1. Sawatdi bpi mai kap!
Mark has again used this Thai new year’s greeting. It means:
- May you find compassion, loving kindness and equanimity along your paths over the next year!
Last year the spelling was Sawatdi pi mai khrab!. Presumably the latest is correct.
There is no shortage of dangerous and ridiculous nations in the world, but Germany does not spring to mind as being in the forefront of the list. Bill Mitchell, Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle begs to differ as the blogpost link above reveals.
In simple terms Germany flouts the EU rules at will and is seriously bullying other EU members with ridiculous economic policies which actually impoverish Germany itself and make life miserable for other EU members. In doing so it insists that other members live within the rules, some of which are ridiculous, while continuing to break the rules itself. Mitchell seems to think that only a breakup of the Euro currency will cure the problem. He says that if all other European Monetary Union countries followed Germany’s lead there would be a mass depression throughout Europe.
I’m not economically literate enough to argue with his economics. However, I took the Political Compass test from the link on this page, and came up with a score similar to his:
My score was in the same corner as his, just one notch to the right.
Mitchell seems to be saying that Germany’s practice of running gigantic trade surpluses leads to the export of German capital, German workers being paid less than they otherwise would, and there is a lack of investment in modernising German infrastructure.
Modernising the EU financial system has just seen the EU adopt a new rule book with 7000 pages and 1.7 million paragraphs. I do hope they know what they are doing.
3. Dystopian progress
Paul Klee was a German painter born in Switzerland in 1879. In 1920, just after the first World War, he painted a work called Angelus Novus:
I have versions with more light in them and some with a reddish tint. I’d love to see the real work.
Walter Benjamin, a German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic and essayist was impressed with the painting and made a comment:
- “A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.”
Benjamin died by overdosing on morphine tablets in Portbou at the French–Spanish border when Spanish authorities apprehended his group with the apparent intention of turning them over to the Nazis.
I believe the concept of time used by Benjamin is very complex, the simple version being that all time is held within the present, so if you fix the present you fix history as well. Something to look forward to and work towards for the future.
The painting and Benjamin’s comment intrigues me, and it popped up again, so I thought I’d throw it in.
4. We will all be wealthier, no worries
I know we’ve given the topic of the limits to growth the rounds of the kitchen in thread to the post Paul Hawken’s Drawdown a ‘must read’ but in the Financial Times Tim Harford is at it again in an article Why I predict we will be wealthier in the future. It’s pay-walled, but if you google his name and the title you might get it in return for answering a silly question.
Apparently John Maynard Keynes in his 1930 essay, “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” forecast that on average we might expect to be eight times richer in 2030.
- We will fall somewhat short of that, but not by much. I’ll make a more conservative forecast: that we’ll be five times richer in 2118 than we are today.
That would put global income at around $80,000 per person — roughly twice the current average salary in the UK today — and income in the leading economies will be more than $250,000 per person per year in today’s money.
He points out that being on a comfortable income now is much more fun with smartphones, computer games, air conditioning, penicillin, air travel and takeaway pizza than it would have been 100 years ago, living in a mansion with servants.
So we are going to have fun, but that is just as well because there may be precious little work to do. We’ll all be on a universal income.
He says that energy consumption per person peaked in 1973 in the UK (that probably does not account for imported goods and international air and ship movements) and that population growth has been in decline for half a century.
- we’ll have to abandon the current model of the welfare state in favour of one where unemployment is neither stigmatised nor penurious, but a perfectly respectable lifestyle choice. That will require some kind of universal income for all.
He’s not promising that there will be no wars, or that we’ll all be equal.
Colour me agnostic.
5. The most important event of the week
Over in the US there is a kerfuffle about a book someone wrote.
What could the matter be?!
The most important event, however, was the announcement that the Pakistanis will use the Chinese yuan for bilateral trade. I understand this is the first towards what will be a trading block with China of over 600 million people in Asia. India, of course, will be outside the tent.
2017 was a year I think most of us were glad to leave behind. However, the most important ‘event’ was probably the consolidation of President Xi Jinping’s power, with China on the ascendancy and the US not so much. We could look back on 2017 as the tipping point year in the global hegemony.
6. New featured image
You may have noticed that a new face occupies the position of featured image at the head of the post. I’ve decided to give Voltaire the flick in favour of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
I adopted Voltaire because he was a great conversationalist, especially for a time with Frederick the Great. During the year I’ve been talking at times about Rousseau’s ideas in the genesis of the French Revolution. Recently on a Radio National program, forget which, someone was emphasising Rousseau’s ideas in contrast with Voltaire as the philosopher of the establishment.
So I though I might make a switcheroo for 2018.
Turns out there was a connection with Voltaire and Fred. Rousseau had fallen foul of the French regime and was being kicked out of Bern. Earlier he had received an invitation from Voltaire:
- Voltaire issued an invitation to Rousseau to come and reside with him, commenting that: “I shall always love the author of the ‘Vicaire savoyard’ whatever he has done, and whatever he may do…Let him come here [to Ferney]! He must come! I shall receive him with open arms. He shall be master here more than I. I shall treat him like my own son.”
Fred had the view that people could think whatever they liked, and had the right to be fools. So in the end Rousseau got sanctuary in the Principality of Neuchâtel, a small state in southern Germany near the Alps which Fred happened to own. Fred, busy with the Seven Years War wrote to the governor of Neuchâtel:
- We must succor this poor unfortunate. His only offense is to have strange opinions which he thinks are good ones. I will send a hundred crowns, from which you will be kind enough to give him as much as he needs. I think he will accept them in kind more readily than in cash. If we were not at war, if we were not ruined, I would build him a hermitage with a garden, where he could live as I believe our first fathers did…I think poor Rousseau has missed his vocation; he was obviously born to be a famous anchorite, a desert father, celebrated for his austerities and flagellations…I conclude that the morals of your savage are as pure as his mind is illogical.
Any way Rousseau thanked Fred, but still urged him to give up his military activities. That wasn’t up to Fred at the time, but after the Seven Year War ended Fred did preside over peace for about 40 years.