtime which a Horse could easily negotiate by wading through but a Car could not. 3 feet of standing water anywhere and you submerge the exhaust, water gets into the engine, DEAD IN THE WATER.
Who dealt with this problem in all its magnificent glory the most? A Young Lieutenent in the FSofA Big Ass Military, Lt. Dwight D. Eisenhower, was assigned the task in 1919 of bringing a Military Convoy across the FSofA on the Road Network of the era:
World War I (1914-1918) was the first large scale military conflict that employed vehicles powered by the relatively new internal combustion engine. Airplanes, trucks, motorcars, and tanks were used on both sides. However, they lacked the reliability, flexibility, and capacity for moving large masses of troops or equipment over long distances on inferior European roads. The vast majority of WWI military transportation on land was done by horses and railroad trains; nevertheless, by the end of the war, most military leaders saw the potential for increased use of motorized troops and equipment in military campaigns of the future.
The end of the war also inspired the leaders of the Good Roads Movement to resume their public relations (PR) campaign to convince the public to demand better roads from state and local governments. The PR campaign had been put on hold during the 1917-1918 period while America was engaged in WWI. Early in 1919, Lincoln Highway Association leader Harry Ostermann had persuaded the War Department to conduct a transcontinental motor convoy trip from the East Coast to San Francisco on the marked route of the Lincoln Highway.
The purpose of the convoy was two fold: 1) it was to be a training exercise and 2) a test of the feasibility of the long distance movement of military men and supplies by auto and truck.
From the Good Roads Movement’s viewpoint, the convoy was meant to produce positive PR by demonstrating that long distance motor travel was possible. It was also meant to heighten awareness of existing poor roads that comprised much of the Lincoln Highway and other roads in the Unites States. Return to Top
AN EPIC JOURNEY FULL OF CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Amid much hoopla, speeches and fanfare, a 76-vehicle combined “public-private” convoy, including 56 military vehicles, 209 officers and enlisted men, and dozens of private citizens took off from the White House on July 7, 1919. (LH/MAIN STREET, p. 83).
Later that evening, the convoy was joined by two, last minute volunteer Army officers. They were Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower and Major Sereno Brett, who were to serve as observers for the Army Tank Corps. PHOTO: Major Sereno Brett, Harvey Firestone, Jr., and Lt. Colonel Dwight Eisenhower at 1919 Army Convoy stopover at the Firestone Homestead, Columbania, Ohio, July 13, 1919. Eisenhower Library Audiovisual Department, photo 70-520-3.
The convoy was to operate as if the country was at war and that an Asiatic enemy had destroyed railroad lines, bridges, and tunnels. They were also to act as if they would be traveling through enemy territory and thus, had to be self-contained and self-sustaining over the 3,250-mile route. Maintaining the illusion of being at war or being truly self-sustaining proved to be very difficult, as was the trip itself.
Among some of the military personnel, there was even doubt whether or not the convoy could actually make it across the continent. The vehicles were untested over long distances. Many sections of the Lincoln Highway were unimproved dirt roads. Finally, few military personnel; especially enlisted men, had much experience with motor vehicle driving or maintenance. Eisenhower later wrote that the trek was a genuine adventure. “We were not sure it could be accomplished at all. Nothing of the sort had ever been attempted.”
At first, in the East from Washington through Indiana, the roads were generally good but mechanical problems with the various vehicles and logistical problems slowed the convoy’s progress. Military discipline among the men also was “conspicuous by its absence,” according to one observer. About the familiarity of the men with operating trucks, Eisenhower wrote:
All drivers had claimed lengthy experience in driving trucks; some of them, it turned out, had never handled anything more advanced than a Model T. Most colored the air with expression in starting and stopping that indicated a longer association with teams of horses than with internal combustion engines. (EISENHOWER REPORT)
As the convoy (also referred to as the “train” by some) headed into Illinois and the West, road conditions along the Lincoln Highway presented serious challenges that often delayed and sometimes halted the convoy. The Highway ran on dirt roads through most of Illinois, but the weather was dry, so it was possible to cross the state in a few days. Of the roads between Illinois and California, Eisenhower, in his post-trip report wrote:
The dirt roads of Iowa are well graded and are good in dry weather; but would be impossible in wet weather. In Nebraska, the first real sand was encountered, and two days were lost in western part of this state due to bad, sandy roads. Wyoming roads west of Cheyenne are poor dirt ones, with weak culverts and bridges. In one day, 14 of these were counted, broken through by the train. The desert roads in the southwest portion of this state are very poor. In western Utah, on the Salt Lake Desert, the road becomes almost impossible to heavy vehicles. From Orr’s Ranch, Utah, to Carson City, Nevada, road is one succession of dust, ruts, pits and holes. This stretch was not improved in any way, and consisted only of a track across the desert. At many points on the road water is twenty miles distant, and parts of the road are ninety miles from the nearest railroad. (EISENHOWER REPORT)
In fact, one of the biggest problems was the poor state of the bridges along the Lincoln Highway. PHOTO: Army Truck testing the holding power of one of many small bridges crossed during the Army Transcontinental Motor Convoy, 1919. Eisenhower Library Audiovisual Department, photo 81-17-25.
Advance notice of the convoy spread and its arrival in towns along the Lincoln Highway were occasions for celebrations and plenty of speeches imploring listeners to demand more public funding for “Good Roads.” The convoy passed through 350 communities, and it was estimated that more than 3,000,000 people witnessed it along the route. Millions more followed the trek in newspapers and early motion picture “newsreels.” PHOTO: 1919 Army Transcontinental Motor Convoy on Review, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1919. Eisenhower Library Audiovisual Department, photo 81-17-55.
The convoy did make it. Battered, but unbowed, the caravan arrived at the gates of Lincoln Park in San Francisco. However, it had taken until September 6, 1919 for it to reach its destination, a grueling sixty-two (62) days!
In November 1919, Lieutenant Colonel Eisenhower wrote a seven-page report relaying the observations he made during the Army Convoy to the Chief of the Army’s Motor Transport Corps (M.T.C.). He summarized the results as follows:
The truck train was well received at all points along the route. It seemed that there was a great deal of sentiment for the improving of highways, and, from the standpoint of promoting this sentiment, the trip was an undoubted success. As stated before in this paper, it is believed that the M. T. C. should pay more attention to disciplinary drills for officers and men, and that all should be intelligent, snappy soldiers before giving them the responsibility of operating trucks. Extended trips by trucks through the middle western part of the United States are impracticable until roads are improved, and then only a light truck should be used on long hauls. Through the eastern part of the United States, the truck can be efficiently used in the Military Service, especially in problems involving a haul of approximately 100 miles, which could be negotiated by light trucks in one day. (EISENHOWER REPORT.)
THE 1919 ARMY MOTOR CONVOY IN ILLINOIS
The 1919 Army Transcontinental Army Convoy crossed into Illinois on the afternoon of Saturday, July 19, 1919. It stopped the next day for a Sunday rest period in Chicago Heights. The trip was resumed on Monday July 21, 1919, and the convoy camped over that night in DeKalb. On Tuesday July 22, 1919, the convoy left DeKalb and crossed over the Mississippi River Bridge at Fulton, Illinois and entered into Iowa that evening.
During the two full days it spent on the road in Illinois, the convoy covered about 172 miles in a little over 21 hours on the road. It was fairly lucky with the weather and thus the roads, but as the following account from the convoy’s daily log reveals, it had its share of problems with the vehicles, drivers, and equipment in its journey across the Land of Lincoln.
(Read the official Army account of the convoy’s journey thru Illinois).
So here in fact is the real MOTIVATION for developing a Road Network around the FSofA that could support Motorized Transport. It was necessary to make it possible to move the new fangled War machines of Tanks and APCs around the country quickly, so as to “Protect” it from a Hypothetical Invasion of Asiatic Forces. Problem of course was the road system did not ALLOW for that, It took 62 DAYS for the convoy to cross the country, as compared to the 3 days or so it would take me driving my Big Rig SOLO across the country a decade or so ago. Team driving, you can do it in under 2 days. To traverse 172 miles in Illinois it took 21 HOURS, an average speed of a bit over 8 MPH, which Horseback Cavalry would CREAM and even Infantry can probably keep up with pretty well.
So now you have not one but TWO motivations for why we “needed” a road system for these vehicles. First for the Wealthy Great Leslie’s and Dr. Fate’s to be able to zip quickly Around the Country and NOT get stuck in Mudholes; and Second so these same folks could move around Big Ass Military equipment basically to be able to steal from whomsoever they wanted whenever they wanted. “Build us a Road into your Town so we can Roll our Hardware down Main Street and run the show for you here!” LOL.
How do you SUCKER people into paying for something they don’t need at all, because they do NOT have Carz to zip around in? Answer: You build “Affordable Carz” for EVERYONE, and convince EVERYONE they need one! So you Fund Hank Ford as many times as necessary until he comes up with a cheap enough car and promote to everyone with Advertising why they really NEED such a vehicle.
Which after a while they actually DO need, because the farmers who have a Tractor are out-producing the farmers still running Horse Drawn Plows, and new Trucks are moving goods around cheaper and faster than any Teamster driving a Horse Drawn Carriage can keep up with.
In 1919, less than 100 years ago, it really was close to impossible for Carz to move around the country, all they really could do was drive around at just about the same speed as the Horse Drawn Carriages, Stagecoaches and Wagons. In the intervening time, a MASSIVE expenditure of capital was undertaken to build a road network in the FSofA to support that, and the way it was built was to distribute out the debt and the cost over EVERYONE in society who had a Car. Unless everyone DOES have a car and Drives it willy-nilly around though, not only can you not afford to build MORE roads, you can’t afford to Maintain the ones already built!
The Electric Grid is not a whole lot different than this. Electricity when Edison first put up his DC system was only available to a VERY few people, and was clearly not economicaly viable. However, those who did have access to it wanted MORE of it! They didn’t want just their house ILLUMINATED, they wanted the Restaurants they frequented Illuminated ALSO. They wanted the Streets around their Upper East Side Apartments Illuminated also. Of course though, they themselves could not AFFORD to pay for the Streetlights, so they gotta CONVINCE J6P HE really needs Streetlights so he will pay for it with his TAXES.
Only by getting DA GOOBERMINT involved here and taking on Debt in the name of the People to build these grids did they get built. Same story all over the world really, Goobermints taking on fabulous amounts of Debt in the name of the people so they too could have an Electric Grid and a Road system, both of which you MUST have if you are to attract Capital to your country to build Factories utilizing still MORE fossil fuel energy and become a PLAYER in this great game of Industrialization.
One by one the Dominoes fell over the intervening years as really every Elite in every country Aspired to run with the Big Boys. If you are in charge of China, you don’t want to be running a country of Ag workers in Rice Paddies, you wanna be big time Producer of Goods to sell to everybody else and as a member of the Han Chinese Elite, begin to live the same kind of Super Lifestyle of your Western Counterpart Elites. The Big Yachts, the Private Jets, all that nonsense. You do NOT earn enough FOREX running Rice Paddies to become a Master of the Universe, you are just a pipsqueak Feudal Lord until you jump on the bandwagon of Debt and Industrialization.
Anybody who believes the Chinese are SOLVENT with their late entry into the Industrialization Game is seriously DELUDED. In order to become the Mercantilist Power they are, the Chinese took on a shit load of debt Nobody built those factories for free, and nobody built the Chinese Electric grid for free either, anymore than it wa built for free here in the FSofA. The Debt the Chinese have is hidden in innumerable ways, they run all sorts of Public/Private “Partnerships” between the Politburo and Capitalista Pigmen. Da Chinese Goobermint promises to Tax the Living Shit out of Chinese Peasants, and in return Capitalistas fork over megabucks for Elite Han Chinese to build Factories staffed by Slave Wage Chinese Peasants.
The continuity/discontinuity problem is partially one of BELIEF, in that does anyone actually BELIEVE the massive debt that the FSofA owes to the Chinese will or can ever be paid off? Even more that does anyone BELIEVE the the Massive Debt the Chinese undertook to Illuminati Bankster “investors” have can ever be paid off when energy costs go stratospheric in real terms, and Konsumers of Chinese Goods no longer have MONEY to buy those goods?
It remains a bit unclear as to who goes DOWN here first, the heavy Debtors or the heavy Creditors, they are both inextricably linked and really the Creditors themselves are in fact debtors also. The chinese Economy is EXTREMELY fragile, despite what the MSM makes it out to be and how the China Bulls spin it. The Chinese have Bubbles in every sector of their economy all just WAITING to POP here! Real Estate, Regional Debt, insolvent Banks, the WORKS. They are no different in this respect than the PIIGS.
Given all of this fairly obvious stuff, does it seem likely that the Chinese can continue to “Grow” at anywhere NEAR the growth rate they have show on paper here for the last Score of Years? Seems highly unlikely to ME, and I haven’t even touched on their ecological problems and the drought situation they face.
Where I began this article was with the QUESTION of whether it is possible to maintain a Boutique Economy of Carz for the Wealthy while the rest of the population Walks or rides Bikes. How is it really possible to maintain all the infrastructure necessary for Happy Motoring with only the Uber-Rich Driving Carz? No, it is not possible. China is important in this question, because if there is anywhere in the world where “Investors” think Growth is Possible, it is China. Point is here, China has no more hope of Growing than Spain or Italy does, they are equally Fucked here. In fact due to their extreme Overshoot problems and extreme Environmental problems, the Chinese are in fact in WORSE shape than the PIIGS are.
Given that it is so unlikely the Chinese will be able to pursue a Boutique Carz Economy very long, why would anyone believe it could be pursued anywhere else either? Carz are not going to disappear here overnight, and the roads won’t get SOOOO bad you can’t drive on them for a few years, but inexorably the system will decay, until at last there are no more Carz driving around at all, though many may become Homes of the Future. In their Final Resting Place when the Gas Runs Out, until they Rust Away to Nothingness, these Carz already are providing Shelter for the Homeless.
The Great Race Run on the Thermodynamic Energy of Fossil Fuels has reached its Final Stage. As the Saudi Phrase goes:
My father drove a Camel. I drive a Car. My Son flies a Jet. His son will drive a Camel.