More on the Collapse of the Center
I am in the process of editing a video at Real Vision where the founder, Raoul Pal, is talking to Dee Smith, the CEO of Strategic Insight Group. It’s going to be released in early June. Interestingly, Dee Smith was making a lot of the same points I made in my post on the Collapse of the Center. And he puts it under the moniker of ‘The Age of Splintering’, meaning there is an atomization that is ongoing right now across the developed world – and increasingly in the developing world too.
In his framework, there are three fundamental driving forces. The first is technology, which is speeding up the rate of change in how societies operate.
The second, Smith believes, is the increase in population. And in my view, this makes sense only because, in the aftermath of the Cold War, with Chinese detente, and because of reform in countries like India, there are some 3 or 4 billion more people integrated into global supply chains that weren’t connected to western democracies before the 1990s.
The third is what I touched on in the Tuesday post. It’s what Smith calls “our legacy human attributes” – our fear of change, our nostalgia, and our need for simple answers. And he believes that these legacy human attributes, as he calls them, interact negatively with technology and globalization to cause fear, distrust and revulsion regarding the rate of change in how our societies are structured.
This framing makes sense to me because what it says in essence is that the amount of change that most humans are being forced to deal with on a daily basis is overwhelming their need for the stasis and stability that engenders trust and security. And so the natural human reaction is fear and rejection of a system that creates this level of changes – especially in the aftermath of an economic trauma or series of traumas.
Interpreting the splintering
The way I am interpreting this is as a rational counter-reaction to ‘globalization’ – for lack of a better all-encompassing word – that causes people to move away from established political organizations, experts, and elites who are seen to have thrust these changes upon us. What we are seeing from these groups now – politicians, the media, and political donor classes – is a defense of the existing socioeconomic paradigm, of which globalization is a central feature. But I believe this defense will eventually fail, with a retreat to smaller political structures like cities, counties, or provinces seen as more palatable, simply because it gives the electorate a sense of more ‘control’ over events now beyond their control.
Brexit is a perfect example of how this phenomenon is playing out. The abortion bans in the south of the US is another example, given the sense in the south that their social and moral values are being trampled on by coastal elites. And to the degree that so-called elites wrest control out of the hands of these regional, ‘nationalistic’ groups, there will be hell to pay. This desire to retreat to a smaller community-based world order is not going away, at least not until the forces that globalization has wrought are brought to heel.
What’s wanted? Here’s the list, I believe makes sense:
- Economic security (i.e. no fear of bankruptcy from any source including medical or divorce and with the ability to expunge all debts including education and credit card debt)
- Job security (i.e. no gig economy job, instead stable employment without constant fear of dismissal or reduction of hours)
- Family security (i.e. the security of knowing that one will not be destitute if one spouse in a couple stops work due to job loss, pregnancy, sickness, or child care needs)
- Adequate leisure time (i.e. employment with adequate vacation time, but without any guilt associated with using that time)
- Security of healthcare (i.e. all basic medical and pharmacological needs met without worry of expense)
- Security of living conditions (i.e. slim chance of eviction or foreclosure and homelessness)
- Old age security (i.e. the knowledge that one can become ‘unemployably old’ without fear of penury or destitution)
- Cultural security (i.e. the knowledge that one’s way of life is venerated by so-called elites without threat of incursion from perceived ‘alien’ cultures or ways of life)
None of the items on that list is available in western democracies to the degree it was before globalization. None. And I believe this is driving people away from the center.
It may be that some of the items on this list are simply not realistically achievable anymore. Nevertheless, looking at the totality of this list, one has to get a sense of how profound the change is, that is driving people away from the center.
Now, I wanted to get onto the news flow. But I am going to leave it there for now.
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