There’s a lot of ruin in a country

So said Adam Smith a couple of centuries ago, and he will, I hope, be proved right, in the US, and elsewhere in the world. Trump and the Republican majority in Congress and (imminently) in the Supreme Court will, in all probability, repeal Obamacare, restore and expand the Bush tax cuts for the rich, stop action on climate change, overturn Roe v Wade, expand deportation and more.

On the other hand, there’s no sign that he will attempt to overturn marriage equality, and every likelihood of failure if he does try. Considering that, as of 2008, Obama and Clinton were still “evolving” on the issue, that’s an indication of progress that can’t be reversed.

On climate change, Trump can ignore the Paris agreement and appoint a climate denier to run the EPA, but he can’t stop the decline of coal-fired power or the disappearance of coal mining jobs. This is one of many areas where his promise to Make America Great Again is going to fall flat. As far as places like West Virginia are concerned, the big impact of Trump’s victory is to ensure that the Federal money that might have eased the transition away from coal won’t be coming. And, if the Chinese government is smart, they’ll be able to present themselves as the real leaders of the world on this issue (and not just this one).

Looking beyond Trump, what can be done, can, mostly, be undone. Tax cuts can be reversed, laws can be repealed, action on climate change can be accelerated. Of course, that requires big electoral victories and the Republicans will be doing their best to build up barriers to voting. But none of those barriers would be enough to offset a 5 per cent swing, and that could be achieved just by turning out more voters.

The political reality, however, is that the initiative is with the other side, not only in the US, but in the UK, Australia and much of Europe. The collapse of neoliberalism as a dominant ideology (though not yet as a policy reality), has so far favored the tribalist right rather than the still disorganised left. The tribalists now have the chance to prove that their policies can work, or be perceived to work. If Trump can create and sustain an illusion of restored national greatness, as Putin has done (so far) in Russia, it won’t matter much what the Democrats do. The same will be true in Britain if Brexit can be made to work, or at least be seen to work.

At least in the short term, there’s not much the left can do to influence this. But there’s lots to be done away from short-term politics, from organizing to protect the groups most vulnerable to Trumpism to working out long-term policy alternatives to neoliberalism.

160 thoughts on “There’s a lot of ruin in a country

  1. Perhaps you could start by watching that video linked to above. Should that video not persuade you, then perhaps you could explain to the rest of us why you think Stephen Cohen and Sophie Shervardnadze are wrong.

    James.

    Nobody here will watch videos.

    It’s not because of the content of the videos: it’s because videos are a time-expensive way to communicate information: normal reading speed is something like three times normal speaking speed, meaning that “watching a video” will take three times as long as reading a transcript of the video that contains the same information.

    At least: actually it’s significantly worse than that: a reader won’t just read a text straight through, they’ll jump backwards and forwards pretty frequently, probably skim over it on a first read-through to get the general structure or to see if it makes any obvious fundamental errors that make it not worth proceeding with, etc. You’re looking at a video taking… probably ten times as long to consume?

    Not happening. You need to provide transcripts or essays.

  2. @James

    You swallow Russian propaganda hook, line and sinker. This is as foolish as swallowing US propaganda hook, line and sinker. As for this nonsense that I get my views from MSM, you clearly haven’t read and understodd anything I have blogged here.

    Chomsky for example is not mainstream. I find Chomsky agrees with me a lot, so he clearly gets most things right. 😉

    “As he appears in new documentary The Divide, the great intellectual explains why Brexit is unimportant, why Trump’s climate change denial is catastrophic – and why revolution is easier than you think.” – Guardian

    And I agree with John Pilger;

    “They corrupted a voting system, within the Democratic Party that ensured that another populist, Bernie Sanders – though I don’t think he would have beaten Trump – could not win, and instead the embodiment of the status quo, who has declared the whole world a battlefield was made out to be the ‘candidate of sanity’ or ‘the candidate for women.’”

    This is certainly true. However, it does not follow that Trump is good. Far from it. He is as I said a predatory billionaire and a crytpo- or neo- (pick your adjective) f a s c i s t. Trump’s true colours will soon come through.

  3. even if it were possible to believe all the worst smears against Donald Trump

    The worst smears against Trump are his own statements on so many topics, so widely disseminated, it’s completely pointless requoting them. The man is an open proponent of so many truly crazed notions, and admitted apologist for such a panoply of evils, that anyone who supports him is ipso facto of dubious knowledge and/or character.

    The only question is how to weather the storm. It’s probably not possible, but keeping thoughts clear on the topic, I’d recommend Masha Gessen’s Autocracy: Rules for Survival in the NYRB. For activists in the US, I’d suggest drop all the side issues (including climate collapse) and concentrate on trying to get the West coast States to secede, which might be the US’s last hope.

    But it’s almost certainly Armageddon whatever happens now.

  4. @Crispin Bennett,

    Has Tony Schwartz explained how that is consistent with Donald Trump saying that he would rather seek cooperation with Russia than confrontation, particulary in Syria?

    How is that also consistent with ordinary Russians celebrating Donald Trump’s victory in the streets?

    You are aware that the United States under President Barack Obama is now placing missiles in Poland, Romania and other Eastern European states? This is to prevent Russia from being able to respond to a nuclear first strike from the United States.

    Clinton claimed that Vladimir Putin was supporting Donald Trump’s election campaign. Do you think she was lying or do you think that Vladmir Putin is deluded?

  5. James :
    Has Tony Schwartz explained how that is consistent with Donald Trump saying that he would rather seek cooperation with Russia than confrontation, particulary in Syria?

    “Consistency” is not an attribute of a character like Trump. He is a 2 year old in an old man’s body. There is no strategy. To repurpose Keating’s great phrase, he is all tip and no iceberg. The petulant incoherent blustering fool is not an act. It goes all the way in.

    How is that also consistent with ordinary Russians celebrating Donald Trump’s victory in the streets?

    “Ordinary Russians” support Putin in large numbers. That’s ample evidence of their lack of any grasp of relevant information.

    You are aware that the United States under President Barack Obama is now placing missiles in Poland, Romania and other Eastern European states? This is to prevent Russia from being able to respond to a nuclear first strike from the United States.

    Lots of stupid hawkish decisions have been made by US (and Russian) administrations over the years. We’ve dodged mushroom clouds more by a mix of luck and distributed judgement so far.

    But with a narcissistic psychopath in the White House, all dodging fails.

    Clinton claimed that Vladimir Putin was supporting Donald Trump’s election campaign. Do you think she was lying or do you think that Vladmir Putin is deluded?

    Either is quite possible. Clinton could be lying or mistaken. Or it could be true: Putin could be deluded (contrary to your presumed view, he’s not a superman).

    Both are equally irrelevant to the danger of an impulsive baby holding the White House reigns post Jan 20.

  6. @James

    Sophie Shevardnadze interviews Stephen Cohen about the likely consequences of Donald Trump’s election victory – 29 minute video interview.

    I know Collin Street said nobody would watch the video, but I did listen to the whole interview (although I didn’t have my eyes on the screen most of the time).

    The interview included substantial discussion of questions about what might happen under President Trump, but there was only one definite prediction about what would happen: Stephen Cohen asserted categorically that neither the US nor any other country would leave or be forced out of NATO, which will continue to exist.

    I am as sure as I can be about anything that he is right about that.

    I’m not saying that was the most important or most interesting thing in the interview, only that it was the one thing that either of them was absolutely sure about.

    One topic that wasn’t discussed in the interview was the reported increase since the election in the frequency of incidents such as the ones described in the following report (I’m going to have to break the link to stop this comment from going into automoderation):

    https colon doubleslash www dot rt dot com slash usa slash 366358-racist-hate-crime-trump slash

    There are other places on the Web where similar reports can be found, but this one happens to be on exactly the same site as the Shevardnadze-Cohen interview.

  7. American voter here. I assume at least some of you will be interested in my explanation of what has happened . . .

    Put me in the “let it burn” category. In terms of domestic policy, Trump will do a number of things that will cause me outrage, but at least will retain the borders of the United States intact. Everything else can go to ruin and we fix it later. My main personal goal will be not to lose my job until things stabilize. As long as we don’t break out into civil war I think they will. If we do break out into civil war then I may be in the firing line and that will be my job. I’m pretty sure we were in danger of civil war even if Hillary had won so that statement would still have been true either way. I used to mock people for thinking that we could have another civil war but I don’t do that anymore. The warning signs are a little too obvious at this point for the historically literate to ignore.

    Regarding the immediate cause of this world crisis, there is not much discussion here of just how bad of a candidate Hillary Clinton was other than the usual accusation that she was a neoliberal. To me, Hillary is in the “obviously corrupt” category, and her win of the nomination is one of the more shady things that has happened within the Democratic Party in decades. I voted against her very specifically and I have voted Democratic the last 4 times. I suspect there were a lot of others like me. Not all of our votes were for Trump but there were enough that either did or went for Johnson or Stein that it made the difference. That’s how he won. If Hillary was to be our president, then I decided to just let Trump win and devil take it all. A lot of other Democratic voters either stayed home or voted against HRC and that was how it happened.

    Let it burn. We deserve it. My biggest fear is that Trump will back down on reversing globalization, which is nearly the only category in which I agree with him. He’s already taken a shot at the environment, having put a global warming denialist in charge of the EPA transition (Environmental Protection Agency – I have a friend who works there).

    Regarding the difference in popular vote, the difference was entirely in California, which bears little resemblance to the rest of the US. I have no respect for that vote. Those people don’t share our values. The rest of the country went majority for Trump. California is now threatening secession and I personally hope the Donald lets them go, although perhaps a partition of the state is in order first. They can have an open border with Mexico and the rest of the US can secure the new border and laugh as California is overrun by millions of immigrants from Latin America and points beyond and gets turned into a lawless state teetering on the brink of failure (just like Mexico).

    The only thing that worries me about California independence is a possible domino effect. Next Portland and Seattle would start talking about secession. My suggestion to them would be to immigrate to California, Mexico, or Canada, otherwise to shut up. I would say let California go and deal with the rest with the use of force, like President Abraham Lincoln did in 1861. That’s probably not going to happen though. Cooler heads among the California leadership will probably prevail. Their main obstacle is that there is a lot of wealth behind the movement from the globalists in Silicon Valley. It might be possible for those people to buy independence. Even if you are a globalist (as I know many here are) that thought should give you pause. All of this should become clearer within a few weeks or months.

    You see, a breakdown of basic law and order is already happening along the southern tier of the US as a result of too rapid immigration from Mexico. Distant critics and advocates of freedom of movement are not in touch with the reality of what that’s like. I live in Arizona. We are facing the rather obvious disintegration of law and order in the southern part of the state. I’m referring to things already visible in the daily news, not speculation. This is a characteristic of Mexican culture. If you don’t believe me just read up on their recent history. That border must be secured or we are going to turn into an unstable banana republic and in very short order, regardless of Californian secession or Trump. That’s your “freedom of movement.” I certainly expect to see it within the next few years if Trump is not successful in preventing it. Unfortunately I kind of doubt he will actually be successful even though he has talked tough. There are too many forces to overcome.

    There have already been too many illegal immigrants allowed in. The last figure I saw was that 29% of hispanics (people from Spanish-speaking American cultures) voted for Trump. Those are mostly the multi-generational families of Mexican descent that have integrated into American society (this process dates back to the end of the Mexican War in the 1800s). They are as horrified by the flood of illegal immigration as “white America.” Most of the rest would integrate too eventually but not if new arrivals are flooding in as quickly as they have been. That allows them to live within their own echo chamber of Mexican values and they will never integrate. It does not help that multiculturalists fight against the concept of integration and mislabel it as racism. The spread of lawlessness and corruption from Mexico is extremely apparent if you actually live here. Living next to Mexico is like having chaos on your doorstep. I’m willing to let Trump mangle our domestic policy as long as he can secure the border.

    Now that Hillary is out of the way I can go back to voting for Democrats. Unless they fail to switch from globalization to nationalism in which case all bets are off.

  8. Welcome to the world that Derrida created. It was all so chiq at the time. The heady days of postmodern philosophy and literature studies so beloved of the academic left in the 80s and 90s. And then Trump took them seriously. There is no such thing outside of the text. And voila! The suicide of the left.

  9. @Zed: you

    Zed Hogan :
    Now that Hillary is out of the way I can go back to voting for Democrats. Unless they fail to switch from globalization to nationalism in which case all bets are off.

    “Globalization” is just biology. For better and worse (better for humans, worse for other sentient beings), a (perhaps the) defining characteristic of humans is migration. It cannot be stopped by late (and certainly temporary) fictions such as nations, not for long. It’s what bipeds do.

    When you say “let it burn”, you really mean you are willing to have limitless suffering occur in the interests of a neurotically-gripped concept. This is the essence of all fundamentalisms, of which nationalism is one of the more pathetic varieties. At least religious fundamentalism has a certain grandeur in the transcendence of its fictional yearning.

    I think you will have your wish. Trump will unleash nukes and we will all burn. Still, better that than let go of a tattered concept, eh?

  10. @Crispin Bennett Eventually globalization steps on everyone. If you like it then that is just because you haven’t been stepped on yet. Or are you an internet billionaire or something? Import/export business?

    Regarding globalization being biology, actually the opposite is also true. In a natural environment, humans lived in small social groups, extended families, bands. These are inherently local in nature. Some were nomadic, yes, in search of resources, but where resources were adequate, mobility usually constituted trading or raiding. Otherwise you stay and defend the resources that you have. For many stone age tribes, warfare was a way of life and tied not to needs but to rights of passage, gain of wealth and prestige within the tribe, acquisition of mates, etc. Agriculture put an end to it. That is also biology.

    In that globalization is biology, it is raiding behavior, and not tied to resource shortages.

    You are thinking of refugees. Don’t confuse the two groups. They aren’t the same thing. Refugees need to migrate and often do not have the money and access to resources have been interrupted. That is biology but is distinguishable from raiding behavior and meets your description.

    As for letting it burn, I believe suffering will be worse if the nation state is not maintained. There will be problems. We already have plenty. Trump will not solve them. It’s a matter of opinion and speculation as to whether and how things might get worse. If too many people suffer then there is another election in 4 years. Mass immigration is causing problems too, and in a world with open borders they worsen (chaos again). Think of the blazing gun battles in the streets of Paris and Brussels. I think of the rather extreme violence I see in the local news from Phoenix, or coming out of Mexico (kidnappings, beheadings, mass graves).

    I’m personally doubtful Trump would use nukes, not that I trust him entirely. He shows more signs of being isolationist than confrontational. Globalization is a greater threat of causing war, because it is an alienating force, and has led to uneven distribution of wealth. Open borders exposes non-combatants to combatants, exposes societies not only to their own criminals, but also the criminals from elsewhere. You inevitably get the bad with the good.

    Nationalism is loyalty to your extended family, your friends and neighbors, not fundamentalism. Apply Occam’s Razor to your analysis. I prefer the term localism.

  11. @J-D If you are not interested, then it isn’t addressed to you.

    However I would add that like all forums, this often has the quality of an echo chamber. Assuming you can sit in Australia and fully understand what is going on in the US without actually being here is obviously unwise.

    I have to admit I somewhat do the same thing here that I assume JQ is doing, presenting ideas and seeing what, if any, feedback they generate. I’m not so arrogant to think my opinion matters to everyone.

  12. @Zed Hogan

    Zed Hogan :
    @Crispin Bennett Eventually globalization steps on everyone. If you like it then that is just because you haven’t been stepped on yet. Or are you an internet billionaire or something? Import/export business?

    Too tired and dispirited to bother with much of your daft screed, but that is really an idiotic assumption, betraying only your own corporate-trained ethic (for which, being American, you are very likely not to blame). FWIW I am in my 50s, own little but a motorbike and laptop, earned about AUD$12000 last year (less than our bottom social security rate), and am at daily risk of homelessness because of Australia’s grotesque property “market”. It will be a novel idea to you, but it is actually possible to cultivate ethical and political viewpoints on grounds wider than one’s own grasping after material wealth.

  13. @GrueBleen

    In political action, as well as in political words, I guess I meant. He made (another) revealing comment when asked if he was sorry about anything he said during the campaign. He replied, “No, I won.” This sums it up. The principles are;

    (1) Say anything to win.
    (2) Mean as much or as little of it as one wishes.
    (3) Do whatever one likes no matter what one said.

    Now, political reality will intervene. The Minotaur is in the economic china shop but being half-human and owning deeds to much property it realises that it too has a large stake in the overall china shop of US capitalism. At the same time, everything in the china shop is made in China. Which means… in short everything Trump emitted is hot air out of snorting nostrils and nothing will change because it can’t… unless the poor and dispossessed force change upwards from the base of society.

  14. Zed Hogan is correct in a number of particulars.

    The left cannot afford to ignore constitutional and democratic nationalism. It is the only extant political force structure which gives ordinary people any power short of violent revolution. Violent revolution and civil wars must be avoided at (almost) all costs. To that end, it is logical to maintain and even strengthen your constitutional and democratic national polity (if you have a version of this) in whatever polity you have citizenship in and/or reside in.

    Completely open and porous borders are not the way to achieve the above. At the same time, completely closed borders and inhumane detention of refugees is also not the way to achieve the above. Part of our problem, in the USA and in Australia, with immigration are that our political and monied classes are not honest about immigration issues, including illegal immigration. On the one hand, the populist sop is that we will close our borders and stop illegal immigration. On the other hand, the secretive default position by the political and monied classes is that they like illegal immigration and illegal immigrants as these people can be used as a cheap labour force who, being desperate, will do any work no matter how dirty and dangerous. Illegal immigrants are used to push down wages and circumvent labor laws which exist for health and safety reasons.

    The answer is neither a closed border nor an open border but a controlled border. Laws, law enforcement and immigrant and refugee services re border issues need to be extensive and complex. Higher resources need to be put into controlling borders and immigrant/refugee issues correctly but also in doing it humanely according to good and just law. This will be expensive up front. However, in the long run it will save both costs and human suffering.

  15. @Andrew

    That is so funny. Your grand narrative was built on shakey ground if the writings of Derrida were able to destroy it so completely.

    It is the rwnj’s who have killed themselves – and us maybe literally – with their as usual cheap and nasty understanding of post modernism and your willingness to jettison truth justice and the american way.

  16. @Zed Hogan

    However I would add that like all forums, this often has the quality of an echo chamber. Assuming you can sit in Australia and fully understand what is going on in the US without actually being here is obviously unwise.

    I don’t know what makes you think this forum has the quality of an echo chamber. Have you noticed my interactions with Ivor, or with James, or with Ikonoclast? how much do we agree?

    I agree that it unwise to suppose that one can fully understand what is going on in the US without actually being there; I know I don’t. But it would be equal folly to suppose that your personal opinions, as one individual American, are a suitable basis for a full understanding of what is going on in the US. Indeed, it is unwise ever to suppose that the understanding of a single individual on the inside must always be superior even to the understanding of a single external observer.

  17. @Zed Hogan

    “Agriculture put an end to it. That is also biology.”

    Try to understand that the way the Australian Aborigines organised their civilisation puts the lie to all of what you think about what is possible for humans to achieve. I know you won’t, but it could change your life if you read The Biggest Estate on Earth by Bill Gammage. There is a good review in The Monthly.

    And you know, your obviously over inflated self-regard is just another example as if any were needed of why American Exceptionalism was always a joke for so many of us when it was a thing. We don’t hear much about it lately.

  18. @Ikonoclast
    Your #66

    The answer is neither a closed border nor an open border but a controlled border.

    Then perhaps the government – of whichever hue – should take control of Australia’s airports. Here’s a little quote from an SMH article dated 26 December 2014:

    “The [Immigration] department says an estimated 62,100 people were unaccounted for in Australia during 2014, which is roughly 1.2 per cent of the 5.5 million people who enter the country each year on temporary visas.”
    [See the article titled “More than 62,000 people living illegally in Australia” which has the subtitle: “Bikies living in Australia unlawfully are at the top of immigration minister’s target list, writes Sarah Whyte.”]

    And, of course, that’s just the 62,100 the Immigration Department admits to knowing about – the true number is likely a fair bit higher. But even so, 62,100 is somewhat more than the 50,000 or so that the hopeless Rudd government let come by boat. Oh, and by the way, the largest group of visa “overstayers” apparently are Chinese – nearly 8000 of the 62,100 total.

    Which would be worse, d’you reckon: Muslim jihadists or bikies ?

  19. @Julie Thomas
    Your #67

    Your grand narrative was built on shakey ground if the writings of Derrida were able to destroy it so completely.

    Oh, you can be just so very right sometimes, Julie.

  20. @J-D
    Your #68

    Well said J-D.

    Personally I wonder how, in a nation of around 325 million people in wide-spread geographical locations with very varied origins and backgrounds and numerous different, but firmly established, sub-cultures, anybody – even a resident American – can claim to really understand what is going on in the USA.

  21. @Julie Thomas Why are you so insulting?

    “Over inflated self-regard . . .”

    Keep your echo chamber going then. The problem we have here is that you don’t want to hear opposing points of view. That’s why you always go ad hominem immediately upon disagreement, and anti-American as soon as applicable. You will never understand American culture, which is not really a single culture, but several. If Trump makes decisions that crash the world economy you will come to understand the importance of the US. Yes, we are exceptional, at least in that regard. In our (unfortunately) globalized world, nothing happens in a vacuum.

    I want to like you Julie but your tone is pure vitriol.

    I’m more familiar with North American native culture, by the way, which I find informative. Perhaps I will look up that book at some point but right now I’m queued up with years worth of non-fiction. I’m sure it’s a valuable book.

  22. @GrueBleen I was not trying to speak for every American, but trying to answer what I perceived as a lack of perspective. Unfortunately there is no single narrative of the US. That is a fictional notion and I assure you that I do not think I’m speaking for everyone.

    It was a poor opening to my commentary, which I regret, and blame on the vodka, however I find it interesting that readers obviously are completely uninterested in the content of what I had to say . . . or did they just dislike it?

    At any rate I apologize if I come across as arrogant or that I was trying to speak for the entire United States. I’m arguing with people I would rather not be arguing with.

  23. @Zed Hogan

    Sorry but it is not adhoms that I do. It is you who interprets it that way. Pure vitriol? That bad huh?

    I was raised by a family and then had a left wing university education that encouraged me to ‘diagnose’ people and look for the lies that we all tell ourselves despite believing that we are being honest. I can do it for myself and there is nothing bad about me that anyone can say that I have not already admitted to myself.

    I don’t have social skills and even now that I realise I don’t have them, I don’t want to have them.

    I’m fairly sure that I have psychopath genes and I don’t care that you want to like me. Liking is such a bourgeois and dysfunctional emotion. Try to be honest with your self and I might appreciate you and your input.

    I’m a bit interested in why you want to like me. I don’t understand that, but don’t answer because it would be off topic.

    Australian Aborigines are the Rolls Royce of traditional non-money cultures. It’s to do with the natural isolation of our island continent and the philosophy or set of beliefs that the earliest arrivals brought with them.

  24. Thank you. @Zed Hogan at #59, #63 and #64.

    For months, any expression of support for Donald Trump and his opposition to high immigration, has resulted, on many forums, in accusations of ‘racism’, ‘bigotry’, ‘xenophobia’, ‘mysogyny’, etc.

    As natives from North and South America learnt after 1492, native Australians learnt after 1788, native Palestinians learnt after 1947, Syrians have learnt since 2011 and as Germans and Swedes learnt since 2014 and as you point out, nothing can be fixed if a people don’t control their own national borders.

  25. @Ikonoclast
    The answer is neither a closed border nor an open border but a controlled border

    Open borders are not an ‘answer’ to anything. They are the natural condition of things, a birthright, and hence part of the question set that politics must answer. It is politics’ job to find ways to provide shelter, meaningful work, etc, etc. The ‘etc’ includes free movement, part of our biological heritage.

    @Ikonoclast
    The answer is neither a closed border nor an open border but a controlled border

    Controlled borders are a recent innovation, incrementally imposed and removed in different places and times but only completed in their modern form as visas were introduced to stop Jews escaping 30’s Germany. They are inherently illegitimate. Both open and closed borders (and everything between) can result in violence, but borders’ violence is inherent and permanent.

    And no-one truly believes them legitimate. Sure, people often want to stop others crossing to ‘their’ side of the border. That’s just barks of self-interest, fear and ignorance. But no-one ever refused to step over a border without an bureaucrat’s permission because they believed it was wrong to do so. We understand their fictional nature, and obtain visas and passports because States are big and can stomp on us if we don’t obey. That’s all.

  26. @James

    There were not ‘national borders’ in Australia prior to 1788 and there were other people – not nations around us – who did not invade this country.

    The need to control borders arose when western people developed an ideology in which they had the right and the obligation even to take over and use properly those not nations that had not developed such an aggressive and self-serving ideology.

    Why do people want to cross borders? The same reason humans have always wanted to move around the planet. Why are they coming in such numbers? Because we invaded their land and took away their way of life. How do we stop them? Make their countries liveable.

  27. @Zed Hogan

    At any rate I apologize if I come across as arrogant

    Is that really how you feel? are you ready to apologise to Californians for what you said about them?

  28. @Ikonoclast

    The answer is neither a closed border nor an open border but a controlled border

    Open borders are not an ‘answer’ to anything. They are the natural condition of things, a birthright, and hence part of the question set that politics must answer. It is politics’ job to find ways to provide shelter, meaningful work, etc, etc. The ‘etc’ includes free movement, part of our biological heritage.

    Controlled borders are a recent innovation, incrementally imposed and removed in different places and times but only completed in their modern form as visas were introduced to stop Jews escaping 30’s Germany. They are inherently illegitimate. Both open and closed borders (and everything between) can result in violence, but borders’ violence is inherent and permanent.

    And no-one truly believes them legitimate. Sure, people often want to stop others crossing to ‘their’ side of the border. That’s just barks of self-interest, fear and ignorance. But no-one ever refused to step over a border without a bureaucrat’s permission because they believed it was wrong to do so. We understand their fictional nature, and obtain visas and passports because States are big and can stomp on us if we don’t obey. That’s all.

  29. For months, any expression of support for Donald Trump and his opposition to high immigration, has resulted, on many forums, in accusations of ‘racism’, ‘bigotry’, ‘xenophobia’, ‘mysogyny’, etc.

    You can’t actually self-assess for bigotry. False negatives are virtually guaranteed.

    [self-assessment shows up discrepancies between two different ways of thinking you have about the same object: if there are no discrepancies, if A and B both lead to the same error, then the self-assessment will return a false negative. But because irrationality affects your thinking about a topic, A and B aren’t exactly independent: only a very, very few bigotries will show up on self-assessment.]

    If you want to spot your bigotries the only effective way is by engaging positively with others.

  30. @Collin Street

    “You can’t actually self-assess for bigotry.”

    It is armchair psychology, self-assessment, but it is a start.

    But you are right I had to put myself in an environment in which I was the only white person in a roomful of aboriginal people to find out how bloody uncomfortable it is to be the other.

    Even for me who has always felt like an outsider and having experienced being othered when I was a ‘dirty hippie’, I found that first experience of cultural difference to be so much more confronting than I had expected, and I realised that all my abstract beliefs that I was totally au fait with difference was just that, abstract, and there was so much more that I needed to do to become what I thought I already was.

  31. @Crispin Bennett

    This is simply completely unrealistic idealism stuck on to a complete lack of anthropological and ecological knowledge. Even nomadic tribes had ranges or territories, known borders and rules about when and how and in what circumstances it was permissible to cross these borders. Even chimpanzees and many other troop or flocking animals have defined ranges and territories.

    Territories and ranges throughout the animal kingdom, including for humans who are also animals, are about resources and the adequacy of those resources to support the tribe. clan, group or nation. Where great migrations occurred in human history they were always invasions unless they were movements into virgin territory not before colonised by humans. When they were invasions they often involved conflict. It’s about competition for resources.

    I’d like to see you maintain open house (i.e. open borders) if a hundred people decided to move into your 4 person apartment or 6 to 8 person house. The analogy does in fact hold. If 50,000 per annum bona fide refugees come to Australia, we can and should handle it and absorb it. That’s like a cousin coming to stay at your house. If 500,000 or 5 million per annum climate refugees flood towards Australia and keep coming we are not going to be able to cope with that.

    It’s no good being puffed up with unrealistic moral vanity on these issues. You need to take a dose of realism.

  32. @Ikonoclast

    “I’d like to see you maintain open house (i.e. open borders) if a hundred people decided to move into your 4 person apartment or 6 to 8 person house. ”

    Hundreds of people never “just decide to move into somebody else’s home”.

  33. Ikonoclast :
    Zed Hogan is correct in a number of particulars.
    The left cannot afford to ignore constitutional and democratic nationalism. It is the only extant political force structure which gives ordinary people any power short of violent revolution. Violent revolution and civil wars must be avoided at (almost) all costs. To that end, it is logical to maintain and even strengthen your constitutional and democratic national polity (if you have a version of this) in whatever polity you have citizenship in and/or reside in.

    That does not mean that it does not make sense to merge democratic national polities, still allowing external control but still greater shared power and freedom for residents/citizens. The biggest example of this is the EU. While there are shortcomings to its democracy, especially in the executive branch, the EU is a chance for another big powerful democracy to control globalisation.

  34. Julie Thomas :
    @Ikonoclast
    “I’d like to see you maintain open house (i.e. open borders) if a hundred people decided to move into your 4 person apartment or 6 to 8 person house. ”
    Hundreds of people never “just decide to move into somebody else’s home”.

    I agree. It is false to equate a house and a jurisdiction. Jurisdictions have wider responsibilities, while households have jurisdictions above them to sort out people in need of housing.

  35. @Ikonoclast: conflating national borders with home ranges is ludicrous. They are unrelated. Nations are a peculiarly modern invention, and (as the inevitable but premature and flawed EU transition showed) are not sustainable without permanent war. Either we will move beyond States (whether to an organised subsidiarity or something more anarchic), or we will plunge into catastrophe. There are many routes to catastrophe, of course. But warring nation states is a known one.

    Defending the integrity of borders is ‘realistic’ in a very analogous sense in which it is ‘realistic’ to defend ongoing fossil fuel extraction and use. They are both part of the way things work now, and seem inevitable, but we know they end badly. That’s not to say we can or will find a practical political path to an alternative, but it is not ‘moral vanity’ to understand it as a condition of sustainability.

  36. @Crispin Bennett

    “Nations are a peculiarly modern invention, and (as the inevitable but premature and flawed EU transition showed) are not sustainable without permanent war.”

    As for something closer to the observable history as well as explicit policy objectives, the EU evolved in answer to wars among European ‘powers’.

    I should hope the endless lectures from some USA commentators as to the ‘inevitable’ disintegration of the EU will enter a very long brake on the grounds that the ‘unification’ of states by means war, instead of negotiations and bureaucracy, isn’t a role model.

    The USA came about through war. The EU evolved in respose to war. A minimal requirement of objectivity is to get the sequence of events right before even thinking of attaching the adjective ‘flawed’ to anything. The same applies to what is ‘premature’ for how else could one distinguish between ‘leading’ and ‘lagging’.

  37. @Ernestine Gross
    I don’t disagree with any of that, and to the extent it’s a response to what I wrote, then I’m guilty of expressing myself clumsily. I comment rarely and with distaste so tend to type rapidly and not edit.

    The flaws I refer to were of execution and exposition (cf. diem25’s crits), not of the fundamental idea. For what it’s worth, I’m an EU citizen (now in Aus), and believe that sovereignty-diluting institutions like the EU and UN are the way forward. What was ‘premature’ was, again, not the EU’s existence, but details, like the pushing of wider powers (Maastricht etc) to a citizenry that still thought (in the case of the UK; I was there at the time) that the then EC was a glorified trade deal from which the EU would be a minor evolution. And it’s surely hard to argue that monetary unification wasn’t mismanaged?

    Again FWIW I think States must evolve to pool and dilute sovereignty (and borders) through supranational organisations like the EU and UN, or (given inevitable technological development & dissemination) we perish.

  38. @Crispin Bennett

    The issues are not unrelated. Let me handle it sequentially and logically. You stated: “They (open borders) are the natural condition of things, a birthright.”

    Of course, this does beg the question of what a “border” is. Let us first look at natural conditions which you seem to want to invoke. There are borders or boundaries throughout nature. These borders or boundaries are real and have real effects. For example there are the borders or boundaries between different media: I mean between land, sea, air and under land, that is to say under ground. These natural borders or boundaries have real limiting effects on animals depending on their natural conformations, abilities and living ranges. Hence, a borderless or boundary-less condition is not ever the natural state. In nature, there are boundaries in many places.

    Next, many and various animals create ranges or territories for foraging, hunting and breeding. This occurs due to natural competition for food, mates and other resources. The basic issue is competition for resources. Some animals create troops, packs, flocks and so on to cooperate (mostly or at some levels) within the species and or within the troop, pack or flock and to compete with other species and sometimes with other troops, packs etc. of the same species. This is common throughout nature. Humans as troop or tribal animals (specifically as eusocial ones) are part of this natural picture. The progression from tribes, to clans, to confederations, to nations is a progression on one continuum. Nations exist for many higher level political-economic reasons but they also exist because of this linked progression along this one continuum.

    The connecting reality along this continuum is competition for resources and ever-larger banding for various powers and efficiencies, including, unfortunately, banding for conflicts, invasions and wars. There is no “natural” borderless condition for troop or tribal animals or any animals for that matter. This is a figment of your ideology. The success or otherwise of modern political systems, such as the democratic nation state, depends on many factors, however one factor is this. The structure of the grouping (democratic nation state in this case) must reflect and somewhat conform to the basic nature and requirements of humans as tribal and eusocial animals and as animals (intelligent, bipedal, omnivorous, mammalian etc.) which need certain conditions to flourish. No grouping which answers no basic, natural needs or survival needs would or could survive as a grouping. This is axiomatic.

    The nation state has been perhaps both chosen by humans and selected in a sense by natural processes. This is not to argue that it is the highest or best possible state. However, the democratic nation state is the best large grouping we have developed and socially evolved to date.

    Systems need semi-permeable boundaries. This is true throughout all fields observed by complex systems theory. Indeed, a system is not stable (or dynamically sustainable) and cannot be a system without semi-permeable boundaries. Humans could not undertake any complex modern scientific, technical or industrial task with being organized into complex, durable systems like nation states, corporations, companies, schools and so on.

    Democratic nation states need semi-permeable boundaries. As I said, we can have neither open borders nor closed borders but rather we need controlled borders (which is what a semi-permeable boundary is in a very real sense). Do we need democratic nation states? Well, currently we do. Where else is democracy operative? Corporations and companies are not democratic in the main. They are mostly autocracies and oligarchies. Remove the democratic nation state and tell me where democracy might flourish? It could flourish in theory in transnational entities like the EU. However, I believe the EU currently has a serious democratic deficit but that it another argument for another day. Democracy could flourish maybe with a world government. The only other way is to make all corporations and companies worker-owned and democratically worker-managed. However, we still would not escape even then the need for some form of larger democratic polity.

    Until we have socialism, with all worker-owned and worker-managed businesses plus transnational or global deomocratic governance (along with tiers of regional and local democratic governance) then we cannot supersede the democratic nation state.

    I have taken democracy as a morally necessary given in this argument. I hope we can agree on that much.

  39. @Joe Blow

    missing the point but you are a low blow joe so no worries. Do you come here from Catallaxy? Make their state full of welfare then and they won’t need to come and take your way of life.

  40. @Ikonoclast

    “Until we have socialism, with all worker-owned and worker-managed businesses plus transnational or global deomocratic governance (along with tiers of regional and local democratic governance) then we cannot supersede the democratic nation state.”

    Who is this “we” of which you speak? I seem to remember that you claimed to be a misanthrope who avoids his neighbours.

    The only way we will see any socialism is if people like you get out of your comfortable fortress/home and actually do something socialistic for your society.

  41. @Julie Thomas

    Being a socialist does not mean we all have to be of the same uniform personality mold. I find it amusing that some on the left (and even the middle) talk about diversity and tolerance and then show no tolerance of some not as sociable as others. One can be a socialist without being a particularly sociable person. I get on well enough with my neighbours. I chop up a fallen tree on my property, I give it to my neighbour for firewood since he has a fireplace and I don’t. I let the grass get long under the fence, he runs his weed eater along it. It doesn’t mean we have to world’s best mates but we get on quite well. Last big power outage in our neighborhood (some time ago but lasted two days), I was down at the local ice-store at dawn and got quite a few bags of crushed ice, too many for my own use it turned out. So I went to neighbours on both sides and gave away my excess and refused payment as ice quite cheap. That’s just two examples of many little things.

    Charity begins at home. There’s been a lot of old age illness and death in the parental and in-law parental ranks. Plenty to do there to look after infirm and dying people. I don’t do nothing you know. Not to mention acting as chief washer, cooker, cleaner, chauffer, painter, handyman, garden worker etc. for my family, I mean after I “retired”. Not to mention all the child-rearing I did but which when I mentioned to support women’s rights etc. you felt patronised. I would say you do a really good job of alienating absolutely every one you interact with but I should restrain my crankiness I suppose. You clearly can’t help it.

  42. @Zed Hogan
    Your #74

    Vodka, hey. Well, I hope you were following the Robert Mitchum tradition, then. Incidentally, did you know that “vodka” is the Russian diminutive for “vada” which means “water”.

    Because I am not bombarded continually by American ratbag media, I have no reason whatsoever to believe that HRC is somehow the incarnate ‘Satan’. So I don’t. Compared with many American politicians (eg Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani for just a few) she is remarkably honest and open, especially given what she has been subjected to in the last 25 or so years. Not entirely so sure about Bill, but he wasn’t standing for President.

    As to Trumplestiltskin, well, what can I say ? I can say what the Washington Post and Politifact said about how many ‘Trump brand’ products and items are made overseas (what was that about “exporting American jobs” again ?). Quite a lot as it turns out. But hey, he’ll repatriate them all now, won’t he.

  43. Joe Blow: “Like bludging through a taxpayer-paid degree and then making hats?”

    Typical RWNJ troll comment. So anyone who does a Uni degree is “bludging”. All those Nobel Prize winners and technologists are all bludgers and Joe Blow has a “real job”! They make hats, while he cleans toilets and earns his shit. Not to forget that “Taxpayer-paid” is what all those politicians are, not to mention all those miners and businesses who get nice tax-breaks, and subsidies. They are paid to “explore” and find those riches, which they then dig up and cart away with minimal tax to the country from which they took it. For equal amounts of LNG export, Qatar gets 26 billion and Australia gets 1 billion.

    What are the other insights you can give us Joe Blow?

  44. @Ikonoclast
    Ikonoclast: Resist the urge to respond to Julie. She claims she is all into psychology and has completely analysed herself etc. etc. Irrelevant. Psychology has barely emerged from being a pseudo-science, but according to her it’s all done and dusted and she is on top of it, and therefore can tell everyone what their (psychological) problems are. I suspect she has never heard of fMRI and the developments it has led to in cognitive science. Best to stay out of it my friend. I never respond except obliquely, as in this case.

  45. @Crispin Bennett

    Communication problems are quite common even on a site like Prof Q’s.

    “Sovereignty-diluting institutions like the EU or the UN”. What does this mean? Some thoughts:

    1. Except for the central power of an empire, where the central power does what it wants over its domain of influence at least for a limited period of time, sovereignity is always ‘diluted’ in the sense that the actions of one ‘sovereign agent’ will affect those of others and this holds for each of the members of a set of ‘sovereign agents’. There is interdependence of actions which clearly implies a ‘dilution’ of sovereignty for each of the members of the set of agents that are non-dictatorial. (Think Nash equilibrium – not unique typically – but a start.)

    2. Nature does not respect the borders of ‘sovereign’ countries. Nuclear pullution, air pollution, ghg pollution, water pollution, etc, etc, are examples economists call ‘negative externalities’ that transcend national borders. What are those who stir emotions with ‘dilution of sovereignty’ going to do about this?

    3. The one area where ‘sovereign’ countries could exercise ‘sovereign’ power iis the area where they failed miserably. They failed to mitigate the negtive financial consequences of ‘globalisation’ (implemented via multinational corporations and enabling legislation) for increasingly large segments of their constituency by means of income redistribution within their juristictions (to reduce the income inequality among countries via globalisation without increasing income inequality within countries). This applies to the UK as much as it does to the USA (not to Denmark though). The former PM of Australia, John Howard, realised this problem too late in his last term in office. Nevertheless, he reiterated his realisation recently. Still, his party continues with policies that enhance income and wealth inequality within its juristiction.

    So, yes the institutional arrangements have to adjust to accommodate the evolution of humans on planat earth. Neither Brexit not Trump’s proposals seem to go in the direction of what you call ‘dilution of sovereignty’.

    The EU. This is a bit of an aside in relation to the topic of this thread. Nevertheless, a few words may be allowed.

    The EU is evolving and this is evident in the amendments to the Masstricht Treaty in subsequent treaties.

    While the ECB was one of the first if not the very first to warn of debt accumulation, the EU nevertheless got caught out by the ‘financial innovations’ as implemented by the proverbial Wall Street bankers. I say ‘proverbial’ because, as you know, this set of ‘global sovereign agents’ (do as they please everywhere) includes banks in the UK, 1 in Germany, a couple in France and Spain and at least 1 in Italy and the Netherlands (Honk Kong, Tokyo and a few other places to span the ‘global net’).

    As is evident in the USA and in the UK, having a national currency unit (as distinct from the Eurozone countries) is totally irrelevant regarding income and wealth distribution within the countries but this related pair of variables is what matters for social cohesion.

    Enough for now.

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