None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Regular readers may have noticed that we regularly offer articles and comment on economic inequalities and history, and their wider political impact. This week, Mr. Krugman’s column on slavery and inequalities in the USA is another reminder of the heavy the weight of economic history on today’s political situation. To sum up (and adding findings from Mr. Piketty’s ‘Capital in the 21st Century‘), while the Northern States demography and economy developed too rapidly to allow significant capital accumulation, the Southern States saw levels of capital concentration similar to Europe’s.

The effect is that today’s American politics are strongly influenced by these two different histories: one side, a culture of freedom of enterprise, in which individuals were free of the influence of European capitalists and living in a meritocratic society. On the other, a history of strongly entrenched racial and social inequalities. From a foreign eye, the combination of both histories would sound oddly similar to today’s Republican Party.

National history obviously play a major roles in nations’ current situation, yet this fact seem to have been been somehow forgotten (or worse, thought to have been overcome) thanks to technological advances and globalization of the recent decades. As the world rapidly changes and various crisis erupt, the Western world seems at a loss to discover that the world is not following the path it was expected to follow toward liberalism, democracy, and secularism.

Unable to change their framework to understand the world quickly enough, Westerners cannot make sense of a world in which their values’ importance is declining rapidly. After decades of peace and relative stability, they must now cope with insecurity, uncertainty, and growing challenges to their way of life. In addition, for countries in which prosperity is associated with social security, growing inequalities are a threat reaching deep into their national cohesion.

The region most at risk from these internal and external threats is Europe, and the peaking Greek crisis could only be a small bump on a very rough road ahead. The combination of various crisis (economics, immigration, financial, terrorism, political…) calls for deep national introspection about how to address these issues, not the simplistic rhetoric that is aired throughout the media, who are as lost for meaning as anyone.

Science, General Knowledge & Environment

Reading Is Forgetting – (Hat tip Tecumseh) – “This fact—our inevitable forgetting, or simply barely registering most of the visual input we receive—is acknowledged with some regret since we are generally encouraged, Draaisma reflects, “to imagine memory as the ability to preserve something, preferably everything, wholly intact.”

History & Geopolitics

This fascinating academic debate has huge implications for the future of world peace – “In his opinion, proponents of the “war is declining” argument are over-interpreting evidence of a good trend in the same way people used to argue that the stock market could go up forever without crashes.

Slavery’s Long Shadow – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “And it’s not just health reform: a history of slavery is a strong predictor of everything from gun control (or rather its absence), to low minimum wages and hostility to unions, to tax policy.

What Borders Mean to Europe – “The idea of borders being archaic is meaningful only if the nation-state is archaic. There is no evidence that this is true in Europe. On the contrary, all of the pressures we see culturally and economically point to not only the persistence of the idea of nationality, but also to its dramatic increase in Europe.

Conversation: The Standoff Between Russia and the West Over Ukraine – [Video] – “Stratfor Senior Eurasia Analyst Lauren Goodrich and Military Analyst Sim Tack discuss the recent escalations of the conflict in Ukraine as peace talks proceed in Paris.

The Jihadist Trap of Here and Now – “Bin Laden understood that while the United States struggles with ephemeral, ambiguous entities, it is very good at attacking a well-defined enemy that it can identify and locate. Declaring an Islamic polity and attempting to hold and govern territory automatically makes an organization a fixed target on which the United States and its allies can focus their formidable power.

Conversation: The Islamic State and the Market State – [Video] – “Stratfor Editor-in-Chief David Judson and contributor Dr. Jay Ogilvy discuss how the evolution of the state has changed terrorist group focus toward the economic.

The problem for China’s new silk road – “These are basically failed states that China is dealing with across central Asia. They barely exist in terms of collective identity, have only the basic rudiments of good government and have precious little civil society to glue the whole thing together. If you add China’s strategic agenda, graft and foreign workers to that mix sure and night follows day you are going to upset some armed and dangerous folks.

The upstarts that challenge the power in Beijing – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “The more disruptive force to be reckoned with these days is epitomised by the three large internet groups: Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, collectively known as BAT, which have turned much of China upside down in just a few short years.

Finance & Economics

Why Don’t the Poor Rise Up? – “Instead of boosting prospects for the poor and working class, the agenda associated with individualization works in tandem with rapid technological advance, the internationalization of commerce and the demise of the paternalistic or loyalty-based workplace to exacerbate inequality.

Hooked on China – “In the decade to 2014, China quadrupled the number of countries to which it was the biggest export market, as the US almost halved the number of countries for which it held the same title. Over the same period, all countries under our coverage saw China’s share of their exports hold broadly steady or rise up to four-fold.

Picture of the day: Same-sex marriage legalized in US


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