"Only in growth, reform, and change, paradoxically enough, is true security to be found." – Anna Morrow Lindbergh
The change brought by the industrial revolution dramatically transformed our world: agricultural based economies shifted to industrial and eventually services based ones thanks to the advances in technology, opening a world of possibilities by shifting the previous equilibrium between agriculture and cities, and eventually offering new perspectives on human condition other than a fragile life of labour.
The Western world successfully reached the stages where economies are driven by services and strong institutions are guarantors of previously fought for rights. On the other side of the world, North East Asia is now tailing the West thanks to the implementation of policies that effectively accelerated growth and technological learning. The rest of the world is somehow following, driven by both indigenous and foreign investments, although it is much less clear whether they will eventually reach economic independence.
The current competition revolves today around economic growth, with a tool developed by the USA during the Great Depression to evaluate the performance of the recovery: the Gross Domestic Product. Yet GDP growth is a very imperfect tool that only records what is measurable. The problem is that by focusing on things that can be measured, we are becoming oblivious to the things that are equally important -but impossible to account for using this method, such as social relations, environment, health and overall well-being…
The Western world looks with mixed feelings to the developing world's rapid economic growth, praising its achievements while looking for solutions to keep its leadership. But being a developed country is not an end in itself: for the past 30 years, the Western world has been looking for efficiency gains at the expense of its social capital, putting economic growth at the centre of its social policies. Instead, now that it is developed enough, Western countries should look for other types of development.
The risk of not doing so is that we may be returning back to a slightly different version of the feudal age, where human condition was reduced to hard work for a master. It's been proven that above a given level of income, more wealth doesn't bring you happiness. At the scale of a country, more wealth will not will not increase overall well-being. Indeed, it may even undermine it by setting off a competition for material goods which is self defeating and dangerously wasteful.
Around the world, developed countries should find new ways to grow that will put forward an harmony between the various interests throughout its societies (including Nature and the environment). Time is running out for a decisive change of paradigm that will see us avoid the terrible consequences of uncontrolled global warming.
Science, General Knowledge & Environment
Quand la majorité de la population mondiale était « bushman » – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – "Une étude publiée jeudi 4 décembre dans Nature communication et réalisée par une équipe internationale (Etats-Unis, Singapour, Brésil) conclut en effet qu’il a fallu attendre les 22 000 dernières années pour voir les Khoisan, des chasseurs-cueilleurs souvent nommés les Bushmen, dépassés en nombre par l’ensemble des autres hommes, vivant alors en Afrique, en Europe ou en Asie. Aujourd’hui, nous sommes quelque 7 milliards, eux 100 000."
The Worst Industrial Disaster in the History of the World – "There was a proposal, once, to turn the site into something else, into a national park that would include a memorial, a tourist center, a “craft village,” a technology park, and an amusement park. But three decades have passed since the disaster that began late at night on December 2, 1984, and the guarded, abandoned factory site is just that, a guarded (but regularly breached), abandoned site, a place where anything could have happened and maybe did happen."
Oil Price Drop Not Affecting US Drilling Much – "The wealthier OPEC members are defending their market share and apparently challenging American shale oil producers, whose methods, including hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, are more expensive than conventional extraction methods and unsustainable if prices drop too low."
Farmaceuticals – "Today, 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to livestock, not to people. In September, Reuters documented how some of America’s largest poultry companies routinely mix low levels of antibiotics into the feed given to chickens, a practice that scientists believe is especially conducive to the growth of superbugs."
We May Have Reached The 'Apocalyptic Scenario' With Antibiotics – "In the US, as many as half of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary, and American farmers continue to overuse them in pigs, cattle, and chickens, creating stronger, more resistant bacterial strains. Between 2000 and 2010, international sales of antibiotics for human use shot up 36%, the New York Times reports, with Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa making up three-quarters of that increase."
History & Geopolitics
Conversation: Stratfor's Intelligence Model – [Video] "Stratfor Editor-in-Chief David Judson and Founder George Friedman discuss Stratfor's intelligence model and Friedman's pending presentation on the topic in Moscow."
Conversation: Putting the CIA Interrogation Report Into Context – [Video] – "Stratfor Managing Editor Ben Sheen and Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton discuss the possible repercussions to foreign intelligence assets and other implications from the release of the Senate intelligence committee's report on enhanced interrogation techniques."
Torture and the U.S. Intelligence Failure – "Torture thus was not a precise solution to a specific problem: It became an intelligence-gathering technique. The nature of the problem the United States faced forced it into indiscriminate intelligence gathering. When you don't know what you need to know, you cast a wide net. And when torture is included in the mix, it is cast wide as well."
Conversation: Colombia and FARC Seek to Restart Talks – [Video] – "Stratfor Latin America Analyst Reggie Thompson and Managing Editor Ben Sheen discuss the recent developments in the peace negotiations between FARC and the Colombian government."
Europe: When the Unthinkable Becomes Possible – "Europe's economic crisis is slowly but steadily eroding the political systems of many countries on the Continent. New actors are emerging and threatening the supremacy of the traditional players. Alliances and events that seemed impossible only a few years ago are now being openly discussed across Europe."
Seeking the Future of Europe in the Ancient Hanseatic League – "In a continent with a long history of central powers attempting total domination, there is a deep mistrust of allowing a single player too much control over the rest. The Franco-German alliance mitigated this danger, allowing their joint pronouncements to represent the voice of Europe in a non-threatening way. But now that France is diverting from the German course, Berlin finds itself having to make difficult decisions alone. The latent fear across the Continent, however, constrains Germany's ability to enforce its decisions."
Cheese-eating warriors – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – "Perhaps the greatest puzzle is why this vigorous French approach to foreign and security policy in Africa and the Middle East is matched by excessive discretion in Europe. On almost all pressing recent matters, whether in the euro crisis or over sanctions on Russia, France has been slow to move, inaudible or even downright difficult."
Conversation: Examining China's Presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan – [Video] – "Stratfor Analysts Rodger Baker and Kamran Bokhari discuss the foreign policy challenges that lay ahead for China in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the US winds down its engagement in the region."
Finance & Economics
How the world’s economic growth is actually un-economic – "We have had growth of GDP, but since around 1980 this growth has been “un-economic”. This is in the sense that human welfare per capita, adjusted for the costs of inequality, environmental damage and other factors that affect welfare, has not improved."
Business culture and dishonesty in the banking industry – (Hat tip Lolo) – "The results indicate that bank employees who participated in the study work in a business culture that tends to tolerate or promote dishonest behavior. This result is consistent with the hypothesis that a problematic business culture prevails in parts of the banking industry."
Europe’s lonely and reluctant hegemon – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – "Not least, it means Germany must share responsibility for post-crisis macroeconomic adjustment. The question for a wise hegemon becomes: how does my behaviour determine the stability and success of the system from which I also benefit and for which I am largely responsible?"
Picture of the day: The best photos of 2014
Written by Carlito
About Carlito Riego
"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi