Progressive Authoritarianism

responsibility-42This is quite interesting, and a fair read of where our society/government is trying to go, and why. It also goes into some detail as to why if we are wise, we probably don’t want to go there. By Joel Kotkin writing in The Orange County Register.

Left-leaning authors often maintain that conservatives “hate democracy,” and, historically, this is somewhat true. “The political Right,” maintains the progressive economist and columnist Paul Krugman, “has always been uncomfortable with democracy.”
But today it’s progressives themselves who, increasingly, are losing faith in democracy. Indeed, as the Obama era rushes to a less-than-glorious end, important left-of-center voices, like Matt Yglesias, now suggest that “democracy is doomed.”

Yglesias correctly blames “the breakdown of American constitutional democracy” on both Republicans and Democrats; George W. Bush expanded federal power in the field of national defense while Barack Obama has done it mostly on domestic issues. Other prominent progressives such as American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner have made similar points, even quoting Italian wartime fascist leader Benito Mussolini about the inadequacy of democracy.

Like some progressives, Kuttner sees the more authoritarian model of China as ascendant; in comparison, the U.S. and European models – the latter clearly not conservative – seem decadent and unworkable. Other progressives, such as Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, argue that big money has already drained the life out of American democracy. Like Yglesias, he, too, favors looking at “other political systems.” .
. .
Progressive authoritarianism has a long history, co-existing uncomfortably with traditional liberal values about free speech, due process and political pluralism. At the turn of the 20th century, the novelist H.G. Wells envisioned “the New Republic,” in which the most talented and enlightened citizens would work to shape a better society. They would function, he suggested, as a kind of “secret society,” reforming the key institutions of society from both within and without.

In our times, Wells’ notions foreshadowed the rise of a new class – what I label the clerisy – that derives its power from domination of key institutions, notably the upper bureaucracy, academia and the mainstream media. These sectors constitute what Daniel Bell more than two decades ago dubbed a “priesthood of power,” whose goal was the rational “ordering of mass society.”
Increasingly, well-placed members of the clerisy have advocated greater power for the central state. Indeed, many of its leading figures, such as former Obama budget adviser Peter Orszag and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, argue that power should shift from naturally contentious elected bodies – subject to pressure from the lower orders – to credentialed “experts” operating in Washington, Brussels or the United Nations. Often, the clerisy and its allies regard popular will as lacking in scientific judgment and societal wisdom.

Unlike their clerical forebears, this “priesthood” worships at the altar not of religion but of what they consider official “science,” which often is characterized by intolerance rather than the skepticism traditionally associated with the best scientific tradition. Indeed, in their unanimity of views and hostility toward even mild dissent, today’s authoritarian progressives unwittingly more resemble their clerical ancestors, enforcing certain ideological notions and requiring suspension of debate. Sadly, this is increasingly true in the university, which should be the bastion of free speech.

I find that there is a lot of truth in this concept, unfortunately like any other closed society, it breeds corruption. Who hasn’t noticed amongst this ‘elite’ a huge amount of influence peddling, not mention pandering, to obtain funding. In Wolf Hall, we watched as Thomas Cromwell curried favor with Henry VIII, do we not see the same process underway (for quite a while now) in Washington?

The killer “app” for progressive centralism, comes from concern about climate change. A powerful lobby of greens, urban developers, planners and even some on Wall Street now see the opportunity to impose the very centralized planning and regulatory agenda that has been dear to the hearts of progressives since global “cooling” was the big worry a few decades ago. This new clout is epitomized by the growing power of federal agencies, notably the EPA, as well state and local bodies of unelected regulators who have become exemplars of a new post-democratic politics.

Of course, this is in large part the model presented by postwar Europe, and we are watching as it demonstrably fails, which makes it less and less likely to be a model we should follow. Most likely the free-est country in Europe is the UK, not least because they share our suspicion of government (although it is not nearly as virulent). But the UK has, since 2008, created more jobs than the rest of Europe combined.

The fly in the ointment here, of course, remains the electorate. Even in one-party California, local constituents are not always eager to follow the edicts of the nascent “new Republic” if it too strongly affects their lives, for example, by forcibly densifying their neighborhoods. Resistance to an imposed progressive agenda is stronger elsewhere, particularly in the deep red states of the Heartland and the South. In these circumstances, a “one size fits all” policy agenda seems a perfect way to exacerbate the already bitter and divisive mood.

Perhaps the best solution lies with the Constitution itself. Rather than run away from it, as Yglesias and others suggest, we should draw inspiration from the founders acceptance of political diversity. Instead of enforcing unanimity from above, the structures of federalism should allow greater leeway at the state level, as well as among the more local branches of government.
Even more than at the time of its founding, America is a vast country with multiple cultures and economies. What appeals to denizens of tech-rich trustifarian San Francisco does not translate so well to materially oriented, working-class Houston, or, for that matter, the heavily Hispanic and agriculture-oriented interior of California. Technology allows smaller units of government greater access to information; within reason, and in line with basic civil liberties, communities should be able to shape policies that make sense in their circumstances.

This is, of course, nothing less than the federalism the founders designed into our system, which wasn’t new, even then, the catholic Church calls it subsidiarity, although it, like politicians, has always had trouble practicing it. In the eighteenth century as in the twenty-first, America is simply too large to be governed by an elite, centered in the capital, let alone by a clerisy without the requisite skill to understand even the concepts of what most people do.

One possible group that could change this are voters, including millennials. It turns out that this generation is neither the reserve army imagined by progressives or the libertarian base hoped for by some conservatives. Instead, notes Pew, millennials are increasingly nonpartisan. They maintain some liberal leanings, for example, on the importance of social justice and support for gay marriage. But their views on other issues, such as abortion and gun control, track closely with to those of earlier generations. The vast majority of millennials, for example, thinks the trend toward having children out of wedlock is bad for society. Even more surprisingly, they are less likely than earlier generations to consider themselves environmentalists.

They also tend to be skeptical toward overcentralized government. As shown in a recent National Journal poll, they agree with most Americans in preferring local to federal government. People in their 20s who favor federal solutions stood at a mere 31 percent, a bit higher than the national average but a notch less than their baby boomer parents.

If so, and I tend to agree, they may well save us all, simply by thinking for themselves, and acting in their own self-interest. Because I think it self-evident that being ruled by a distant, connected (to each other) is not in our best interest, either individually or as a society.
Hat tip to Gene Veith at Cranach, The Blog of Veith

UK to build the world’s first tidal lagoon power plants

This actually could be a good idea. Of course, like all potentially good ideas, it’s not new. I can remember reading about it back in the seventies, which doesn’t mean that it hasn’t become viable since.

It’s easy to forget that it’s possible to generate electricity not by burning coal or splitting atoms, but using the power of the sea. One company has thought long and hard about the process and is set to change the way Britain generates its renewable energy. Under new plans, Tidal Lagoon Power hopes to build the world’s first lagoon power plants, creating six giant structures — four of which will be built in Wales, with two in England — that will harness powerful coastal tides and generate as much as 8 percent of the UK’s total power.

The company has already put its best foot forward, starting work on a £1 billion plant in Swansea that already has the backing of energy secretary Ed Davey. Even though it’ll be one of the smallest installations, the lagoon will measure five miles across and stretch two miles out to sea, serving not only as significant power source but also as destination for locals. It’ll work by isolating a large space of water, which drives a series of turbines set into the wall as the tidal levels rise and fall throughout the day.

The UK government is keen to back renewable energy projects, so the £30 billion investment needed to build the ambitious lagoons will be met by taxpayers. Wales will host three lagoons in Cardiff, Newport and Colwyn Bay (as well as the one in Swansea) and there’ll be one in Bridgwater Bay, Somerset and another in West Cumbria.

The good thing about tidal power is that barring a lunar catastrophe, sea movements are completely predictable. Wind turbines can stall if it’s a particularly calm day, while solar panels only achieve maximum output when it’s clear and sunny. Marine experts have their reservations, including fears that fish could be sucked into turbines, but Tidal Lagoon Power believes the lagoons will ultimately benefit local ecosystems by serving as artificial reefs.

More at UK to build the world’s first tidal lagoon power plants, including video.

You know, I could support this type of renewable energy, it has its attractions, if they were willing to bet their own money on it. But they aren’t. They want to do it the corrupt way, betting the taxpayers money, so they’ll get rich, no matter what. The proper model is to build it with your own money, and get rich or lose your shirt.

That’s the way Britain (and the US) did it in the nineteenth century, and history is littered with failures but also incredible successes, sometime both for the same people.

And so, for me, it’s not a viable plan, because they don’t believe in it enough to bet their own money and so why should I?

It’s simply another corrupt corporatist scheme to bilk the taxpayers, this time the British ones, and enrich ‘special interests’.

Hat tip to “The Unit” for the link. :)

Cui Bono

English: Graphic illustrating the percentages ...

English: Graphic illustrating the percentages of public opinions on the likelihood of some scientists falsifying global warming research. Based on Rasmussen polling of 1,000 American adults conducted July 29-30, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cui bono is one of those phrases that indicates a skeptical man (or woman). You’d probably not be surprised that it is one of my favorite phrases. Why? because so very often people want us to do things that are (usually obviously) against our rational self-interest, and always, I wonder why. Do they have a higher good in mind, or do they merely seek some benefit at my (and your) expense? Nine times out of ten it has proved to be the latter.

There are people in the world who work selflessly for the common, or higher, good, mostly they are clergy. In my experience they are never politicians, who in my experience have no conception even of what the term means.

Global CoolingWarming, Climate Change, especially Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change is no exception.

Robert Tracinski over at The Federalist has something to say about it the other day, I think we should read it.

What It Would Take to Prove Global Warming

If generally rising temperatures, decreasing diurnal temperature differences, melting glacial and sea ice, smaller snow extent, stronger rainstorms, and warming oceans are not enough to persuade you that man-made climate [change] is occurring, what evidence would be?

This has since been picked up by Jonathan Adler at the Washington Post‘s token right-leaning blog, the Volokh Conspiracy. There’s no pressure: Bailey and Adler merely insinuate that you are “obscurantist”—that is, you hate new knowledge—if you don’t agree.

That, by the way—the smug insistence of global warming alarmists on presenting themselves as the embodiment of scientific knowledge as such—is one of the reasons I stopped taking them seriously. In fact, II have thought about what it would take to convince me global warming is real. And it’s pretty clear that Bailey has not thought about it.

He really hasn’t. He’s thought a lot about the various scientific claims made by those who insist global warming is a man-made catastrophe. But he has not thought about how those claims add up or how they would have to add up to be convincing. All Bailey’s piece amounts to is: here is a long list of factual claims that seem to support the global warming scare; how high do I have to pile up these claims before you are convinced?

There is no sense that the proof of global warming has to proceed according to some systematic method, requiring it to clear specific hurdles at specific stages. Which betrays an unscientific way of thinking.

When I refer to “global warming,” and when Bailey and Adler refer to it, that term is a stand-in, not just for the trivial claim that average global temperatures are rising, but for “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming”: i.e., global temperatures are rising, it’s our fault, and we’re all gonna die.

What It Would Take to Prove Global Warming.

Did you read his article? Good for you! He makes a good case, I think. What it takes to convince me is very similar. I would also say this, I’ll be more likely to believe that we can predict the climate, when we can reliably predict the weather a couple of weeks in advance. No, they aren’t the same but they are related, and why should I believe you can predict the far more complicated climate, if you can’t do the short-term characteristics of it, the weather?

To convince me you have a multi step project.

First you have to convince me that the climate wouldn’t change normally, because I’m one of those people who remember back around the year 1200 or so, there were farms in Greenland, that had to be abandoned later because the climate got too cold. the climate has always been changing, to suddenly believe that it’s caused by man (and almost only, man) strikes me as a severe case of hubris and little more.

Then you have to convince me that it’s catastrophic. It might be, I suppose, it might also be beneficial. How many more people could we feed if we could grow crops a couple of hundred miles further north (or south)? I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone else does either. I haven’t seen any scientific evidence (reputable or not) on the subject. What I have seen is nothing more than attempts to scare us, and that ain’t evidence.

That leaves you with the hardest one of all, you have to convince me that we (mankind) did it and that we can (and should) undo it. Most of us supported environmental legislation in the 1960s and 1970s because we could see that we were making a mess. When one gets sick from breathing and we’re watching rivers burn, well, that’s pretty clear, isn’t it? And it was clear that we were doing it, as well. And so it was time to fix it, and we did a pretty good job of it, overall.

None, not one, of the parameters of that are met in this amorphous mess of ‘Climate Change’. It’s called climate change, you’ll recall, because they can’t figure out if we’re making it warmer, or cooler, or to stay the same.

And then at the end of this article we get to the title of it. Cui Bono. Webster defines it this way:

1:  a principle that probable responsibility for an act or event lies with one having something to gain

It’s a pretty useful concept, not least here. Our air and water is actually pretty damn clean, often our rivers are actually cleaner downstream from cities than they are upstream anymore, the fish are back, and safe once again, to eat. The air is fit to breathe once again. What’s a poor environmentalist to do to raise the money that pays his (her) exorbitant salary? Why start another crusade, of course, one can’t expect these people to get productive jobs, all they know is to scare people into giving them money, for them to give to politicians, if any is left after the fund-raising expenses, of course.

So add to that all the advertising agencies involved and the professional fund-raisers on the front end whose living disappears when this is debunked.

Then we get to the politicians, the bought dispensers of our money, whose power is directly attributable to the amount of our money that they can manage to divert to their (so-called) friends. And who, in addition, have an insatiable desire to control us, the people.

Amongst the recipients are those very universities that have made such a good thing out of generating this crisis, and so cooked the research books to keep the golden eggs coming in.

Cui bono? Almost everybody except the poor shmuck out there that gets to pay for all this with his money, while paying more for everything he needs to make a living, if his job hasn’t been exported to China, which is more worried about making a living than this nonsense.

And then they have the sheer effrontery to claim that they have our best interest at heart while simultaneously telling us that a damned polar bear is more important than our children.

Like I said above, when these patronising fools can predict the weather two weeks out, maybe I’ll start to listen to their shrill screaming but until then…

Well mostly we can expect them to keep screaming, “Shut up and sit down you little people. What do you know?”

The First Gasoline Tax: Less Than Romantic (Oregon: 1919) – Master Resource

Did you ever wonder how the gas tax came about? I did occasionally but never enough to study it and find out. Not surprisingly it turn out to be a sordid story of self-interest and government cronyism. From Masterresource.

“I was asked to draw a state highway map that would win the votes of a majority of the members by placing roads [so] they could take them home with them as pork wrested from Portland…. This map ran in front of the farm homes of enough legislators that . . . 37 representatives joined in introduction of the bill…. It took all day . . . to get the map changed so a majority of the Senate would vote for the bill…. My poor map was almost unrecognizable, but it served its purpose.”

– C. C. Chapman, “father of the gasoline tax,” on Oregon’s passage of motor-vehicle fee in 1917, which became a gasoline levy two years later.

Was Oregon’s tax the work of a far-sighted reformer with the special interests keeping a safe distance in the interests of fair and balanced government? Or was it the result of a confluence of private and public interests creating a supply of and a demand for special government favor?

Unlike the textbook view, it was the latter. And “Big Oil” was involved in Oregon’s historic public-finance moment. The major oil companies calculated that the total revenue from gasoline sales would rise more with tax-financed road construction than if gasoline was cheaper by the amount of the tax and fewer (public) roads were constructed.

Nothing very novel or even unusual there, really. that’s how political sausage is made And in some ways, the fact that the government built roads, in a political environment is likely better than if they’d turned the map over to ‘experts’. And even with my libertarian tendencies, it’s hard for me to see how local roads at least would be overly rational as private property. So maybe it’s not the worst thing ever, really. federal highways and Interstates are likely a different sort of animal but that’s another discussion.

Oregon’s beginning led to road taxes in all 48 states within a decade to fund road construction. But, gas-tax revenue started to be diverted to other uses to the chagrin of the oil majors, now organized as the American Petroleum Institute (API). “Phantom roads” became an issue.

Government intervention giveth and taketh away. Expect the same for any ‘starter’ carbon tax.

That does bother me. We approved of the gas tax to build and maintain road, not for any other purpose (seems like the usual suspect these days is so-called: light rail). Which if there was enough demand for it wouldn’t need government subsidies. But it does, and where it has been built, (like the interurbans before it) it has failed.

The First Gasoline Tax: Less Than Romantic (Oregon: 1919) – Master Resource.

There’s quite a lot more at the sourcelink but I see little point in reproducing it. You should rhe link, include some from Heritage. cronyism is always going to exist, the trick is to keep it at a low (and local) level so it doesn’t do too much more damage than the good it can do.

CPAC 2015

Gladstone quoteI haven’t been doing much politics lately. That doesn’t mean that I no longer care, I do as much as ever. It means that for the present all we can really do is hold, and frankly I’m very disillusioned with the Republicans, who have turned into democrat (not so) lite.

Still CPAC is different. Even though they let some of the ones we derisively call RINOs talk, it’s about conservatism, and doing things that work. So, here’s a selection from last weekends CPAC 2015.

My overall thrust remains what it always has been. It is summarized quite well in the lead quote in the sidebar.

This you really want to listen to, it is that important!


And we’ll finish off with a man who knows all to well what Brent Bozell was talking about. If what you know about UKIP comes from the British press, you’ve simply been lied to. Unless I had a very good reason for voting for somebody else, and some do, I’d vote UKIP in a heartbeat.

 

The Top Five Events in 2014

OK, I admit it, this is a bit heavy (not to mention long) for a Saturday post but, this type of post hasn’t been seen here in quite a while, and I think Stratfor hit the nail very squarely on the head here. I’ll let you read it, and then I’ll have a few comments.

By George Friedman

‘Tis the season to make lists, and a list shall be made. We tend to see each year as extraordinary, and in some senses, each year is. But in a broader sense, 2014 was merely another year in a long chain of human triumph and misery. Wars have been waged, marvelous things have been invented, disease has broken out, and people have fallen in love. Nonetheless, lists are called for, and this is my list of the five most important events of 2014.

1: Europe’s Persistent Decline

The single most important event in 2014 was one that did not occur: Europe did not solve its longstanding economic, political and social problems. I place this as number one because regardless of its decline, Europe remains a central figure in the global system. The European Union’s economy is the largest in the world, taken collectively, and the Continent remains a center of global commerce, science and culture. Europe’s inability to solve its problems, or really to make any significant progress, may not involve armies and explosions, but it can disrupt the global system more than any other factor present in 2014.

The vast divergence of the European experience is as troubling as the general economic malaise. Experience is affected by many things, but certainly the inability to find gainful employment is a central feature of it. The huge unemployment rates in Spain, Greece and southern Europe in general profoundly affect large numbers of people. The relative prosperity of Germany and Austria diverges vastly from that of southern Europe, so much so that it calls into question the European Union’s viability.

Indeed, we have seen a rise of anti-EU parties not only in southern Europe but also in the rest of Europe as well. None have crossed the threshold to power, but many are strengthening along with the idea that the benefits of membership in a united Europe, constituted as it is, are outweighed by the costs. Greece will have an election in the coming months, and it is possible that a party favoring withdrawal from the eurozone will become a leading power. The United Kingdom’s UKIP favors withdrawal from the European Union altogether.

There is significant and growing risk that either the European Union will have to be revised dramatically to survive or it will simply fragment. The fragmentation of the European Union would shift authority formally back to myriad nation states. Europe’s experience with nationalism has been troubling, to say the least — certainly in the first part of the 20th century. And when a region as important as Europe redefines itself, the entire world will be affected.

Therefore, Europe’s failure to make meaningful progress in finding a definitive solution to a problem that began to emerge six years ago has overwhelming global significance. It also raises serious questions about whether the problem is soluble. It seems to me that if it were, it would have been solved, given the threat it poses. With each year that passes, we must be open to the possibility that this is no longer a crisis that will pass, but a new, permanent European reality. This is something we have been pointing to for years, and we see the situation as increasingly ominous because it shows no signs of improving.

2: Ukrainian and Russian Crises

Historically, tensions between Russia and the European Peninsula and the United States have generated both wars and near wars and the redrawing of the borders of both the peninsula and Russia. The Napoleonic Wars, World War I, World War II and the Cold War all ended in dramatic redefinitions of Europe’s balance of power and its map. Following from our first major event of the year, the events in Ukraine and the Russian economic crisis must rank as the second most important event.

Stratfor forecast several years ago that there would be a defining crisis in Ukraine that would be the opening to a new and extended confrontation between the European Peninsula and the United States on one side and Russia on the other. We have also forecast that while Russia has regional power, its long-term sustainability is dubious. The same internal factors that brought the Soviet Union crashing down haunt the Russian Federation. We assumed that the “little Cold War” would begin in the mid-2010s, but that Russian decline would not begin until about 2020.

We have seen the first act, and we continue to believe that the final act isn’t imminent, but it is noteworthy that Russia is reeling internally at the same time that it is trying to cope with events in Ukraine. We do not expect Russia to collapse, nor do we expect the Ukrainian crisis to evolve into a broader war. Nevertheless, it seems to me that with this crisis we have entered into a new historical phase in which a confrontation with significant historical precedents is re-emerging. The possibility of conflict is not insignificant; the possibility that the pressures on Russia, internally and externally, might not speed up the country’s own crisis cannot be discounted. Certainly the consequences of oil prices, internal economic dislocation, the volatility of the ruble and sanctions all must give us pause.

The Russians think of this as an event triggered by the United States. In the newspaper Kommersant, I was quoted as saying that the American coup in Ukraine was the most blatant in history. What I actually said was that if this was a coup, it was the most blatant in history, since the United States openly supported the demonstrators and provided aid for the various groups, and it was quite open in supporting a change in government. The fact that what I said was carefully edited is of no importance, as I am not important in this equation. It is important in that it reveals a Russian mindset that assumes that covert forces are operating against Russia. There are forces operating against it, but there is nothing particularly covert about them.

The failures of Russian intelligence services to manage the Ukrainian crisis and the weakening of the Russian economy raise serious questions about the future of Russia, since the Russian Federal Security Service is a foundation of the Russian state. And if Russia destabilizes, it is the destabilization of a nation with a massive nuclear capability. Thus, this is our second most important event.

3: The Desynchronization of the Global Economy

Europe is predicted to see little to no growth in 2015, with some areas in recession or even depression already. China has not been able to recover its growth rate since 2008 and is moving sideways at best. The United States announced a revision indicating that it grew at a rate of 5 percent in the third quarter of 2014. Japan is in deep recession. That the major economic centers of the world are completely out of synch with each other, not only statistically but also structurally, indicates that a major shift in how the world works may be underway.

The dire predictions for the U.S. economy that were floated in the wake of the 2008 crisis have not materialized. There has been neither hyperinflation nor deflation. The economy did not collapse. Rather, it has slowly but systematically climbed out of its hole in terms of both growth and unemployment. The forecast that China would shortly overtake the United States as the world’s leading economy has been delayed at least. The forecast that Europe would demonstrate that the “Anglo-Saxon” economic model is inferior to Europe’s more statist and socially sensitive approach has been disproven. And the assumption that Japan’s dysfunction would lead to massive defaults also has not happened.

The desynchronization of the international system raises questions about what globalization means, and whether it has any meaning at all. But a major crisis is occurring in economic theory. The forecasts made by many leading economists in the wake of 2008 have not come to pass. Just as Milton Friedman replaced John Maynard Keynes as the defining theorist, we are awaiting a new comprehensive explanation for how the economic world is working today, since neither Keynes nor Friedman seem sufficient any longer. A crisis in economic theory is not merely an academic affair. Investment decisions, career choices and savings plans all pivot on how we understand the economic world. At the moment, the only thing that can be said is that the world is filled with things that need explaining.

4: The Disintegration of the Sykes-Picot World

Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot were British and French diplomats who redrew the map of the region between the Mediterranean Sea and Persia after World War I. They invented countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Some of these nation-states are in turmoil. The events in Syria and Iraq resemble the events in Lebanon a generation ago: The central government collapses, and warlords representing various groups take control of fragments of the countries, with conflicts flowing across international boundaries. Thus the Iraqi crisis and the Syrian crisis have become hard to distinguish, and all of this is affecting internal Lebanese factions.

This is important in itself. The question is how far the collapse of the post-World War I system will go. Will the national governments reassert themselves in a decisive way, or will the fragmentation continue? Will this process of disintegration spread to other heirs of Sykes and Picot? This question is more important than the emergence of the Islamic State. Radical Islamism is a factor in the region, and it will assert itself in various organizational forms. What is significant is that while a force, the Islamic State is in no position to overwhelm other factions, just as they cannot overwhelm it. Thus it is not the Islamic State, but the fragmentation and the crippling of national governments, that matters. Syrian President Bashar al Assad is just a warlord now, and the government in Baghdad is struggling to be more than just another faction.

Were the dynamics of the oil markets today the same as they were in 1973, this would rank higher. But the decline in consumption by China and the rise of massive new sources of oil reduce the importance of what happens in this region. It still matters, but not nearly as much as it did. What is perhaps the most important question is whether this presages the rise of Turkey, which is the only force historically capable of stabilizing the region. I expect that to happen in due course. But it is not clear that Turkey can take this role yet, even if it wished to.

5: The Births of Asher and Mira

I was given two new grandchildren this year. For me, this must be listed as one of the five major events of 2014. I am aware that it is less significant to others, but I not only want to announce them, I also want to point out an important truth. The tree of life continues to grow new branches inexorably, even in the face of history, adversity and suffering. The broad forces of history and geopolitics shape our lives, but we live our lives in the small things. As much as I care about the other four matters — and I do — I care much more for the birth and lives of Asher and Mira and my other grandchild, Ari.

Life is experience in the context of history. It is lived in intimate contact with things that history would not notice and that geopolitics would not see as significant. “There are more things … than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” Hamlet said to his friend Horatio. Indeed, and their names are Asher, Mira and Ari. This must not be forgotten.

Have a happy New Year’s, and may God grant you peace and joy in your lives, in spite of the hand of history and geopolitics.

Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

The Top Five Events in 2014 is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

And my take on these:

1. I’ve been saying for as long as I’ve been writing this blog (actually longer) that Europe is dying. Since I have many UK readers, this is the background as to why I would likely support UKIP, out here in the colonies is a vast reservoir of liking, sympathy, and yes love for Mummy, most of us would very much like it if you were to regain your heritage and come grow with us. It worked well for the Tudors, and I think it would work even better for us all today. As Winston Churchill said, “The same language, the same hymns, and, more or less, the same ideals.”  As William Wordsworth said in 1807,

We must be free or die, who speak the tongue

That Shakespeare spoke, the faith and morals held.

Your elites have had their fling with the Europeans again, it’s time to come home, where you are loved and appreciated. Freedom matters, guys, too many of our people are buried around the world not to remember our heritage.

2. Russia has bitten off far more than it can chew, I think and will choke. What happens then is anyone’s guess. It a lot like 1979 all over again but Russia is a lot less stable than the USSR was, and a lot more uninhibited. You’ve noted I’m sure that the petroleum glut has reduced Russia’s GDP by up to 50%, and American production in government fields is still down by about 17% from its peak. If we drill on government lands and Saudi Arabia, who wants to hurt Iran, keeps producing, what happens? I don’t know and I doubt anyone really does.

3. We’re not in particularly good shape ourselves, but compared to the rest of the world, US, UK, Canada and the rest of Oceania, are pulling away, although not as fast as we did in the nineteenth century. I don’t know enough in this field to offer predictions but, again we’re “better together”, as we heard a lot of last year. If we can bring India along, we have a world beater started.

4. I don’t think the Sykes-Picot world will be coming back, we’ best be thinking about what happens next. And remember that Middle Eastern oil is becoming less important by the week. What happens when the Saudi’s go broke?

5. And finally, Congratulation to Mr. Friedman and his family. He’s right, whatever happens life goes on.

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