Dave Gilson

Dave Gilson

Senior editor

Dave Gilson is a senior editor at Mother Jones. Read more of his stories, follow him on Twitter, or contact him.

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Dave Gilson is a senior editor at Mother Jones. Read more of his stories, follow him on Twitter, or contact him.

Our Industrial-Complex Complex

How Dwight Eisenhower unintentionally created the baby-industrial complex, the divorce-industrial complex, and other ominous-sounding social forces.

| Mon Jan. 17, 2011 6:06 PM EST

Fifty years ago today, outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower took to the airwaves to warn of the nation's burgeoning military-industrial complex. With that, he not only introduced a powerful and still-relevant concept, but also a handy all-purpose suffix for describing ominous-sounding social forces. Google's Ngram Viewer shows that in the years following Ike's 1961 farewell address, usage of the phrase "industrial complex" took off, peaked during the Vietnam War, and has remained fairly constant since. That's not a scientific measure, since it no doubt includes mentions of unrelated things like this. But it also reflects the spread of Ike-inspired phrases such as the now ubiquitous prison-industrial complex, Michael Pollan's organic-industrial complex, the celebrity-industrial complex, the Christian-industrial complex, and the sports/athletic-industrial complex. Not to mention the sex-industrial complex, the baby-industrial complex, the diaper-industrial complex, the birthday-industrial complex, the wedding/marriage-industrial complex, and the divorce-industrial complex.

Who's behind the industrial-complex complex? Some of the blame must go to neologism-happy journalists like, well, us. Here are a few of Mother Jones' recent contributions to the list: medical-industrial complex, political-industrial complex, electoral-industrial complex, academic-industrial complex, housing-industrial complex, credit-industrial complex, tort reform-industrial complex, geoengineering-industrial complex, beauty-industrial complex, cancer-industrial complex, intelligence-industrial complex, security-industrial complex, mini-homeland-security-industrial complex, foreign aid-industrial complex, spelling-industrial complex. Phew. Did I miss any?

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Video: Jimmy Carter Has an iPad

…And more from the former president as he answers a MoJo reader's question about our "crisis of confidence."

| Tue Dec. 14, 2010 3:20 PM EST

The folks over at Big Think have just posted a recent interview with President Jimmy Carter. (Watch an excerpt below.) They offered MoJo a chance to ask a question of the man from Plains, and we passed the opportunity on to our readers. MoJo Facebook friend Aaron Parr suggested asking Carter about his July 1979 "crisis of confidence" speech, in which he urged Americans to embrace energy conservation and alternative energy sources as a means to kick start the economy and their flagging sense of civic pride. "The solution of our energy crisis," he concluded, "can also help us to conquer the crisis of the spirit in our country."

It's often called the "malaise" speech, though Carter never uttered that word. For better and for worse, Carter's decision to use his bully pulpit to deliver a sober reality check became one of the definining episodes of his single term. Reading the speech today, it's remarkably—and depressingly—relevant. Which prompted Parr to ask the 39th president, "Has America failed to adequately address the problems you laid out in your 1979 'crisis of confidence' speech?"

Watch Carter's full response to Parr's question below the jump. Here's an excerpt, in which he discusses China's ascendency in the alternative energy market and his iPad (!):

We’ve become increasingly addicted to consumption of goods that we don’t produce ourselves, and a lot of the manufacturing has gone overseas…When I was in office, we had the pre-eminent position in the production of alternative sources of energy—windmills, and photovoltaic cells, things of that kind. Now that ascendancy has moved to China. China's the number one producer of new kinds of advanced photovoltaic cells, for instanced. And they are the number one producers of advanced windmills to utilize the power from the sun and directed through the wind. So we’ve lost that edge that we used to have in scientific innovation applications to goods to be sold. In many ways, that is also changing in the electronic field. Almost all of the materials that we use now are of advanced technology, I have an iPad and also an iPod, both of which are made in China. Although we have designed them here with Apple, for instance, they are manufactured overseas.

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