End of an Era

That's all Folks!
Sunday, 10th December 2017

The Eclipse of American Power

Just 15 years ago in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the alternative antiwar media was abuzz with talk of the Project for a New American Century, championed by the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld as they pushed for more proactive military interventions to spread the USA’s vision of neoliberalism. We can split the opponents of this strategy into two camps: those who oppose neoliberalism and/or militarism on principle and those who believed whatever its merits the policy was ultimately doomed to backfire. Today most of the globalist media who lent their moral support to successive US-led wars in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Balkans under the pretext of humanitarian intervention, are now openly critical of the US and UK governments and much more supportive of the European Union, which despite the outcome of the UK’s 2016 referendum is forging ahead with plans to set up its own unified defence forces and federalise its structures into a United States of Europe. Just 15 years ago the Anglo-American media lampooned the cowardly French and German governments for failing to support the 2003 US-led ousting of Saddam Hussein, now they mock Donald Trump for colluding with Putin and failing to accommodate enough refugees from countries the US military has destabilised, while hailing Angela Merkel and Emanuel Macron as inspirational leaders of the progressive world.

What we are witnessing may be the steady demise of the United States as the main world power. By 2025 China’s economy is set to outstrip the USA’s. While US-based tech giants will continue to play a leading role in the development of artificial intelligence, the scientific centre of gravity has moved from California to Russia, China and India. You just have to look at the number of graduates in STEM subjects and the origins of the people shaping our cybernetic future. It appears our European neighbours have caught the British disease of focusing on marketing and people management rather than hard sciences. Slowly but surely Chinese and Japanese multinationals are buying their way into Europe, Australasia and North America. The next century will be a lot more Asian than many anticipated. While Anglo-American customs and language may linger on in global culture for some time to come, just as Greek and Latin outlived their respective empires, our future cultural development will be shaped largely by Asians with contributions from Africans and Latin Americans. With over half the world's current population, Asia is home to great civilisational diversity. Yet, thanks to the industriousness of its peoples and relative social stability, the East Asian model will prevail, while the Islamic world’s strategy of conquest through high birth rates will only succeed in destabilising other countries, not in gaining control of the commanding heights of the techno-industrial complex.

However, the demise of the American dream is also due to the generally unanticipated failure of neoliberalism to adapt to a world of smart automation that in just 20 years could not only render most jobs obsolete, but subjugate most workless citizens to the dictatorship of a few global corporations. Neoliberalism promised a future of enterprise, competition and personal responsibility with governments intervening only to ensure equality of opportunity and some form of social safety net. In reality we have seen a transfer of power away from small businesses and local institutions to multinational businesses and global organisations. Today’s small businesses are often just contract workers, whose income depends entirely on their subservience to the global mafia, e.g. in the Web development industry many of the most lucrative contracts are with advertising agencies or, would you believe it, with charities. There is not very much money to be made advocating localism or any viable alternative to global governance.

Imperialism versus Localism

The national imperialisms of the 19th century have now morphed into unabashed global imperialism, after an interlude of North American dominance. Many observers may wonder how a longstanding opponent of British imperialism, such as myself, could advocate greater national sovereignty for the United Kingdom. If you’re anti-British, would you not simply wish to see the dissolution of the UK into smaller regions integrated into a larger superstate? The main flaw in this logic is that the interests of ordinary citizens have seldom coincided with those of their ruling classes. Mercantilism was the primary driver of English and later British imperialism in the 17th and 18th centuries. British may refer either to an imperial state that evolved from the 1707 union of English and Scottish crowns or it may mean the peoples who have long inhabited the British Isles through successive ruling dynasties. I opposed British imperialism, not its peoples. The East India Company helped expand British colonial influence in the subcontinent with a little help from the Royal Navy. Christian missionaries and English language teachers may have followed, but the main purpose of imperialism has always been to expand markets and subjugate peoples by peaceful means if possible and by military means if all else fails. English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh peasants and factory workers did not suddenly decide to colonise the Americas, Africa, India or Australasia. Most did not even leave their homelands or only migrated to another part of the British Isles. Some took advantage of new opportunities in their masters’ new colonies, but many died in the process. One may argue that much of Britain’s wealth in the 19th and early 20th century came from its colonies, but it was very unevenly distributed. Before the growth of an educated and skilled working class in the late 19th century, most inhabitants of these windswept isles endured poverty every bit as bad or even worse than typical living conditions in 19th century India if we look at comparative infant mortality rates which only began to decline with the advent of modern plumbing.

Today our business leaders only cling to commercial and cultural links with the British Commonwealth through self-interest and tradition. In 2017 India exercises more influence over tiny Britain than vice versa through its large and successful ex-pat community and its dominance in the business services market. Just as China overtakes the US in economic output, India’s total GDP is poised to pull ahead of the UK’s. Yet big business does not seem to mind one iota. Not only do they have a larger market of new consumers, they can tap talent from a larger pool of university graduates. Subsidising the workless underclasses will be a problem for governments and global charities.

We would like to think that our governments endeavour to give us the best headstart in life through better education and high tech skills training. In the near future a country’s wealth may depend more on the percentage of its citizens able to undertake intellectually demanding jobs in scientific research and innovation than by its prestige or the strength of its banking sector. If your youngsters can only aspire to medium skill clerical and manual jobs, their livelihoods will be swept aside by artificial intelligence and global competition. Yet our politicians seem more concerned with promoting gender theory among gullible primary school children than giving them the firm foundations in mathematics, reading and writing they will need to stand a chance in tomorrow’s high IQ labour market.

Nationalism has earned itself a bad name by association with 19th century imperialism and 20th century fascism. Yet positive nationalism is just a way of managing in-group preferences and shared cultural values within a confined geographic area to ensure governing institutions can be held to account. Countries can choose different paths and learn from their neighbours' mistakes. If the whole world has to converge on the same social and economic policies, we will thrive or wither together. I’m happy for Moroccans to choose to prioritise Islamic studies in their schools. Its up to them. I’m not so happy for Scottish schools to adopt the same policies or for other countries to unduly influence local democracy here. Localism means devolving power to the smallest viable unit, which may be a farm, a village, a town, a county, a region or small country, a large country or community of countries, but at each stage power has to spread from the bottom up giving each community greater responsibility over its destiny and ultimately greater personal freedom. This stands in contrast to universalism which assumes billions of human beings can magically converge on new cultural norms without coercion. I choose bottom-up democracy and not top-down manufacturing of consent.

+