A few days ago, someone on a web forum–I forget which one–said we should feel really privileged to be able to live through the collapse of a major civilization, because so few people ever will. I guess that’s something to consider as we watch the West fall apart around us.
Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
There’s a kerfuffle now and again about MGTOW: Men Going Their Own Way. That an increasing number of men have decided that marriage is too expensive, the risk of divorce far too high, and have given up to live their own way on their own instead.
But I think that’s just a subset of a wider movement: Westerners Going Their Own Way. Be they male, female, single, married, young or old.
I’ve seen a lot of discussion in the last few years about Americans quitting their city life, taking their money and moving somewhere remote and rural where they can live cheaply. And it seems to be spreading.
Which makes sense. Why work to pay taxes to fund a government that hates you? Why not pull out and watch it go bust?
Particularly as cities continue to decay and impose higher and higher taxes and crazier and crazier rules on those who live there. Someone has to pay for all those public-sector pension promises, and the people paying for those pensions can’t be allowed to live the way they want to live without constant nannying by those whose pensions they’re paying for.
This trend is only going to accelerate over the next couple of decades as cities become less and less important, and we can make more and more things at home.
Whenever I look at the news, it increasingly seems to me that we’re in a race to reach the point where we no longer need an industrial society before the wackos destroy that society. And it’s not clear who’s going to win.
SF is full of stories of global, or interplanetary, or even interstellar governments. Government just like today, except vastly larger.
But it’s not going to happen in real life.
Government follows production. When production is centralized, as it was in the industrial era, government can collect much of that centralized wealth in taxes, and use it to expand into a big, centralized government. And it can justify those acts by claiming that big, centralized production needs a big, centralized government to make it efficient.
And the politicians have a point. If you want your country to be wealthy in a world of big, centralized production, you don’t want to be constantly dealing with localized regulations that get in the way.
So you’re about as likely to see a small, libertarian government in an industrial society as you are an ice cube in volcanic lava. All the incentives are pushing against that, and it would take a herculean opposition to prevent it.
At which point, your neighbours with their big-government, big-business economy would probably invade and take you over.
But that’s rapidly coming to an end. 3D printing, cheap CNC and similar technologies mean more and more of the things we use are going to be made locally, many of them at home. The kinds of technologies we have to develop to survive in space are going to make small communities self-sufficient on Earth, too.
And then, why would they want to be told what to do by governments hundreds or thousands of miles away? What would they gain from a big government when pretty much everything they encounter is made or grown within a few miles of where they live?
So the natural incentives in the future are for small, localized government, or no government at all. A single family building a home from an asteroid aren’t going to want anyone telling them what to do, and a small tribe doing the same aren’t going to want anyone outside the tribe telling them what to do.
Now, one obvious counterargument is that those who have access to the most resources are going to use them to build giant robot armies to enslave the rest. But that’s not going to work well in space, where the distances will make any kind of warfare rather difficult. On Earth, perhaps, but if you have a giant robot army, you don’t need to enslave anyone. You wouldn’t be invading their territory to govern them, you’d be invading it to kill them and steal their resources.
And, of course, those who have power will fight this trend tooth-and-nail. We’re already seeing this with the ever-increasing calls to censor the Internet, and the open censorship of their users by many of the big Internet businesses who only exist in their current form because of a cosy co-dependency with those in power.
Some government will ban all innovation and go full North Korea on their citizens, even as North Korea is going the other way. If a government can force people to live in an industrial society even while their neighbours are decentralizing through localized manufacturing, it could continue to exist for some time. But, as soon as that country becomes a problem, their more advanced neighbours will come in and free it from its backward government.
So, my forecast would be:
- Big government will become less and less useful and more and more an impediment to technological innovation. Instead of helping the country become wealthy, as it did in the distant past, it will help the country become poor.
- Many governments will try to ban new manufacturing technologies that lead to the decentralization of production. But they’ll eventually fail, because nations which do that will become technological backwaters.
- Even as we see a resurgence of nationalism around the world, it’s unlikely that it will become the norm before tribalism takes over. If there’s a planetary government on Mars, it will only last until the second colony is built.
- Earth will be a death-trap, as those who want its resources for the automated production of weapons will just take them, and not care whose they were before. The kind of person who would care won’t be building a giant robot army to steal your stuff.
- As we spread out across the galaxy, centralized government will become even less viable as the distances involved will make such control impossible. Maybe a government on Earth could control Alpha Centauri with an eight-year communication round-trip. But a star fifty light years away? A hundred? A thousand? How can you control a colony when communication of orders from the central government takes longer than the entire lifespan of the Roman Empire?
Of course, yes, I still do have big governments in some of my stories. Just because something seems inevitable in the real world doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for a sci-fi story. But those stories also generally include faster-than-light travel and other technologies that I don’t really believe in either.
As an SF writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about the future and how it may work. And, I have to admit, the more I think about it, the harder it is to see what’s coming.
But, lately, the left have come up with a wonderful new idea: Universal Basic Income.
Aka ‘free money for doing nothing’. So not really that new or that wonderful.
The theory goes like this. AI and automation are about to make most jobs obsolete, which means that most people won’t have an income, which means they won’t be able to buy anything, which means that business owners won’t be able to make any money, which means we must tax the businesses to give money to the unemployed so they can buy stuff from those businesses and keep them in business.
It doesn’t take very long to see why this is nonsense. Sure, many big business owners are all in favour of UBI. But that’s because they see it as a free money handout, and don’t expect to be the ones paying for it.
Let’s look at what happens when they do have to pay for it:
I have $1,000 as a business owner. I give it to the government in tax. They take their cut and hand $900 on to the unemployed. I sell them $900 of products, and make $450 of profit.
So, I had $1,000. Thanks to the wonders of UBI, I now have $450.
So why wouldn’t I have just closed down the business instead, and kept the $1,000 I had?
Economically, it makes no sense. So the left have to resort to their usual standby: violence. Pay them money, they say, or they’ll riot and murder the rich.
Of course, that doesn’t work either, because the rich will be living in their bunkers in New Zealand, and will be unaffected by the violence. The rioters will burn down their cities and then… well, die, presumably.
A hundred years ago, that prospect would have terrified the rich, because they needed those people to work in their factories to produce products to sell. But if all the factories are automated, the rich have no reason to care. In fact, they’d probably prefer to see the now economically worthless poor kill each other, so there’ll be more resources available to the rich.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Automation may progress slower than expected, and the welfare state may become UBI at some point. Or the rich may decide it’s better to keep the masses occupied with bread and circuses until they’re ready to release a killer virus or robot army to wipe them out.
But I can’t see any way it’s going to be more than a short-term situation. In a world where the rich can have robots and automated factories to dig up resources and turn them into useful stuff, they’re not likely to want to waste those resources on people who give them nothing in return.
And, if it does happen, it will rapidly become a means of social control. Complain about the government? No UBI for you.
I have incorporated it to a limited extent in the new rewrite of Rebellion, but that’s precisely what it is: a way to control the chavs of England, so long as they still exist.
Apparently the British Army has a recruiting problem (kids don’t want to be sent to Afghanistan to kill people who’ve never done anything to them), so the solution is to become all huggy-fluffy.
You just couldn’t make this up.
Funny, isn’t it? The Middle East is going to Hell, and all the mass media are interested in are Climate Change and ‘Muh Russia!’
After the Apocalypse, no-one is going to want to admit to having been part of the 21st century mass media.
President of the Philippines calls the President of America a “son of a whore”, and says they’ll be “wallowing in the mud like pigs” if the President of America disrespects him.
President of America, supposedly the most powerful man in the world, gets in a huff and goes to Korea instead.
Can anyone imagine that happening with a real President, like Reagan? Back then, the Philippines cared what America thought about it. Apparently not any more.
The Chinese leaders must be laughing their ass off.
More on the ‘post-scarcity’ nonsense:
Convicted with thirteen life sentences, and thirteen five year sentences for using an imitation firearm in an armed robbery.
You’d think he’d be in prison for the rest of his life, wouldn’t you?
Not in Britain.
I’m so glad to see that, while the economy collapses around them, the EU can still find time to… mandate a universal smartphone charger.
So, we’ll be stuck with Micro-USB chargers until the EU goes bust. which, fortunately, probably won’t take long.
No, it’s acting like a socialist nation, which is exactly what the US government has been turning it into over the last few decades.
A nation where people are expected to work for a living can afford a big war budget. A nation which puts a vast fraction of its GDP into a welfare state cannot. There’s a reason the British Empire collapsed after WWII, and that reason is the British welfare state; now America is heading down the same path.
Which isn’t a bad thing, in a way. Since WWII, most other Western nations have cut back on defence and bloated their welfare states because they can rely on America to protect them. If the US Navy is no longer at their beck and call, they’ll have to start looking seriously at real defence measures. For example, a nation which expects others to defend it can afford to ban guns… a nation which expects its people to have to defend it cannot.
After years of economic stagnation due to the bursting of the bubble of cheap credit created by central banks holding interest rates artificially low, the G20 has decided that what we really need is economic growth:
Now, if only they had any idea of how to actually create economic growth, rather than just printing money and handing it to bankers…
Please can we get some Global Warming up this way, soon?
From Chaos Manor:
“Negotiating with Obama is like playing chess with a pigeon.The pigeon knocks over all the pieces, shits on the board and then struts around like it won the game.” Vladimir Putin
No idea whether Putin really said that, but it’s true anyway.
The real question is how Obama ever got into the White House?
Oh, hang on: the alternative was Romney or McCain. I guess it could have been worse.
How did the world ever reach the point where anyone could take seriously the idea that those three were the best possible candidates to run America?
How can you win a war when you can’t define what winning means?
I’ve been reading Losing Small Wars, and, recently, a thread on a web forum where people, many of them British military, were arguing about the British Army in Afghanistan and how they should stay there until they win, etc.
The problem is that no-one has ever been able to explain what ‘winning’ there would mean, in any sense that could actually be achieved.
In the Falklands, it was easy: throw out the Argentinian military and return the islands to British control. In the first Gulf War, throw the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait and return it to the Kuwaiti government.
Even the initial invasion of Afghanistan made sense: capture or kill bin Laden, and kick al Qaeda’s ass. But they let bin Laden get away, yet they still couldn’t manage to leave. Rather than withdraw most troops and send in Special Forces to hunt down the remnants of al Qaeda, they switched to ‘nation building’.
Every suggested definition of winning since seems to pretty much come down to turning Afghanistan into Surrey, which makes about as much sense as trying to turn Surrey into Afghanistan. Given the British government’s attempts over the last couple of decades to turn Britain into an Islamic state, the latter might actually happen, but first you’d have to get rid of those annoying British people in Surrey who don’t much like Sharia law. Similarly, turning Afghanistan into Surrey would be possible, but only by getting rid of those annoying Afghans who don’t want to be Western liberals. I guess the ideal solution would be to do a swap, with the Afghans moving to Surrey and the Surreyans moving to Afghanistan; then everyone could be happy.
I realized the other day that zombies are really a metaphor for Marxists; they come into your world, eat your friends’ brains, and turn them into mindless drones who want nothing more than to make you one of them for their own greedy ends.
Peru is in a state of emergency due to unusually low temperatures and heavy snow:
Fortunately, unlike unusually warm periods, this is only weather and not climate. Because if the planet’s temperature was to drop a few degrees, that would really, really suck.