Guest Post: The Strategic Outlook - Fear and Uncertainty Have Paths of Their Own
Submitted by James Stafford of OilPrice.com
The Strategic Outlook: Fear and Uncertainty Have Paths of Their Own
Fear and uncertainty create patterns, paths of their own. And societies are again in a mosaic of uncertainty — and resultant fear — over the fate and durability of the social and security frameworks once taken for granted. Mass reaction to these fears will trigger transformative change. But there will be opportunities to seize and command change.
Almost all societies in the world have gone beyond the stage where they expect stability and linear progressions of the past to long endure. Some societies — almost en bloc — anticipate the end of their security; others anticipate the end of their suffering. Few expect insulation from change. That change, however, need not be entirely inscrutable if we look at global patterns and at historical human behaviour.
Economic Patterns: What we now call “economics” determines power and conflict patterns because wealth, or the deprivation of it, determines survival, and, for those who survive, “economics” determines the relative control they may have over individual and societal destiny. Thus social behavior determines economic viability, and the failure or success of economic patterns determines social corrective or compounding action.
We are about to see an acceleration of social reaction to economic failure - a reaction to the inflexibility of policies which have failed to adjust to changing circumstances.
Many finance ministers are speaking, still, as though their national economies can perform well with just minor adjustment to old patterns. This may not be so, particularly in the West, where the rapid growth in state revenues since the end of the Cold War pushed governments down the path of highly capital-intensive programs in areas which absolutely do not contribute to national productivity in essential manufactures or primary industry, and in many cases actually constrain productivity rises. As wealth grew, and tax revenues rose commensurately, the logical approaches of governments in market economies should have been to reduce taxation and further stimulate investment.
This occurred only rarely and incompletely. Taxpayers, also benefiting from rising wealth, themselves did not demand that governments constrain their spending. The situation thus created massive state sector positions in the Western economies. When recession strikes, industry and private citizens scale back and pay the price, but governments are less flexible. Unions and state workers make themselves immune to cuts and to the realities of the “real world”.
In countries such as Greece, France, Spain, Portugal, and so on (and now the US, UK, Australia, etc.), those in the private sector who have come to rely on state handouts — and therefore become “agents” for statism, and by default are opposed to market freedom — compound the entrenched political class’ view that the state should not undergo the kind of profound self-analysis and restructuring which the private sector must embrace.
The US, Australia, Greece, and so on, as just a few examples, are undergoing per capita productivity declines just at the time when they need to be developing a strategic buffer of internally-balanced economies and the ability to better compete internationally. And there is a fear that if wasteful government spending on huge capital projects ceases, then economies will collapse.
This fearful, selfish, and ignorant intellectual process within governments has been caused by the hubris generated by unfettered control of great wealth, and the presses which print the money. But governments only have the ability, in real terms, to dominate the non-productive — or, at best, productivity-enabling infrastructure — spending. Only by returning spending power to the innovative sections of society (in other words, the people) can economies become nimble and productive.
This is unlikely to happen, so we should expect sudden contractions in buying power in many Western states over the coming few years.
We are also already witnessing the contraction of some aspects of multinational mechanisms to amass and deploy capital wherever the market determines it can profitably be invested. Part of this contraction derives from the situation in which the world is entering a period where it may soon be without a viable global reserve currency. This in turn leads to the point where trade becomes more bilateral; investment scope becomes limited in some respects; and nationalism — and with it, protectionism — revives out of economic necessity.
There have been many factors leading to the revival of nationalism since the collapse of the brief (45 year) bipolar global strategic framework in 1990-91, and these were touched upon (certainly by this writer) from 1990 onward. So the seeming uncertainty in which we now find ourselves did not emerge suddenly or without understandable cause.
Perhaps, then, our “uncertainty” is not so uncertain?
Strategic Patterns: What clarity is emerging?
- Western economies will continue to decline, in real and strategic terms (if not in nominal accounting terms), unless truly radical re-structuring occurs, including the rapid and massive reduction of the size of government intervention in economies. This means an end to the era of entitlement welfare. However,
- No democratically-elected government will dare face voters if it reduces “bread for the masses”, that method of cheaply buying votes. So most governments will continue to jeopardize their nations — by continuing the bribery of the electorate — in order to remain in office. Change, then, should only be expected through the appearance of massive threat, or national collapse, enabling the emergence of decisive leadership not based on the popular vote.
- Those states which abandon forms of taxation (such as those based on carbon emissions) which curb productivity will fare better than those which do not.
The immediate future, then, will be commanded not by electoral “democracies”, but by decisive non-populist leaders who truly return productivity to the marketplace.
Russia and the People’s Republic of China are thus favored.
By. Gregory R. Copley, of www.GlobalintelligenceReport.com . For Breaking Geopolitical Intelligence, economic forecasting, trends and World News visit the Global Intelligence Report.