The new-new Enlightenment and the Counter-Reformation

On lighting a fire for scholarly rogueship

US-nazi-flag.pngTen years is a long time, and it passes in a heartbeat.

When Sam invited me to join the Scrogues a decade ago, it was to be the ‘libertarian’ to counterbalance what he saw as a quite left-wing team of writers and scholars who were coming together to think deep thoughts about the world we wanted.

My opening gambit was to point out the dangers of low expectations of those whose betterment we seek.

In truth, perhaps our mistake was assuming high expectations for democracy and liberalism. Continue reading

Economic development, and the decline of rural prospects, is a tale of many cities

Economic neglect unleashes the stalking demons of fear and bigotry.

We have seen those demons basking in the movements which gave us Brexit in the UK, Donald Trump’s election in the US, and which may soon yield Marine le Pen as the new Vichy leader of France.

I have started visiting small towns and cities around the UK in an effort to both understand what is happening there, and to promote small business investment in those areas.

I won’t post all the episodes here, but you can follow along at Coffee Conspiracies on YouTube.

In this episode, I look at the data for every local authority in England and Wales and consider the opportunities and threats for their communities.

Why our anti-Trump marches matter: the counterintuitive lesson of Africa’s “big men”

trumpRecent anti-Donald protests are hugely important, although maybe not for the reason you think.

I keep wanting to write an article on how similar Donald is to the Big Men of Africa, and I keep losing the will to live whenever I start … After all, the South African Truth Commission final report is a public document. If you want to know how this ends, go read it.

However, don’t think that he’s starting a new fascist state. This is about ties of blood.

If you look to Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria … any of the places ruled by Big Men … they work with what they have to create a support base. The best way to do that is tribalism. Create an in-group derived from your own tribe. Then bind that tribe to you. And you do that through violence.

The in-group must be told they are superior to the out-group. Change the law to subject the out-group to brutal discrimination and suppression. Ensure that there is real violence.

Let it simmer. Continue reading

“Weeping,” by Bright Blue, the song for America as it becomes an Apartheid state

A long time ago there was Apartheid, an ideology based on racial privilege, fear of the other, walls and barbed wire, censorship, ignorance and oppression.

This was one of the songs we sang when we wept for all those damaged, abused and betrayed and were denied the opportunity to fulfill their potential:

Continue reading

Wealth

The despicable inequality and cruel egalitarianism of wealth: towards a draft wealth tax to fund a basic income

Automating dull jobs into obsolescence

Part 3 of a series.

WealthTo those who have, more shall be given. Cities get more investment. From those who have little, more shall be taken. Small towns are finding that they are excluded from the excitement happening everywhere else and little investment goes their way.

The idea of capitalism – that goods should bear market prices, that justly acquired property is yours, and exchange between willing participants be free of encumbrances – is everywhere under threat.

There is, however, little policy difference between the extreme-left and extreme-right populist response. Both demand a remarkably statist approach to government, and both are perpetually outraged by “elites.” For each, elites appears to mean liberal educated people, rather than the wealthiest 1%.

What is most noticeable is how this wave of populism – from Brexit, to Donald Trump, to Italy and France – has united the working and capital class against liberal, educated middle class folks.

There is one difference between them, though: the extreme-right are hardcore bigots. Continue reading

Capitalism

The despicable inequality and cruel egalitarianism of wealth (Part 2): the innovation and wonder of Capitalism

Design is local but manufacturing and distribution are international

Part 2 of a series.

CapitalismLet’s recognise that Capitalism has brought a billion people out of absolute poverty over the past decade, that it is an astonishing way to allocate talent and enthusiasm to its best use, and that it’s not going anywhere soon.

In 2008, I wrote a research paper looking at the impact of globalisation on South Africa’s recently opened (post-Apartheid) economy, as well as the likely trends for the future.

The textiles industry, which had been a massive employer for South Africa, had been crippled. In 2008, from my report:

“Over the past ten years, labour unions started to take hold of the environment which led to a lot of fragmentation in the industry,” says Noel Paulson, Edcon’s Group Quality Executive. “A lot of the factories found that dealing with labour issues for the manufacturing process was very time-consuming and costly. Continue reading

Automated indoor farm capable of producing 30,000 heads of lettuce per day

What Donald learned from Putin, what we should learn from Piketty: the despicable inequality and cruel egalitarianism of wealth

Ending inequality with a wealth tax and a basic income grant

Wealth, inequality and povertyPart 1 of a series.

Inequality is rendered stark where astonishing fortunes are made by individuals who then bend their lives, from that point on, to avoid paying tax. This is possible, not because of the nature of capitalism, but because governments have permitted it to happen.

I’m not going to waste your time. This is what we need to do about it.

1) Introduce a unilateral progressive wealth tax

Three years ago, Thomas Piketty, a French economist, released the most important book on inequality in the last hundred years. In it, he carefully laid out – through data spanning centuries – how wealth accumulates, and how inequality has come to be as high as it has.

“Without a global tax on capital or some similar policy,” he warned, “there is a substantial risk that the top centile’s share of global wealth will continue to grow indefinitely – and this should worry everyone.” Continue reading

After Donald, of squandered talent, wasted time, and a lost future

Trump will reign over dust and desolation…

On 1 September 1859, telegraph operators across Europe and North America watched in horror as their equipment began to spark and behave erratically. Some disconnected their equipment from their power supplies and discovered they could still transmit.

Cables arced. Sparks flew. Operators fled as their offices caught fire.

What became known as the Carrington Event was the result of a solar eruption as a magnetic field containing a plasma mass equivalent to Mount Everest was flung out from the sun towards Earth. Continue reading

Brexit Britain Bigotry Bake-off

Turning every unemployed person into a doctor is neither possible nor desirable. But if you do the math, that seems to be where England is heading.

170px-bundesarchiv_bild_183-r999932c_jude_mit_stern_in_berlin

We’ve been here before…

It’s a few months since I wrote about my despair following the Brexit referendum and, as I feared, the walls are coming up. It’s not like Europe has much experience with forcing foreigners and minorities to be physically labelled and publicly humiliated.

So post-Brexit Britain’s new idea of forcing companies to label their foreign employees and humiliate them for not hiring locals is a depressing return to the dark ages.

A further idea is to replace all foreign employees with locals. They’re starting with the NHS — the country’s ubiquitous universal health service — which currently employs about 1.2 million people, of whom 55,000 are EU citizens (30,000 of whom are doctors). Continue reading

#Brexit: when the walls started coming up again all over Europe

brexit‘Everything I know about the world has changed. Things are going to get very dark and very ugly. There will be fear and suspicion and it will not end.’

I remember where I was on 11 September 2001. I remember how it felt. I remember what I thought.

There were a group of us gathered in the boardroom at Deloitte in Cape Town. It was the first meeting of the newly-established board that would govern the non-profit organisation I ran, Business Beat.

I remember ANC member of parliament Ben Turok emphatically telling me that I shouldn’t ‘dabble’, but should take things seriously. It was an odd, and oddly uninformed, rebuke considering that even by that date, I’d spent eight years working in South Africa’s townships to help undo the economic damage caused by Apartheid.

A secretary interrupted and had a brief, nervous conversation with our chair. He immediately, softly, said, ‘An airplane has just flown into the World Trade Centre in New York. I think we should cancel today’s meeting.’ Continue reading

Politics: Don't Tread on Me

If you believe in your ideals, vote for unprincipled bastards – lessons from Corbyn, Trump, Sanders, Cruz and Paul

If you truly believe in your ideals, do not – under any circumstances – vote for an idealist.

Jeremy Corbyn looks left

Jeremy Corbyn looks left

Political opinion has never been homogenous. As society has become wealthier and stratified into more extreme levels of that wealth, political ideals have fragmented.

The discontent sweeping the world’s ossified polities – the rise of Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East, ISIS – is a scream of fury at not being heard. But the way in which this is being expressed is in a demand for ideological purity.

A belief in ideals has become a belief in their purity. Continue reading

Tony Blair, the Honeywell Bubble Count, and the political struggle to understand the Internet’s rage machine

Tony Blair (yes, that Tony Blair) has been desperately trying to understand the outrage and energy that will see Jeremy Corbyn, a desperate Cold War-era hard-left throwback, become head of his precious UK Labour Party.

There is a politics of parallel reality going on, in which reason is an irritation, evidence a distraction, emotional impact is king and the only thing that counts is feeling good about it all.

Continue reading

Mourning the passing of online friends

“We are who we are because of who we love,” said my wife, “and it will always be so.”

We were discussing life, and its transience, off of two years in which far too many of those close to us have stopped.

There are a few people who I met via my Livejournal blog, now more than 15 years ago, who became online friends. One of those people happens to have been Sam, who introduced me into a small group that went on to start Scholars and Rogues. The Rogues are similarly part of the fabric of my friendships. Continue reading

Greece votes “No,” leaving us where?

When Yanis Varoufakis left academia to take up his position as Greece’s finance minister after the far-left electoral victory which brought Syriza to power, he said words to the effect that – if things didn’t work out – he could always go back to university.

“I mean, I really don’t want to be in this office … I will go back to my book about Europe, which is half-finished. It’s very difficult to find an ending when I am still in this job.”

I took away from that soundbite that he, akin with many of his ivory-tower colleagues, is unsuited for the real world and would abandon the consequences of his actions as soon as he got bored.

Today, he did just that, saying, “I wear the creditors’ loathing with pride.” Continue reading

Separate and not equal

Israel’s emphatic election result embraces the Apartheid state

Separate and not equal

Separate and not equal

Israel’s new Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, now has a mandate from Israelis to implement his policy: no Palestinian state, and preferential rights for Jewish Israelis.

Let’s be quite clear where that takes you: Apartheid South Africa.

75% of Israel’s population is of Jewish descent; a little over 6 million people. But the overall population of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is 14 million.

In a unified state, without any prospect for Palestinian independence, Jewish Israelis are instantly a minority group. Netanyahu has to ensure that Jewish Israelis continue to “rule” and so, just as importantly to his manifesto, is that Jewish Israelis must have more rights to protect them from that majority. Continue reading

Rereading Atlas Shrugged as South Africa becomes a dictatorship

atlas-shruggedKarl Marx was a brilliant diagnostician. His analysis of the way in which unregulated capitalism can drive inequality was incisive, especially considering the lack of data available to him to prove his point. His solution, on the other hand, was appallingly destructive.

That seems to happen fairly often. People notice a social or economic problem, assess and diagnose its cause with astonishing aplomb, and then suggest a solution of startling naiveté based on cartoonish assumptions about the way people behave.

Sometimes the cartoon solution reflects the cartoon in real life. Continue reading

Tartarus Falls Cover

Novel Journey 9: In which the author figures out his pricing so he can publish

Tartarus Falls Cover

Tartarus Falls

“Father, tell me a story?” asks Isaiah, moments before an alien craft smashes into the jungle near his isolated Nigerian village. Inside is the shattered body of a man.

With his orbital city hiding in the rubble of a devastating war, Samara falls 35,000km to escape from the space-based prison of Tartarus. Struggling to heal, and hunted by a brutal warlord in a ruthless land, Samara searches for a way home to the woman he loves.

And, in the darkness, waits the simmering fury at the heart of Tartarus.

I read a very good argument as to why we do need elite publishers and celebrity writers.

Publishers, like Hachette, serve to keep ebook prices high; $10 or more per book. Self-publishers aim low; 99c to $2.99 with another cluster at about $4.50. Continue reading

Microsoft’s HoloLens corporate communications are the reason the world is a better place today

I was shaking and weeping by the end of the advert for Microsoft’s new HoloLens technology.

Maybe you don’t like Microsoft? Or galloping consumerism? Or corporatism, or the wealth of the elite, or whatever. You’re a jaded cynic and such things serve to feed your rage.

I understand.

Put that aside for two minutes and twelve seconds and remember what it was like being five years old, when the world was new, and watch this:

Continue reading

Jeremy Paxman vs Richard Nixon: the alternative reality that never was (S&R Honors)

In an alternative universe Jeremy Paxman, not David Frost, interviewed Richard Nixon in 1977.

David Frost became an extremely successful comedian. His tours with Monty Python are celebrated to this day. Jeremy Paxman was newly-arrived in the US from Beirut where his explosive interview style had led to tension within the BBC.

His now infamous interrogation, in 1976, of Étienne Saqr of the Gardiens des Cèdres, whose militia massacred hundreds in Karantina in East Beirut, included 20 minutes of Paxman demanding, “Are you a genocidal maniac?” while Saqr threatened him with a machine gun. Continue reading