The fallacy of the ‘post-industrial’ society (900)

No-one—seemingly—can decide whether the West is heading for a long-term recession or is on the verge of runaway inflation.

There are signs of both recession and inflation at the present time. The bell-wether of a healthy economy—house buying—is in the doldrums, with unsold houses and distressed mortgage payments accumulating. Central bank rates are already so close to zero that any resumption of normal interest rates—which must be attempted sooner or later—would plunge millions onto the streets and millions more small businesses into bankruptcy. On the other hand, inflation is creeping up in our basic costs of living—food, clothing and energy—and threatens to break out on a wider front. Because of money-printing, a huge dam of money is already accumulating in the major banks (to build up reserves and repair highly-indebted balance sheets), in large producer goods businesses (as retained profits) and in private pensions and investments funds (which scarcely know what to do with it). If this dam were to burst then we would meet widespread destitution more dramatically than by deepening recession alone.
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Kettling towards a police-state (650)

Tens of thousands of public service trade union members are expected to march in London today to protest against the government’s austerity plans. Thousands of police are expected to be present also. As usual these days, they’ll be wearing their visors and crash helmets, and holding shields and batons. Hopefully — but probably unlikely—they’ll do little more than shove.
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Almost as good as food but with a longer shelf-life (700)

I’m breaking my own rule today not to comment on UK affairs. My excuse is that our affairs are not a great deal different from those of America, Japan and almost all other ‘advanced’ countries in Western Europe. All these governments are heavily in debt, with only one or two small-country exceptions. Yesterday’s Budget by our quaintly-named Chancellor of the Exchequer was little different from what would have been that of the Labour Party, had they been in government. It was a brave attempt to convince us that we can be taxed enough for x years to come so as to somehow reduce government debt to a level at which interest payments will be affordable.
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The fallacy of concern about world population growth (550)

In an otherwise thoughtful book, Laurence Smith, a scientist at the University of California Los Angeles, has mistakenly adopted the United Nations 2010 Medium projection for world population growth. In The New North, Smith forecasts a world population of about 9 billion people at around 2050 and declining thereafter. He would have been much better to assume the UN Low projection of 7.5 billion, peaking at around 2040. But these are only demographic projections. They don’t take economics into account and, in particular, the future food requirements of China, not to mention other fast industrializing countries.
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The Libyan solution might well be tribal (550)

One extremely possible result of the Libyan affair is that the country will divide into two. Indeed, the country as a whole is only a year older than I am. It was only named Libya by the Italian government in 1934 when it joined two distinct colonies together—Cyrenaica in the east and Tripolitania in the west. Bearing mind what is now being discovered by the new science of epigenetics we can also leap back a couple of thousand years to detect some original cultural causes of differences between people in each part.

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The irony of real cultural change (450)

By interfering in Libya, the West is now poised to make yet another bad mistake. Cultures can’t be changed from the outside. History tells us this. The 400-year occupation of England by the Romans taught us this. We reverted to something else sas soon as the troops had gone. The ten-year occupation of Afghanistan taught this to the US Defense Secretary, Robert M. Gates, who has served under two different Presidents. He advised against the latest interference but was over-ruled.
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The hinny canter towards smaller governments (550)

While we wait to see whether an eruption of world-wide impact (radioactively and economically) will or will not occur in the next day or two in the Fukushima reactors of Japan, I’ve been thinking of a little country which I happened to mention in passing yesterday—Belgium (and which, until this morning, I knew almost nothing about). In comparison to Japan, this country is of trivial interest to most of us. Since Belgium has little by way of oilfields, its fate is also of far less concern than the other news event which dominates the newspapers this morning—Libya.
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Those nicely-wrapped territorial sovereignties (900)

If all the politicians of the developed countries were to die of a mysterious disease today then—apart from their immediate families—no-one would notice much difference. Governments would continue as before and the daily lives of everybody else would continue as before. Indeed, we have a current example. The Belgian nation-state organisation has been operating more or less satisfactorily without an elected government for almost a year now under the supervision of its civil servants. At least, we in the UK, only 100 miles away from Belgium, haven’t heard of any great breakdown. There seems to be no reason why Belgium shouldn’t continue in its present condition for a long time to come.
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We don’t need to worry so much about nuclear power

Do we really need nuclear power? Now that so many disasters are occurring to the nuclear power stations in Japan and thousands are fleeing their homes in real (and understandable) fear, this is the question that thoughtful people round the world will be asking. In order to answer this we need to ask a further question: Why were the nuclear power stations ever built in the first place? After all, they’re not economic when making electricity.
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A glimpse of the subservient Japanese mind (450)

All of you, like me, will have been spellbound by the disaster scenes in Japan yesterday as the earthquake and then the tsunami struck, and our hearts go out to them. There was one scene—seemingly trivial—which fascinated me more than any other. This was in the supermarket where, during the course of the violent quake, shop assistants were actually trying to prevent bottles falling from the top shelves. I cannot imagine any other country or culture in which the assets of one’s employer would take priority in such a situation of extreme personal danger.
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Epigenetics and the Gaddafi affair (1900)

For those who might be interested, but know nothing or little about epigenetics, I will explain in what follows. This might turn out to be rather lengthy but, to my mind, it is the most important essay I have ever tried to write, and the most carefully considered one in its composition. I hope those of you who read to the end may also consider it important. Feedback would be welcomed.
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Little hope for the ordinary folk of the Middle East (450)

It looks as though the democracy movement in the Islamic countries of the Middle East is failing. Gaddafi appears to be suppressing the protesters in the same brutal way that Ahmadinejad did in Iran in 2009. The Tunisians presently fleeing their country for Italy in boats suggests that their new provisional government is no better than Ben Alis’s was. In Egypt, despite the resignation of Mubarak and the apparent success of the democracy movement three weeks ago, there is no sign that anything constructive is emerging from the army council. In Yemen, Bahrein and Saudi Arabia, any democracy protests are either snuffed out quickly or are prevented from happening. Pakistan kills Christians to popular acclaim. Afghanistan buries women to their necks and stones them to death so we are pretty reliably informed.
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The uncaring, but fascinating, God (200)

This morning I read an obituary of Daniel Bell who died last month aged 91. He was an un-met guru of mine when I was a young man who influenced my thinking a great deal. He wrote The End of Ideology in 1960 and The Coming of Post-Industrial Society in 1973. He wrote a great deal more before, during and since those years but both of those specific ideas have now entered common usage, or at least among those who think about the future. But what registered in the obituary was something he never wrote about but an anecdote he used to tell his friends—of a conversation he had at the time of his bar mitzvah with the rabbi.
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What’s worrying our showbiz politicians (550)

There is one deadly weapon that all senior politicians fear. This is the miniaturized version of the drones that are now being used to kill Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan. Flying around, either largely or completely unobserved and controlled by a far-distant operator sitting at a monitor, a drone is able to deliver an explosion or a chemical injection to a single individual.
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Democracy is the icing on the cake (400)

Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Zine Ben-Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and the still-reigning Muammar Gaddafi of Libya were a great deal closer to leading their countries to become nation-states than Western politicians imagine. Brutal though these dictators were, they were a great deal closer to many of the types of kings and princelings of Europe in the 1500s and onwards (starting with our own brutal King Henry VIII) as they started to prise their regions away from the political power of the Pope and the Medieval Church.
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All the way to the Zozi Games (200)

Why each Olympic Games should have an additional logo to the excellent one of the five rings beats me. The UK’s logo for the 2012 Olympic Games looks like a bricolage of broken crockery. Something thrown onto a hard floor. It’s the equivalent of Tracey Emin’s unmade bed being exhibited as a work of art in the Tate Gallery. They are both a part of the modern ‘serious’ arts madness (also infecting architecture, music, poetry, sculpture, etc) that a future historian might be able to give reasons for.
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