Monday Message Board

Back again with another Monday Message Board.

Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

I’ve moved my irregular email news from Mailchimp to Substack. You can read it here. You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin

I’m also trying out Substack as a blogging platform. For the moment, I’ll post both at this blog and on Substack.

25 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Interesting event highlights & early warnings. Like Covid. We knew in January. And had decades to prepare. Amnesia and ignore.


    “Anticipating war in Europe, 2022.
    “Thursday, 13 January

    “If an attack is imminent, Kyiv’s air raid sirens will alert residents to tune in to emergency service announcements. Cars equipped with loudspeakers will also patrol the streets to announce important information.

    “The Kyiv City Council has posted an interactive online map, which shows the locations of the roughly 5,000 official locations where residents can shelter from a military attack. Of that number, 514 shelters are purpose-built facilities dating back to the Cold War where people can remain for days on end.

    “Each citizen should prepare an “emergency suitcase” ahead of time. This should be a backpack with a capacity of at least 25 liters, a little more than 6.5 gallons, containing “clothing, hygiene items, medicines, tools, personal protective equipment, and food.” The service also recommends carrying important documents and cash in the backpack.

    Friday, 14 January

    “Sweden, …”.. .

  2. The Ukraine is implementing a system of War Capitalism. Rationing becomes the norm and resource allocation is done on a national level. The four basis questions of any economic system are answered differently than they are in peace time. The What? question involves increased production of weapons and reduced production of consumer durables. The when ?question has a new immediacy factor thus the call from the Ukraine President for aid. The Why? questions now includes survival as well as wants satisfaction. And the How Much? question is answered in an economic climate of destroyed infrastructure and bombed out buildings. The services sector has a labour shortage as refugees flee the country and even schools/hospitals are bombed. Money exchange will probably be in foreign currencies as the currency may be compromised. As for black market activities, illegal hoarding and even fraudulent aid programs become common. Fear replaces greed, death replaces retirement and despair replaces productivity. It is an economic system rarely seen outside a war zone.

  3. Gregory J. McKenzie,

    Exactly. Capitalism does not work in an existential crisis. That requires a command economy. But let us look first at Russia and dispense with any idea that Russia is Marxist or socialist country or has an effective command economy. Russia is a corrupt crony oligarchic system with a single dictator at the top. Dictator command systems are highly inefficient and ineffective, even self-destructive. One person cannot be the repository of all wisdom, certainly not one megalomaniacal and psychopathic individual.

    Democratic systems convert to a command economy system much more effectively. Executive decision making remains but technical decisions depend on technical knowledge/advice and deep production and logistic decisions are made by committees of experts. On the population side there is full “buy-in” to the common existential struggle. There is a genuine solidarity which cannot be matched by dictatorships ruled solely by terror.

  4. Carrick Flynn – Almost seems unbelievably qualified and future aligned!

    Does Australia have a Carrick Flynn? He is running as a Democrat for  the U.S. House of Reps 2022. Amazing background. Written a paper with Nick Bostrom. Law, Economics, International Studies. Public Interest orgs in multiple countries.

    JQ, this one is for you – by Carrick Flynn with potential for comments and or input;
    “Hail Mary, Value Porosity, and Utility Diversification,
    working paper”

    Click to access porosity.pdf

    I cannot think of an Australian politician with such a background and future focus. Barry Jones comes to mind.

    Any Australian nominees ala Carrick Flynn?

    “He has worked as an associate researcher at the University of Oxford, where he studied pandemic preparedness and response in 2015 and also co-founded the Centre for the Governance of Artificial Intelligence.

    “Flynn left England for the research faculty at Georgetown University, where he gained experience lobbying Congress for the CHIP Act, a Biden administration initiative to invest $52 billion in private technology manufacturers.

    “Most recently, he was contracted by Open Philanthropy, a nonprofit and corporation funded by Facebook co-founder Dana Moskovitz, on pandemic response.

    “This pandemic can’t happen again. We can make better laws around the pandemic that would mean no more pandemic. The good news is we can do that,” Flynn said. “There are specific pandemic preventions to propose, to say here’s what you do and you probably won’t have a pandemic.”

    “Vernonia native enters congressional race in Sixth District

    Carrick Flynn 
    Future of Humanity Institute
    Specialization: Law; governance; policy

    “Carrick Flynn is a Research Affiliate with the Future of Humanity Institute focusing on AI strategy, policy, and governance. He studied at Yale Law School, where he received his Juris Doctor and The University of Oregon where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Economics and International Studies. He has lived and worked in public interest organizations in the United States, Kenya, Liberia, Timor-Leste, India, Malaysia, Ethiopia, and the United Kingdom. He currently works as a Research Fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology in Washington, D.C.

    Publications (4)
    ● The Windfall Clause: Distributing the Benefits of AI for the Common Good (Cullen O’Keefe, Peter Cihon, Ben Garfinkel, Carrick Flynn, Jade Leung, Allan Dafoe)
    ● Toward Trustworthy AI Development: Mechanisms for Supporting Verifiable Claims (arXiv:2004.07213)
    ● The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation (Brundage, M., Avin, S. & Clark, J. et al., 2018)
    ● Policy Desiderata in the Development of Machine Superintelligence. (Bostrom, N., Dafoe, A., Flynn, C. (2016). Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford.)

    “Public Policy and Superintelligent AI: A Vector Field Approach 
    “What properties should we want a proposal for an AI governance pathway to have?
    [w/ Allan Dafoe & Carrick Flynn] [v. 4.3 (2018)] [Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, ed. S. Matthew Liao (Oxford University Press, 2020)] [pdf]

    Click to access aipolicy.pdf


  5. “Alarmed? You should be… an alarming message from the recent duty-quashing climate case”

    Time for a change of The Constitution. Not just EPBC Act.

    “Less attention was paid to a key take-home message: the EPBC Act gives the minister power to approve coal projects, even if they’ll have adverse effects.

    “It doesn’t, in a general sense, protect the environment from these effects. It doesn’t protect the public from consequent harm, even if deadly. And it doesn’t, actually, tackle climate change at all.

    “Alarmed? You should be.

    “Why the duty was quashed
    [ … read on… ]

    “Australia’s environment law doesn’t protect the environment – an alarming message from the recent duty-quashing climate case”

  6. Yep, we are already living in “1984”. The environment law protects not the environment but those who destroy the environment.

  7. Chemical warfare for the masses “…is that this is not science fiction.” You and I, with “commercial and open-source software [that] is readily available”, may discover and the make  “new molecules …to be more toxic, … than publicly known chemical warfare agents (Fig. 1).”.

    More dangerous than – every military & state. mRNA and Crisper of little use.

    It …”is therefore entirely possible that novel routes can be predicted for chemical warfare agents, circumventing national and international lists of watched or controlled precursor chemicals for known synthesis routes.”

    What astounds me is all these smart people “had not set our alarm bells ringing.”. No alarm bells? No “thought exercise we had not considered before that ultimately evolved into a computational proof of concept for making biochemical weapons”! 

    A kid with no “reputational risk is substantial:”… would do this asap for fun and a challenge! 

    …”it only takes one bad apple, such as an adversarial state or other actor looking for a technological edge, to cause actual harm by taking what we have vaguely described to the next logical step.”

    “Even our projects on Ebola and neurotoxins, which could have sparked thoughts about the potential negative implications of our machine learning models, had not set our alarm bells ringing.

    Above quotes from;
    “Dual use of artificial-intelligence-powered drug discovery”

    “Michael Kearns, a computer scientist at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-author of “The Ethical Algorithm,” told me that we are in “a little bit of a Manhattan Project moment” for A.I. and machine learning. “The academic research in the field has been deployed at massive scale on society,” he said. “With that comes this higher responsibility.”

  8. JQ, “Anyone can submit a review, along with the reviewers chosen by the editor, and all of the reviews are made public upon final publication of the article.

    “An article titled “Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Economics” has been published as a discussion paper in a new section of the e-journal Economics titled Economics as an Evolutionary Science.” 

    Via Evonomics:
    “The Making of “Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Economics ”Discussion between authors of a revolutionary new article
    March 24, 2022

    David Sloan Wilson and 
    Dennis J. Snower “Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Economics” Economics as an Evolutionary Science journal


  9. When will the Australian Federal election in 2022 be held?

    Per AEC:
    Following the dissolution of the House of Representatives, the Governor-General must issue within 10 days the issue of writs for an election.

    An election must be held between no less than 33 days and no more than 58 days after the issue of the writs.

    It seems the only remaining Federal election dates are:
    7 May 2022 – dissolution of parliament & issue of writs must occur by Monday, Apr 4 (5 days remaining);
    14 May 2022 – dissolution of parliament & issue of writs must occur by Monday, Apr 11;
    21 May 2022 – dissolution of parliament & issue of writs must occur by Monday, Apr 18.

    It seems that PM Morrison may have let the cat out of the bag today saying: “The election will be in mid May.”

  10. My naiveté (and yours?), improvement letters, between Massimo & Sloan Wilson.

    I posted above @
    March 30, 2022 at 11:00
    “David Sloan Wilson and 
    Dennis J. Snower “Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Economics” Economics as an Evolutionary Science journal”

    “Human Cultural Evolution: Can Darwinian Ideas Explain History and Culture?

    h/t Nicholas Gruen

    My hope was to trigger a response re Economics in Two Lessons, with sortition for policy decision points, by JQ & NG. It would take me a year or three to write such a response. Equiring minds – enjoy.

  11. Reading “Highlights From The Comments On Justice Creep” brought up some intense reactions in me.

    #1. Change all mentions of “welfare” to “justice”.
    Enables less dogma and reactive push back. (Ernestine?).

    #2 I agree “In my ideal world, everyone would get a guaranteed basic income”.

    #3. How to bring about #2 seems to need #1 to be at the forefront.

    Any suggestions about how to replace welfare with justice?

    …”challenge people to come up with reasons why it’s false that don’t also disprove economic justice or climate justice or so on (please think for two seconds when proposing your reason about whether it has a clear climate or economic equivalent).

    “So my answer to this is something like “I have no idea what justice is, but I care about people and want them not to be harmed, and I hope this is enough”.

    “In my ideal world, everyone would get a guaranteed basic income, not because I have any idea what level of UBI would be “just”, but because it’s bad for people to be poor. If they want to use that money to hire a prostitute or a cosmetic surgeon to pursue a romantic relationship, that’s fine with me. If they want to use that as seed money to start a business and become a billionaire and be much richer than everyone else, that’s fine with me too. I can’t guarantee I have solved all of the moral issues that will come up / stay around, but I feel much more confident addressing them on a care/harm foundation than a fairness one.

    “Highlights From The Comments On Justice Creep…

    “A lot of comments on Justice Creep fell into three categories:”…

  12. KT2
    re-David Sloan Wilson and Denis J. Snower “rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Economics”
    I read through the “debate” between Denis Snower and David Wilson. It seems that they want to challenge the bedrock foundations of Capitalism. They criticized the circular flow of income model used by Adam Smith after he “borrowed” it from the physiocrats. The physiocrats were also trying rethink the theoretical foundation of economics. In their case they attacked Mercantilism. So maybe its time to attack Capitalism from the roots up. These two experts have a unique way of doing that and I wish them luck. It will not be an easy road to acceptance. Just ask any Marxist or Socialist. For two hundred and twenty years the circular flow of income model has been a foundation stone of capitalism. Their attack on the “invisible hand” price mechanism is shaking things up to say the least. But they are opposed by many economists and evolutionary scientists. So they will need all the luck they can get.

  13. Gregory J. McKenzie, thanks.

    I agree, and it seems to be imperative that ‘we’ (?) fux “Theoretical Foundation of Economics”. I assume every historical zeitgeist has attacked the prior one.

    And as you say, “So maybe its time to attack Capitalism from the roots up.”

    Our our mis-step yet natural reaction, is to;
    1) attack anything due to inevitable  human physics – an (un)equal and opposite reaction / defernce, by actors with the power to double down, and
    2) which unless very careful embedds a seed of failure by having the debate / future / new pattadigm framed from the outset by the thing being attacked ala capitalism.

    Hence my hope JQ & NG might combine to introduce the hoi poloi – me – us – into a version of a reimagined Economics in Two Lessons + sortition + (Machine Learning) 21st C smarts for new prototyping.

    “But they are opposed by many economists and evolutionary scientists.”. So I found out, hence my naiveté showing.

    As seen with the drug designers above, we have the tools now to automate and simulate,  both for good and evil. And as I said it astounds me the drug designers didn’t turn their tools toward full mendacity and allow preparations toward protection.

    I hope sime economics professors might take a hint and produce something new via a NOT biological evolutionary pathway, more like a “reinforced neural net learning with steps by sortition”, so as to include all humans.

    I think such a process would make a transition toward different exchange systems (not capitalism?) and incentives an easier road to acceptance of a root & branch, + mycelium [exchange, signaling, coordination] and human systems change.

    Nick Bostrom (greeks, philosophers) warned us and these super drug simulators types of;

    “Information Hazards: A Typology of Potential Harms from Knowledge

    “Information hazards are risks that arise from the dissemination or the potential dissemination of true information that may cause harm or enable some agent to cause harm. Such hazards are often subtler than direct physical threats, and, as a consequence, are easily overlooked. They can, however, be important.”
    [Review of Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 10 (2011): 44–79 (first version: 2009)] [pdf]

    Click to access information-hazards.pdf

    I hope we may take Bostrom’s point – “Such hazards are often subtler than direct physical threats, and, as a consequence, are easily overlooked. They can, however, be important.”, and the tools of today, as a guide to get started on redesigning to future, find out all the threats, and including humans, enabing acceptable and implement with small tests, towards a peaceful revolution of justice (not welfare) and flourishing, towards harmony. 

    Better late than never, Harmony Day was last week!  

  14. To implement a new economic / social whatever it may be called, we will need the trust factor of the Danish, a bit if hyggja (which means “to think” in Old Norse), and 50% tax rates (D’oh! Kings and capitalism again), providing “top hygge”, as Danish teenagers might say. BBQ’s and hugs all for all then.

    My new favourite word.
     “Danish: [ˈhykə];Norwegian: [ˈhŷɡːə]) is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. As a cultural category with its sets of associated practiceshygge has more or less the same meanings in Danish and Norwegian.[1] The emphasis onhygge as a core part of Danish culture is a recent phenomenon, dating to the late 20th century.

    “The word hygge comes from a Danish word meaning “to give courage, comfort, joy”.[2] Hygge stems from hyggja which means “to think” in Old Norse. [2] Hygge is built from theOld Norse word hugr which later became the hug which means the soul, mind, consciousness.[3]”

  15. I prefer gemütlich from thr German. Connotations of;

    cozy , comfortable, homely, pleasant, homey, leisurely, snug, friendly, relaxed, unhurried, easygoing.

    In English, I prefer “snug” but it lacks the extensive connotations. “Comfortable” has the more extensive connotations but it has too many jarring syllables: no onomatopoeia and it is literally uncomfortable to say.

  16. Q’s for JQ.
    1) How would biological markers map to JG, UBI, austerity?
    2) how can the research below he applied to effect policy via your works?

    Justifications for expanding justice. 

    And the use of human biological markers to inform policy. “”If a similar response was measured in humans, we’d have no doubt that emotions were involved, Professors Andrews and der Waal argue.” fn^1.

    My edits;
    Even clear responses to
    [ poverty ] – noxious stimuli –
    [ were oftern dismissed as poor choices ] – were often dismissed as reflex responding.

    Later these experimental findings were used by
    [ thatcherites, neoliberals ] -anesthesiologists
    [ to support lessened welfare and justice ]
    to support the lessened use of anesthesia for
    [ those deemed to have made poor choices ]

    “Even clear responses to noxious stimuli were often dismissed as reflex responding. Later these experimental findings were used by anesthesiologists to support the lessened use of anesthesia for infants.”

    …”with infant surgery routinely conducted with minimal or no anesthesia into the 1980s.”  

    “Ultimately this history can be read as a caution to modern researchers to be aware of their own biases, the risks of null hypothesis testing, and a purely mechanistic view of infants.[ Infants read: ‘Humans’. ]

    “The infancy of infant pain research: the experimental origins of infant pain denial
    “The question of animal emotions”.
    Frans B M de Waal et al. Science. 2022.
    “Do animals, including invertebrates, have felt emotions and does this morally matter”
    DOI: 10.1126/science.abo2378 


    Via: ^1
    “If a similar response was measured in humans, we’d have no doubt that emotions were involved, Professors Andrews and der Waal argue.

    “And research from the 1990s found rats at play emitted distinctive chirping at a frequency of around 50 kilohertz, which scientist Jaak Panksepp argued was a primitive form of laughter.”

    Triggered by:
    UK Parliament sentient definition extension recommendation;
    “Based on our research, we recommend that all cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans be regarded as sentient animals for the purposes of UK animal welfare law. They should be counted as “animals” for the purposes of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and included in the scope of any future legislation relating to animal sentience.”

    Click to access Sentience-in-Cephalopod-Molluscs-and-Decapod-Crustaceans-Final-Report-November-2021.pdf

  17. Commenting on Eraring station closure. Australia needs to re-create the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES). As part of an expanded brief it should have a section designed to deal with employment re-deployment. If that existed CES Redeployment would already be talking to these workers and working with them to find them new positions perhaps in the new renewable energy and energy storage projects we should already be building as a nation (re-)building project and to save the world.

    But that would require foresight, care, planning and government capacity: all things that neoliberals disbelieve in.

  18. Ikon says; “CES Redeployment would already be talking to these workers”

    And Theresa Rein, Kevin Rudd’s helpful private job support company took CES Redeployment faults, nade a private for profit using government support!, and sold it for – not going to bother to look it up – around $175-$200m. 2 sales incl US private equity. Now absorbed as our private for profit ‘ces’ network.

    Any comment from your time in the inside Ikon?

    Deja vu as per usual. You said Ikonoclast -: March 26, 2020 at 11:28 am
    “Centrelink is broken but the govt. won’t admit it.”…

    Hugo bemoaning, Svante & I same thread;
    “KT2 says: March 27, 2020 at 11:35 am
    “Hugo… I have been involved with a disability pension app for a ptsd sufferer for over 4 yrs now.

    “* to keep job agency off back get specific psychistrist letter to say “exacerbated by this process” (apm -$8,000 paid to them to deal with such cases – theresa rein sold biz to u.s. based medical fund who onsold 60% to Australian thee^$$’s – private equity – who boast “27%” return!)

    (I must apologises for my sub editor. Me.)

    Jobs network a definite partial renationalisation candidate imo.

  19. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” Einstein is said to have said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

    And allegorical takes. This, imo, maps seamlessly to the recent / present culture.
    – Toto – National Party & Coalition.
    – Tinman – capital & AI / robots
    – Etc..

    “The Wizard of Oz as an Allegory for the 1896 Presidential Election

    “Toto” (short for teetotalers, who made a loud noise yip-yapping but were otherwise ineffective political companions). On her way to the Land of Oz, Dorothy picks up her electoral coalition. First, the Scarecrow, representing western farmers. “He thinks that he has no brains because his head is stuffed with straw. But we soon learn that he is shrewd and capable. He brings to life a major theme of the free silver movement: that the people, the farmer in particular, were capable of understanding the complex theories that underlay the choice of a standard.”

    “Next, the Tin Man (or Tin Woodman). The working class man, once a true human, is now just a cog in the industrial machine. Piece by piece his human body was replaced by metallic parts. He is now little more than a machine, 

    h/t Kottke

  20. KT2,

    Allegorical meanings need to be decoded for sure but we also need to put story-telling and myth making into a wider context. The wider context relates to two major modes of enculterated human understanding in my opinion. These modes are the empirical and the narrative. Getting understanding only from narratives, from religious and hero narratives right through to allegorical, social and psychological narratives is fraught with at least a couple of problems. These center around “arguments” from authority and indeed “arguments” or beliefs simply from compelling narrative.

    Getting “arguments”, world views and social bearings from narratives can be very handy socially, especially if one buys into the dominant myths of one’s society. That’s partly how people get ahead. But arguments and world views from narratives, of post hunter-gather societies at least, are unlikely to bear much relation to the real natural world, that is the world outside the political, cultural and social world; which real natural world these more artificial worlds are embedded in. Also getting world views from narratives, especially religio-mythic narratives seems to confirm people in the meta-belief that beliefs are all important and that firm personal beliefs trump empirically, collectively verifiable realities.

    We learn the grammar (or meta-grammar) of narratives from a very young age. Thus we respond emotionally and credulously (even during more adult-like willing suspension of disbelief) to the deeper ideas carried in the standard narrative forms. See both Vladimir Propp (” Morphology of Folk-tale”) and Joseph Campbell “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”. Propp’s book is certainly available online in English translation.

    The pushing of the “hero myth” is central to our stories and religions. Heroes overcome great odds and rescue lesser people. The myths of great leaders derive from this sort of thinking inclulcated into us from narratives. Pushing the leadership myth remains very common to this day. On the ABC this morning they were pushing a primary school education program to get kids to think about, depict and extol “leaders” and what leadership means. Of course, there was no critical thinking component like asking:

    “Do we need leaders?”
    “Are there bad leaders?
    “Do I want to be a mere obedient follower blindly doing whatever a leader wants me to do?
    “Do leaders really care about other other people or do they just care about themselves?
    “Should we interact more cooperatively and democratically and do away with uncritically following individual “leaders”?
    Is all this leader guff just training from early childhood to make ordinary people more compliant eventually to elite and now neoliberal and managerialist manipulation?

    Some of these concepts are well beyond small children but not all of them. All the more reason that uncritically pushing leader and follower paradigms into young minds should not be on the agenda. Of course, doing any critical reportage along these lines would be well beyond the facile talking heads of the ABC. The rest of the media are worse and long ago went entirely over to being cheer squads for corporate capitalism, neoliberalism, mangerialsim etc. etc.

  21. Ikon, thanks for the critique and broader implications. That without embedding in real world with critical thinking, the narritives and allegories and Hero’s journey-
    “seems to confirm people in the meta-belief that beliefs are all important and that firm personal beliefs trump empirically, collectively verifiable realities.”.

    Made me smile though. And may be an ice breaker towards a craxk of awareness leading to critical thinking to thise ooen to it. And then hopefully, broader awareness of the real. Hero’s journey taught extensively in year 8, yet critical thinking not. I have to augment and challenge my child to do the critical oart of thinking. And I then get pushback from relatives when said child pops out with “yet. …” to challenge “this sort of thinking inclulcated into us from narratives”.

    I’ll glean “Vladimir Propp and Joseph Campbell, but my life and tsonduku may hinder a deep dive.

    At least I’ll know I’m ignorant.

    Here is another re thinking styles.
    “Fermi Estimates and Dyson Designs

  22. Half the books on my bookshelf are tsonduku. Some of the other half I have read up to five times each. YMMV. Just today I started a campaign to throw out just one book a day without touching any of my more valued books or any of my wife’s books at all. Let’s see how far I get. A month’s worth (30 books) would be good going and should free up a shelf.

    I forget the last time I bought a book. Must have been years ago. Any text I want now can be found online pretty much.

  23. Am I alone in thinking that Joe Biden made a big mistake in his Warsaw speech? I don’t mean the call for Putin to go. In the circumstances, undiplomatic language was fair enough, and it’s hard to see a peace deal that would now be acceptable to the justifiably furious Ukrainians and be compatible with Putin’s staying in power. No, I mean the framing of he conflict as part of a long global struggle between “democracy” and “autocracy.”

    Part of the problem here is with democracy. Putin was reelected President of Russia by 76.7%. Biden was elected President of the USA by 51.3%; Johnson PM of the UK by 43.6%. Curiously all three elections had the same turnout of 67%. They were all flawed; the Russian more than the others, but it was an election, not a North Korean charade. Putin’s rule is Bonapartist, and does enjoy popular support. Democracy is a spectrum, not a binary category. We can of course shore up this rickety concept by adding in the rule of law and enforceable fundamental rights, but it’s still a spectrum.

    Theses difficulties pale in comparison to those of “autocracy”. There is no single autocratic ideology: there have been apologists for monarchy (Digby and Le Maistre) and for fascism, but Stalin’s and Mao’s cults of personality had far less basis in Marxism than in the ancien regime monarchies of Russia and China. There is no Autocrat Central for mutual aid or even comparing notes. What does the King of Morocco have in common with Maduro or the Kims? Autocracy isn’t an ideology or a political programme, it’s merely the default human scheme of governance for a state as opposed to a tribal band.

    The big practical issue that arises from this is China. In Biden’s match of democracy vs. autocracy, China is on the other side with Russia. Biden should have tried to frame the conflict in a way that drives a wedge between them. After all, China values stability and prosperity above all, and stability requires leaving borders alone. In spite of the buddy communiqués, China has never recognized Putin’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014. Some in the CCP must see Putin as a dangerous, unstable and destructive troublemaker; the pitch is not hard to make, as it’s true.

  24. James Wimberley,

    Some good points but there is a big problem with your claim that Russia is a democracy. It simply is not. Putin’s election is not free or fair. His “opponents” are hand-picked by the Kremlin and of course intended and set up to fail. He routinely poisons and imprisons his political rivals and has members of the press murdered. Russia is an authoritarian dictatorship under Putin with very weak pretensions to constitutionalism, democracy and rule of law.

    World Population Review’s democracy rating has Russia at Authoritarian Regime rating 3.31. For comparison, Norway tops at Full Democracy 9.81, Australia is at Full Democracy 8.96. UK is at Full Democracy 8.54, USA at Flawed Democracy 7.92 and China at Authoritarian Regime 2.27.

    Given how poorly democracy works in UK and Australia (with respect to corporate donations running politics) these ratings are generous. The USA is really a hybrid regime on the cusp of becoming an authoritarian regime itself. I mean if Trump wins the next election and then attempts another auto coup as he is almost certain to do if given the chance. The USA is heavily oligarchic tending to authoritarian.

    In summary though about Russia, Russia’s elections are charades. Putin is an authoritarian and fascist dictator. Fascist is as fascist does. [1] The actions in attacking Ukraine and all the war crimes committed against civilians during the war were and are the actions of pure, unadulterated fascism: the sharp end of the army performing as the dictator ordered and enabled. Not the “highest” form of fascism for sure but that’s only because Russia has not won its klutzkrieg.

    Note 1. Fascism as an ideology emphasizes the absolute dictatorial leader, the rule of force, murders of opponents, the fusing of corporate-oligarchic and state apparatus as the sole nexus of power and myths of race, national destiny and purity fusing into hyper-nationalist and supremacist doctrine. Putin and Russia under Putin fit the entire bill. Most clearly a full-blown fascist regime.

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