THE POLITICS OF FAILURE
Like many others, I’ve been watching the UK Gov meltdown with astonishment. Part of this is a sourcing issue: 3 of 9 mainstream media I rely on for daily updates are UK-owned / based so the subject does come up.
But part of it is a much longer understanding that politics has become the weak link in governance. Specifically, four aspects of politics:
1. The astounding financial and moral corruption of political parties and leaders.
2. The fact that the regulatory capture of governments and wider apparatus (justice, universities) by political parties is all too clear. meaning we really can’t replace political parties that easily.
3. The astoundingly poor quality of so many elected political leaders. Many of these are unfit for any real work.
4. The sheeplike behavior of electorates, who apparently have difficulty understanding even basic issues of common sense.
A few countries are doing better than others and stand out in terms of quality, foresight, ethics and accountability. But certainly not the US or the UK, nor the countries in which I live.
Since the start of the Greek financial crisis in late 2009, my viewpoint has been that everything possible should be done to de-politicize governance, and make the act of governing as invisible and as low cost as plumbing.
We shouldn’t need to listen to blatant lies or soap opera from Donald Trump, Liz Truss or anyone else.
We should not have a massive press industry that is there to support these lies and peddle misinformation in order to influence votes.
We should not have continual election campaigns founded on misinformation that cost billions of dollars.
The existence of political “unions” in universities and schools should be banned entirely (this is a Greek and Cypriot invention).
Obviously, this is a naive dream. Government is the largest industry in the world. In arguably most countries, the financial incentives involved have attracted the worse a country has to offer.
And paradoxically, despite the trillions we spend on education every year, far too many electoral outcomes - and far too many citizens - appear to be less and less capable of making informed and sustainable decisions at the systemic level.
But somehow, we need to face reality. We have dug a financial hole for ourselves so that in most countries, public debt is now 100% of GDP, government spending as a share of GDP is rising, we have massive unfunded liabilities or liabilities that are warehoused in central banks, and despite this, real GDP growth is anaemic or reliant on excessive capital being invested in a few sectors (typically property, tech, financial services and tourism).
Despite burgeoning taxes and an omnipresent government, we have continuing poverty, continuing illiteracy and, sadly, massive income and wealth inequality. We also have massive corruption, much of it related to the work of government.
We have built, in other words, a system which no longer works. And we have built it under general conditions of prosperity in peacetime.
How will this system work in a time of real crisis? Badly. Covid, although serious, was hardly a real crisis. And if Covid showed us one thing, it was that we are unprepared, and that many of our decisions worsened the crisis rather than alleviated it.
How will this system work when minority elements of the electorate are very openly campaigning against their own citizens in ways that can only be described as treasonous, or at the very least, self destructive?
Can we, as a society, afford to have extremist militias and elected lunatics of the kind present in the United States?
Can we afford to have an unreconstructed and unrepentant communist party in the form it takes in Greece?
Can we afford to elect buffoons and liars to power?
Apparently we can. The principles of free speech and universal suffrage count for a lot.
These same questions, by the way, were asked since the dawn of Athenian democracy. The answers were no more convincing then than any answers I have now.
The answers I do take away are simple and are applicable to myself as an informed citizen with options. And as an investor.
We live in a time of massive and transformational technological, demographic and environmental change. The changes that are well underway in our global society are going to change our world like nothing else in human history.
Changes in biotech and genetics will increase the human lifespan (for the wealthy) and result in human - hardware - software hybrids. The idea of a cyborg, previously in the realm of science fiction, is approaching reality. The research and applications are already underway. This will change the very nature of humanity.
Changes in AI and big data mean that at least 50-80% of the work we do today (and do badly, by the way) will no longer be done by humans in the next 10-15 years. This will result in massive unemployment and underemployment.
Our public educational system in Greece is still conflicted over how many teachers to unionise and whether to teach Greek Orthodox Theology at the public expense, rather than on the fact that we are missing hundreds of thousands of trained workers, and on a brain drain effect that means many trained workers are leaving Greece. The same applies at the European level.
In the real world, we will soon be giving Nobel Prizes to AI as well as to humans.
To give you a visual: Elon Musk is not only working on Optimus (a robot); he is working on Neuralink, a company mastering the pathways between microchip and brain neuron. If you are not familiar with these, Google them. You need to be.
Our population hits 8 billion people next month, while anyone observing the rate of environmental degradation and climate change, or the crap we are putting in our food chain and eating, understands what stress the planet is under.
These are global issues that will affect everyone. Every country. Every economy, every family. Every person.
Standing in front of them because of some sick interpretation of religion or tradition is a choice that will not last long. The train called humanity has left the station. The train is accelerating.
In this maelstrom of change, I know what I have to do as an individual and as a company to adapt and survive. That’s what I’m working on.
But when I read the news and see Liz Truss or Alexi Tsipras or Donald Trump or Io Sono Giorgia or so many others, I understand it’s going to be a lonely, dangerous and expensive journey. Because the very people we should be counting on to navigate our journey forward are in fact leading us to crash on the rocks.
I do wish everyone the luxury of their convictions. I’m not here to tell you who or what to vote for.
The only thing I can tell you is that eventually the runway ends. And in so many countries, the end of that runway is in sight.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia. By Prime Minister's Office - https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prime-minister-liz-trusss-statement-6-september-2022, OGL 3, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=122729965