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The next superpower

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India_as_an_emerging_superpower#/media/File:Flag_of_India.svg; Public Domain

After a visit abroad, one sees your own country in a different light.  One is also reminded of the rise and fall of great powers, and where your own country sits on its own trajectory.  Being an American, it was once impossible to think of America not being top dog, but all things (top universities, countries, cultures) that have a beginning, have a high point, and an end.  The reign of currencies that have been used for trade has undergone a typical transition, as mentioned previously here, and so, as we print our way into the poor house, other nations may rise.  So,  who might be next as a world leader?

One possibility of a next superpower is India.  Visiting there a few weeks ago, there were a few things that reminded me of America 100 years ago.  Provided the environment doesn’t completely go out of whack (which is more likely than not), India might be at least a bigger player on the world stage down the road, at least for a short while.

In one city I visited, it was industrial as hell. Dust on the roads; massive traffic. Cows roaming the streets, of course, and quite a few poor folks. Trash was everywhere. Every place that had any sort of valuable infrastructure had a guard at the front, and a wall/gate surrounding the property.   In another city, parts were modern and clean, however, pollution was still endemic, and the waterways looked horrible.   The analogs to the ugly industrial America of a century ago (think mill towns, and rivers like the Merrimack, Hudson, Charles, and Ohio) were clear.  What might make India a bigger player down the road has been discussed in a few places, although there are a few detractors on this, including from its own citizens.  The things that struck me as in India’s favor:

  • English is taught and understood in many important places.  They could easily take over a good bit of America’s business, and might integrate themselves with Europe.
  • The population is young.
  • They’ve got nominally a democratic system.  Yes, they do lock up politicians sometimes, but the trappings of a parliament, civil service, and so on are probably closer than China’s.
  • They’ve got nukes, put more than a few spacecraft in orbit (and was close to being the 4th nation to softland on the moon), aircraft carriers (one now, and two on the way), and a large economy (3rd in the world in PPP, purchasing power parity).
  • Rightly or wrongly, they’ve got a good bit of nationalism.  There was a bit of ‘I Love India’ on the back of trucks, as well as crossed Indian flags on cab dashboards (no different than you might see in the US).

I’m no geopolitical expert, but there’s a good case to be made for India. What do you think?

Next week – the NEXT next superpower, from a perhaps unlikely place.

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The new FDR, and the New New Deal?

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Delano_Roosevelt#/media/File:Froosevelt.jpeg – Public Domain

Spitballing about our possible future, and some of the ways things might wobble forward, there’s some wonder if what we’ve got now (almost 90 years to the month of the 1929 crash) is simply repeating itself (“once more, with feeling!”, as they say in the music business).

We’ve got a president who says everything is fine (the stock market is still on a tear; shades of 1928), yet there are plenty of cracks appearing in the financial world.  If it goes south before the election (Cornell professor David Collum thinks at least a 50% correction is possible – remember, we don’t revert to the mean, but go through it), the chance of Trump being re-elected are slim and none.   On one side of the Democratic ledger, we’ve got Elizabeth Warren, who, taking a page out of the Amanda Palmer(!) playbook, has been doing the hard work of connecting with people after shows, er, speeches, and taking oodles of selfies with supporters.   At this point in the Democratic horse race (the Pocahontas bit aside – every candidate, bar none, has something that doesn’t look good), she seems like a viable candidate who can get the job done.  Yes, she shares some of the pie-in-the-sky ideas that other candidates have, and yes, she might sound like a schoolmarm. If things go badly in our financial casino, a schoolmarm might be just what we need.  There is one place where she may set her self apart, but without the more socialist leanings of Bernie.

Warren wants to go after Wall Street, and it would be hard for most regular people on both sides of the aisle (at least those who don’t have a lot of money) to disagree with the mess that the bankers and investment types have created.  If ever there was a villain that needed to be taken to task, Wall Street fits the bill.  From some of the criticism, it looks like those future prison residents are quite perturbed. Some of her other proposals in the financial sector make a good deal of sense; public (postal) banks, for example.  But going after Wall Street, especially after some of the egregious excesses of the past, is something that most people who are in my world (even the ones on the right, who do see crony capitalism as a problem) might agree on.

A reborn Glass-Stegall; postal banking; putting a good many high end people in jail for fraud – it won’t ease the pain of the next crash, but it might give people some confidence that there is a hard limit to the amount of fleecing and bamboozlement that the country can take without striking back.

If Warren doesn’t make it – Amanda Palmer For President in 2024, as noted previously.

 

Wars and rumors of wars

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Cygnus_atratus#/media/File:Black_Swan_at_Martin_Mere.JPG; Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities did some serious damage. As Charles Hugh Smith put it – The Black Swan Is A Drone, and this attack shows how cost effective this all was.   Asymmetrical warfare has always been conducted, in many wars and conflicts, but this asymmetry, like the attack on 9/11, shows how woefully inadequate modern defenses are to stopping these sorts of things.  To sum up: With more technology comes more asymmetry.   Ironically, this asymmetry may destroy technology (or at least a good chunk of our technological society), so at some point, you could get back to slugging it out like your ancestors.

The latest from Saudi Arabia raises an eyebrow or two, and makes you wonder which stanza of history we are rhyming with these days.   1914?  1938?  1990?   The Bible talks of “wars and rumors of wars,” and we may be in for more of this.

 

Advisers

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Council_of_Economic_Advisers.png ; Public Domain

No matter who is in charge, on the left or the right, a hallmark of a great leader (or leaders) is to bring people on board who have real-world or specialized knowledge that can help guide the decision making process.  The current president isn’t exactly torch bearer for intellectual pursuits; most of Congress is filled with lawyers and academic types, not technical people.  It also appears that people who know about sociology and history are lacking, as we seem to be repeating the same mistakes.

Who would you bring to be advisers of the President, or members of Congress?  A few new cabinet posts, perhaps; a Secretary of Future Planning; a Secretary of Predicaments; a Secretary of Reality… all seem like things we could use these days.

Anyone in the collapsnik world would be a welcome change to give a bit of reality to the powers that be.

Who would you put forward?

The last time

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Citroen_Xsara_fuel_gauge.jpg – CC-BY-SA-4.0 – Santeri Viinamäki

There’s an eerie feeling one can sometimes get when using some sort of technological bauble, or when seeing a piece of technology that has been around for what seems forever.  It pops up more consistently, when you run out gas, electrical power fails, or the ubiquitous Wi-Fi goes out.  The feeling is accompanied by a small voice which asks the question, “What if this was the last time you got to use this?”

There are two ways, of course this can happen – one, you simply die that day (which is the more common!)  The second is that the thing you relied on just simply goes away, for reasons political or natural.  After 9/11, the ability to easily board a plane went away.  After a hurricane hits, a barrier beach moves, and the coast you grew up on is gone. Folks who live in war zones know this feeling, but perhaps in the back of their collective heads, they know somewhere in the world, “normal” life goes on, and they might get to experience that again.

Some technologies get surpassed; notepad were followed by typewriters, which begat wordprocessors, which begat computers with word processing software.   For the most part, we are happy with progress, and you can still work with a pad and paper, or a typewriter.  But what are you going to truly miss in our stairstep-down future?   Easy highway travel?   Cheap delivery of packages?  International air travel? Food from around the planet, year round? Is there anything that has gone away that we can’t ever, ever get back?

Pretty soon, it will be ice in the arctic, and as much as we might not need it personally, as a species, we might miss it a lot more than we’d like to think about.