Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Y’know, it is strange sometimes how things work out. I went away for an extended weekend – I have eight days leave due to me and another 20 at the ened of the month – so SWMBO and I invited some very good friends to come and share a few days along with some good wine, good food and good conversation at the beachside in Opononi. Now the forecast was not promising, with 25 plus knots of nor-easter and rainy bits as well. But we managed, and our friends left well-satisifed as did we. But that is not what I want to talk about.

In one of the papers between Friday and Sunday was a small article that gave a somewhat different paradigm to the “current financial meltdown”. I made a mental note to look it up on the net when we got back to the big smoke. Could I find it? Not even au!!

But I did turn up two other articles, both ex Granny Herald, that have a quite curious connection apart from their appearance in consecutive editions.

The first of the two is by-lined Pamela Hess, a lady I do not recall having read previously. She has flicked out a report from the National Intelligence Council titled "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World”
Some of our preliminary assessments are highlighted below:
 The whole international system—as constructed following WWII—will be revolutionized. Not only will new players—Brazil, Russia, India and China— have a seat at the international high table, they will bring new stakes and rules of the game.
 The unprecedented transfer of wealth roughly from West to East now under way will continue for the foreseeable future.
 Unprecedented economic growth, coupled with 1.5 billion more people, will put pressure on resources—particularly energy, food, and water—raising the specter of scarcities emerging as demand outstrips supply.
 The potential for conflict will increase owing partly to political turbulence in parts of the greater Middle East.

Hess tempts with others –

It also says the warming earth will extend Russia and Canada's growing season and ease their access to northern oil fields, which will strengthen their economies. But Russia's potential emergence as a world power may be clouded by lagging investment in its energy sector, persistent crime and government corruption, the report says.

Analysts also warn that the same kind of organized crime plaguing Russia could eventually take over the government of an Eastern or Central European country. The report is silent on which one.

It also says countries in Africa and South Asia may find themselves unstable and ungoverned, as state regimes collapse or wither away under security problems and water and food shortages brought about by climate change and a population increase of 1.4 billion.

The potential for conflict will be greater in 2025 than it is now, as the world's population competes for declining and shifting food, water and energy resources.

Despite a more precarious world situation, the report also says al-Qaida's terrorist franchise could decay "sooner than people think". It cites its growing unpopularity in the Muslim world, where it kills most of its victims.

"The prospect that al-Qaida will be among the small number of groups able to transcend the generational timeline is not high, given its harsh ideology, unachievable strategic objectives and inability to become a mass movement," the report states.

The report forecasts a geopolitical rise in non-Arab Muslim states outside of the Middle East, including Turkey and Indonesia, and says Iran could also be a central player in a new world order if it sheds its theocracy.

... suggests the world may complete its move away from its dependence on oil, ...

...that the US dollar, while remaining important, will decline to "first among equals" among other national currencies.

US global power will likely decline, as Americans' concerns about putting resources into solving domestic problems may cause the United States to withdraw some resources from foreign and global problems.

The second contrasts quite nicely. It flows like a gentle stream from the keyboard of Gwynne Dyer – a regular if not subscribed “international correspondant”. He kicks off with –
Barack Obama will inherit the in-box from hell when he becomes President. But an all-points crisis like the present one also creates opportunities for radical change that do not exist in normal times.

As Rahm Emanuel, his newly appointed chief of staff, put it: "Never waste a crisis."

Is Obama clever enough and radical enough to seize those opportunities?

From there he runs into promises to close Guantanamo, GWB’s exective veto on measures that put emission controls in place in California, and how about this for a Dyering gem
The recession will feel like a crisis for only a few more months. People eventually get used to almost anything.

Ah, there is a saying, Gwynne, widely used in a beer advertisement round these parts; “Yeah, right!”

It gets worser though.
The century-long pre-eminence of the US as the economic superpower was bound to decline gradually as the Asian giants industrialised, but the financial collapse risks turning that into a steep and irreversible fall. Even the US dollar could lose its place as the global reserve currency.

To limit the damage, Obama has to play a poor hand very well. He has implicit permission from the financial gurus to run even bigger deficits over the next couple of years than the Bush Administration did.

That will let him do some repair work on the American social fabric as well as just bailing out failing businesses and jobless people. But rebuilding America's reputation abroad will take more than money.

This is getting close to populist and simplistic nonsense. Like so many others, Dyer is promoting the messianic level of Obama’s campaign. It loses sight of the truth; that POTUS is an administrator, a bureaucrat. He is not a dictator, benign or otherwise. For a commentator or mere journalist of his stature to forget that fundamental is unforgiveable.

So, I will have to return to what I can remember of the article I failed to find. It would have appealed immensely to Lucy. It was a thoughtful and practicle analysis of the similarities between personal and national finance, the need for thrift and economy not in times of hardship but at all times. It castigated the profligacy and waste of both money and resources by western society. It promoted, indirectly, the stupidity of the continual pressure to spend and consume in pursuit of the good life. It had its sweet little homilies, that TF might also have enjoyed. For instance the story of Mrs Wheelbarrow and the fridge. Mrs Wheelbarrow needs a new refridgerator. Why? The old one is still working. Well, her neighbours have a brand new one with a brushed stainless steel finish and it looks beautiful. So, Mrs Wheelbarrow deserves one as well.

It was well written and a joy to read, if you were prepared to take on board the hard lessons. It might have fitted in well with the NIC report as a means of the west's survival in the long term.

What a shame it was “lost”. I can’t find it. I can not remember the author. It has gone.

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