“The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.” - Sydney J. Harris
The most frustrating thing about the tremendous inequalities, high level corruption, and dangerous ‘free market’ economic ideas, is not the fact that most of it goes unchecked nor that they are threatening the future of the Western democracies. It is the fact that by and large, the Left has been unable to articulate a coherent answer that is both realist and inspiring.
Instead, for 30 years, it has been unwilling to challenge the failed economics that underpinned the massive and rising economic inequalities. In fact, most of the Left either stuck to outdated principles or converted to the vision of a market that would give equal opportunities to all. In the US, democrats have been completely swallowed by free market ideals and pro-business policies. In Europe, they mostly converted to it, adopting its language and working within the same narrow paradigms.
As a results, they were not able to oppose deregulation and ‘market oriented reforms’ and they concentrated on side issues such as minority rights, and supporting immigration and globalization. This shift was in sharp contrast with their historic voter base, the workers that were decimated by machines and globalization. They somehow unwilling to use the state power to curb excesses, protect their citizens from unfair economic competition and high level corruption. Their voters turned to nationalist political parties who could monopolize the debate around the fears and resentment from citizens since major parties avoided these issues.
Yet as we mentioned in recent weeks, new figures have emerged in France and the UK. Corbyn and Melanchon have managed to gather momentum by showing their readiness to challenge the status quo and reassert the power of the state to protect its workers. The new age of politics centered around individual brand names and specific issues means that their support may be volatile. However, it is clear that they’ve managed to shake up the mainstream parties by summoning old ideas about how to use the state’s power.
It remains to see how they will evolve and what actual change they could bring. They still have a relatively naive understanding of immigration, national interest and foreign policy. We are wary of the thin line to navigate around nationalism, which can end up by creating dangerous forms of extremism. However, as long as the Left will promote ‘open borders’ and minority rights instead of focusing on more important economic and social issues, trying to bring their countries together behind a national idea instead of a vague internationalist project, they will keep losing their electorate to ‘populist’ parties.
Science, General Knowledge & Environment
Warmer Arctic harms crops in US, Canada – Global warming means cooler winters in cold regions, dryer summers in hot ones. We can safely assume that these trends will impact all countries around the globe, leading to decreased yields and threatening food security for the poor.
Worried about the planet? Avoid that extra kid – Public discourse on global warming focuses on low impact behavior and avoid talking about the most efficient ones: avoid making an extra kid, live without a car, avoid using plane for travel, and eat a plant based diet. Recycling, changing light bulbs, or using an electric car are not sustainable solutions.
Fiat Luxembourg: How a Tiny European Nation Is Leading the Evolution of Space Law – Luxembourg passed a law supporting space mining that falls into some kind of grey legal area: until now, it was agreed that the bodies out of Earth could not be claimed as ownership. But this law (and a similar US law passed under President Obama) allow companies to claim ownership on the resources extracted. The space race is open and given the millions already invested, it is unlikely to stop now.
Visa Trying to Bribe Merchants to Stop Taking Cash & Plastic-Versus-Cash Battle Heats Up After Visa, Mastercard Deals – Visa offers merchants to upgrade their technology in return for them refusing cash. This raises several issues that suggest that the effort will not translate into meaningful results. However, the war on cash continues and is unlikely to stop. Card payment providers take incredibly high fees on transactions (up to 22% for the debit cards!) from the vendor.
“Neoliberalism” isn’t an empty epithet. It’s a real, powerful set of ideas. – Neoliberalism is real and this ideology changed our societies throughout the world, favoring economic inequalities and converting large part of the population into submission to the various markets (job, education, financial…), thereby depriving citizens from political power and giving capital (companies and rich people) feudal like powers.
To My Fellow Plutocrats: You Can Cure Trumpism – A plutocrat urges its fellow plutocrats to support initiatives to reduce economic inequalities such as increasing the minimum wage. He worries about the ‘coming pitchforks’ and America becoming a police state. A very good read but given the already desperate situation (poor and rich alike brainwashed by neoliberalism), it is unlikely to result in meaningful improvements.
History & Geopolitics
China backs economic power with political muscle in Africa – China has over 2,000 peacekeepers in Africa. Under its president Xi Jinping, the country has stretched its interpretation of the ‘non-interference’ policy and has recognized the need to protect its interest with military power in the various countries where it is involved, many of them ‘high risk countries’.
High Noon in the Himalayas: Behind the China-India Standoff at Doka La and The Political Geography of the India-China Crisis at Doklam – China and India are clashing near Buhtan, near the ‘chicken neck’, the strategic narrow corridor between India’s main sub continent and its north eastern provinces. China seems determined to win (though its motivations are unclear) while India cannot bend because of the national interest at stake.
Finance & Economics
Ending the Ronald Reagan Lie – After almost 4 decades of tax cuts for the rich and deregulation allowing companies to rip off citizens and accumulate enormous power, the USA and the rest of the world have to wake up and understand that government, citizens and private companies can work together like they did in the past.
Why aren’t the unions at war with the great immigration scam? – In Australia, foreign workers are flooding the country under visa sponsorship that allow the employers to blackmail their workers and pay wages way below the legal minimum. We would expect this practice to be widespread throughout Western countries with labor laws protecting their workers. Immigration and globalization destroyed the Western middle class and threaten its future.
Seven charts that show how the developed world is losing its edge – Martin Wolf presents 7 charts showing interesting changes in world economics and demographics. However, the main economic edge lost by the West is to China’s rise, while its demographic edge is lost to sub-Saharan Africa. The title thus appears more alarmist than reality, especially given the high levels of dependence of the emerging countries to Western economic growth, that most technology invention and innovation still come from the West, and that APAC’s TFP is slowing down.
Risk profiles of China, Hong Kong keep on rising – China’s size and debt vulnerabilities make the country a threat to stability to most Asian countries but also indirectly to the world. China has been the motor of world economic growth since 2008 and a slow down may impact Western countries right at the point where they were recovering. But Beijing’s political goal of stability is ranked higher than financial reform, meaning the credit machine won’t stop meaningfully anytime soon.
Picture of the week: Isfahan Lotfollah mosque ceiling
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