Sunday, July 19, 2009

Guns an' Butter Both

May 10, 1966 - The broadcast in English made by the New China News agency said: "At 1600 hours [4 pm Peking time] on May 9, 1966, China successfully conducted over its western areas a nuclear explosion which contained thermonuclear material." China's first device was ex- ...

Oct 30, 1966 - The communique from Hsinhua, the Chinese Communist press agency, began with a simple statement of fact: "On Oct. 27, 1966 China successfully conducted over its own territory a guided missile nuclear weapon test. The guided missile flew normally and the nuclear warhead accurately hit the ...

‘Guns or Butter’ is historically linked to President Lyndon Johnson, with stepped-up involvement in Vietnam and reformative domestic social programs competing for national resources. But now China, at this critical time of 1966, entered into an official backing of North Vietnam and entered into the Nuclear Arms Club, while simultaneously entering into a great cultural revolution. 

Kelly saw that Guns or Butter was an international question.

Quoting from Soap Box Amy:

"An economist somewhere in history said that a nation's economy comes down to guns or butter. In other words, a nation places value on either "guns", the military, war, etc. or it places value on "butter", that is, healthy food, clean air and water, children, education, quality of life, etc.  For example, humans have historically placed value on gold as a metal with little value other than its beauty and failure to tarnish, although it does have a few industrial and dental applications. But no matter how much gold a person owns, gold cannot be eaten!

. . .

But now, we have a chance to start fresh, to change our thinking and focus on "basics" and what's truly important! And if we don't, we're most likely doomed. As many a sage and philosopher has said over the centuries, this planet has focused too long and too hard on the Male Principle or "Guns", and that if we don't focus on the Female Principle or "Butter" and the things that are truly important, we doom ourselves and the planet."


  1. But as well as states that tried for both “guns” and “butter”, and other states that tried mostly for guns (Göring told Germany that guns would make them strong while butter would only make them fat), there have been states that put the priority on “butter”. In the long run, all three sorts have failed. That's because viable economic policy isn't a matter of “deciding as a nation what is important”. Instead of just a simple butter-or-guns trade-off, there are innumerable trade-offs, and the knowledge of the choices is intrinsically decentralized. The only known system for managing that knowledge efficiently is the market. Which is why I wince when someone lumps the things that we cannot “eat” into a category to be rejected in favor of those that we can. A community in which gold and art and so forth are not produced until there is ample food, shelter, and warmth will in fact always be short on the last three.

  2. Thanks again for taking the trouble to post these. I check in on your site every day to see what's new. As I mentioned, I did my Senior high school term paper on Walt Kelly and Pogo. I was a huge fan of Pogo as a kid all the way through high school. Besides the excellent art and very funny 'chicken fat' subtext going on in the lives of the Okefenokee swamp inhabitants, I was blown away when I gradually started learning about the satiric themes Kelly was presenting. The ones I remember were Joseph McCarthy as a wildcat, and later Spiro Agnew as a hyena. You've been posting a lot of material I either have never seen or just don't remember (or didn't comprehend as a kid). The panels on Mao are very interesting. I only recently have been attempting to learn more about modern Chinese history and read about Mao's 100 flowers campaign. It's a testament to the genius of Walt Kelly that he satirized this at the very time it was occurring. Where are the cartoonists of Kelly's caliber today?

  3. Thanks guys for the comments.

    From my point of view, Kelly's satire, at this time, was not needle sharp, as it was with McCarthyism, nor blunt as it was with Castro and Kruschev. With Mao and LBJ, the satire seemed neither condemning or laudatory. It was timely, but confusing.

    For a couple of years prior to Pandemonia, Kelly had traveled far and wide, from Berlin to Vietnam and beyond. I got the sense from some of his writing that he had become disillusioned with America as well as foreign governments for their disregard of the common person's needs and rights. It was an alternative slant on his dictum, 'We have met the enemy and he is us.'

    As to the question of today's cartoonists, well. At the risk of insulting newpaper cartoonists (and what do they care what I think?), I think newspaper comics are dead and dying, maybe still good for people who want to chuckle at Marmaduke or Garfield.

    I think the brilliance of cartooning these days is in graphic novels, indy comic books, and indy animation. Fantastic, shining, biting, brilliant wit and satire and some great art.

    And you know what? MANY of those creators would list Kelly as one of their greatest inspirations.