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Culture War Roundup for the week of January 9, 2023

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The massive growth in "administrators" has been one of the factors responsible for education cost inflation far in excess to the general economy.

Well, turns out the same problem exists in health care too. The data is clear. If people can carve out a comfortable but ultimately superflous sinecure for themselves and get away with it, why wouldn't they? That part is obvious. What I don't understand is why everyone else lets them, whether in healthcare or education. Because the rest of us end up footing the bill.

The first issue is the principle agent problem. "The rest of us" aren't in charge of hiring and firing them, their boss is. And for the most part their boss doesn't suffer negative consequences of having them around, because they do mildly useful administrative work which makes the boss' life slightly easier. Nowhere near enough to justify their full salary, but enough for the boss to justify a numerical increase on their budget spreadsheet.

In most businesses, this is partially, but not fully, countered by economic incentives. Shareholders in a company demand profit, and customers demand lower prices, and these can't be fulfilled simultaneously except by cutting costs. Companies with more slack: ones with natural monopolies or regulatory advantages or just temporarily on an upswing, are much more vulnerable to administrative bloat because there is less of this pressure. Look at all the cushy but low-productivity positions in the tech industry in the past few years, it's because they have so much slack that people can afford to waste someone else's money. The investors are unlikely complain or even notice that they only earned $1 billion this year when by all rights they should have earned $1.2 billion, while the difference between +$100 million versus -$100 million is going to cause heads to roll.

The situation in healthcare, at least in America, is broken in a slightly different way than just having lots of money though. It's this weird trifecta between the healthcare provider, the insurance companies, and the customers. Rather than customers shopping around for products they like, and declining or substituting a different good if costs are too high, demand is unpredictable and drastic. Bam, health problem happens, person goes to the nearest hospital, gets treated, and then gets a bill afterwards. Further, they don't even pay the bill themselves, they forward it to an insurance company who pays most of it and makes the customer pay some "deductible" which is usually not tied to how much the treatment actually costs. So the demand is highly inelastic. If healthcare prices rise the same number of people are going to have healthcare problems, and although some of them might choose not to get treated, that's a really bad outcome. And even if a customer manages to get to a cheaper more efficient healthcare provider, they're unlikely to see the benefits because of how insurance works.

All of this means that everything is much less tied to the normal economic incentives that keep prices low. Each hospital has something like a small local monopoly over their area and can raise prices and afford bloat with little consequence.

The second issue is that not all of the administrative work is bloat, from a local perspective. The weird adversarial relationship between insurance companies and healthcare providers necessitates a lot of administrative work that isn't productive on a global economic scale but is locally useful to their employer. If the provider hires someone who increases the success rate of convincing the insurance company to pay for treatment that already happens by a small amount, they might bring in an extra $200k a year, which justifies a salary of $100k a year and earns $100k profit. But if the insurance company hires a similar person who lowers the probability by the same amount, that justifies a salary of $100k for that person and when considered alone is a $100k profit for the insurance company. But these two people cancel each other out, and then net effect to the economy is that $200k extra is being used up on administrative salaries. Rinse and repeat until the marginal effect of such people decreases enough that the companies are no longer incentivized to hire more of them, and now there's millions of dollars going down the drain in a way that is locally rational for each company, but globally wasteful. It's a classic public goods dilemma.

Add in a bunch of nonsense legal regulations that exist for ostensibly good purposes but probably don't actually justify their costs, and you have even more demand for locally rational but globally wasteful administration.


The entire system is a mess and needs to be destroyed and replaced with... something. National healthcare fixes the second problem but not the first. Maybe that's good enough? The primary complaint about nationalizing anything is that it causes the first problem: prices are decoupled from economic incentives so nobody is incentivized to reduce bloat. We already have that problem in healthcare, and I don't nationalizing it would make it much worse, so I'm tentatively in favor, but if possible would prefer a privatized system that somehow fixed both problems (I have no idea how though).

It's Monday, you might want to wait for the new thread for this one.

The way the Russian government is handling the war in Ukraine strongly reminds me of the Kursk incident.

As a brief reminder, the incident featured a Russian nuclear submarine that experienced a fatal malfunction: the explosion of a torpedo that then triggered more of its torpedoes to explode. The blasts killed most of the crew and the few that remained alive sheltered in the tail end of the submarine, which dropped to the bottom of the Barents Sea. The incident received international attention in August 2000 because of a seemingly endless series of mishaps during the rescue operation:

  • the Russian Navy was accustomed to frequent comm equipment failure so it didn't take any action when the Kursk failed to check in.

  • the Navy's rescue ship was a former lumber ship and could only operate in calm seas.

  • the admiral in charge of the military exercise that Kursk was part of informed the Kremlin of the incident about 12 hours after it it took place.

  • the next day, the same admiral informed the Russian press that the exercise had been a resounding success.

  • one of two Russian submersibles used for the rescue operation collided with the Kursk and required repairs.

  • the second submersible was used but failed to locate the Kursk.

  • the next day, the first submersible was fit for action and sent to attach itself to the Kursk, but it took too long and it ran out of batteries. There were no spares, so the rescue operation had to be put on hold until the batteries was recharged. Meanwhile, the weather got worse and the operation had to be held off until the next day.

  • the first official report of the incident to the Russian media stated that the Kursk had experience a minor technical difficulty.

  • Russian officials first stated that the problem was a result of a collision, most likely with a WWII mine.

  • the second submersible was damaged again while being it was being prepared to be lowered for another mission.

  • the second submersible was repaired and made two attempts to attach itself to the Kursk, but both failed. As it was being picked up by its ship, it was seriously damaged.

  • a few days into the operation, the Navy was reporting that from the evidence it had obtained there had been no explosions on the Kursk. (This despite the first two explosions being serious enough to be heard by other vessels taking part in the training as well as seismograph sensors operated by multiple other countries.)

  • initial offers of international assistance were denied. Only 5 days later were they accepted.

  • another admiral of the Russian Navy stated that the incident occurred because of a collision with a NATO submarine. Other officers backed up this report, although no evidence was produced. They kept to this line for nearly two years after the incident.

  • after the wreck was lifted from the sea floor and transported to Russia, an investigation found the incident to have been caused by (get ready) torpedo explosions. It is suspected the root cause was a faulty weld. Also, the automated recording system was disabled along with the rescue bouy.

(For others like me who accidents fascinating I recommend reading the full wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kursk_submarine_disaster. Spoiler alert: the remaining Kursk sailors died within a few hours of the accident. The wikipedia entry contains some quite disturbing details of how they died, eg. "(..) abdomen was burned by acid, exposing the internal organs, and the flesh on his head and neck was removed by the explosion.")

What stands out to me here, just from the perspective of incident response is:

  • ineffective incident management. Awful communications. General lack of understanding of the problem at hand, what to do, etc.

  • ineffective rescue equipment. Outdated, unmaintained.

  • numerous human errors: the rescue submersibles were damaged multiple times by their operators!

  • lack of transparency with public. Numerous false statements eg. calling the incident a "minor malfunction."

  • blameful-postmortem. Blaming WW2 mine, at first, then trying to sell a completely made up story about a collision with a NATO vessel.

From where I stand, I see all of these patterns replaying themselves in the current war in Ukraine.

  • Frequent painful logistics problems. Problems with supplying front-line troops with food, water, even adequate clothing.

  • Ineffective, outdated, unmaintained weapons and vehicles. No air superiority. Foreign-made drones that don't work well in cold weather. Not being able to defend bases hundreds of kilometers inside the motherland from a suicide drone strike. The infamous analysis of truck tires from the beginning of the conflict showing that regular maintenance was not done.

  • Bad management. Awful communications. Changes in leadership. Risking and losing high-value equipment like the Moskva.

  • Lack of transparency. 3 day "special operation" that has been going on for 300+ days. The need to mobilize 300k civilian men to fight what was supposed to be a simple little conflict.

  • Lies. Painting the conflict as fight against nazism, Satan, or NATO (ironic to pull the NATO card again after the "collision with NATO submarine" during the Kursk incident). Even starting the conflict by staging a military exercise that, allegedly, even the participants didn't know was the first step in the war. Reassuring the Russian public that Russia will bear no economic pain from being cut off from various trade systems. Repeated threats of using nuclear weapons. Threatening Finland and Sweden.

Note that I'm not touching on the moral aspects of the war, just on the operational ones. In both of these stories, the salient patterns appear to be corruption, inadequate training, lack of management, and constant lying and bluffing that serves to create internal confusion.

If these patterns reflect reality, then the future doesn't look good for the Russian government. I can see two probable ways this can end: a long, drawn burn that ends in the eventual "suffocation"--lack of basic resources to continue the conflict--or a quick, short ending meant to stop the hemorrhaging of resources on a futile conflict. Either is catastrophic or nearly catastrophic for the Federation.

All true, but Russia always looks like this, and it didn't stop them being a global superpower.

As Napoleon used to say "quantity has a quality all its own". Russia is the national avatar of that sentiment.

Yeah, but these aren't the days where survival for a political entity means throwing literal bodies into a figurative meat grinder in order to beat off the Germans. Being a power of any note means having and spending a lot of resources that don't necessarily draw breath or need to take bathroom breaks. This is harder when, as outlined above, your society is a low-trust omnishambles that not only chronically fucks up, but keeps doing so because it refuses to acknowledge that there are problems and instead chooses to deflect the blame on its outgroups.

beat off the Germans.

I think we've all seen that video.

It's heuristics that almost always work all over again. If you're an officer in the armed forces, the chance that your unit or formation will see actual combat is small and gets vanishingly tiny if you're in one of the branches that is useless for changing or supporting the regime in poor and sunny countries. So what if your rescue craft is half disassembled and the crew is incomplete? It's not like it will be required today, or tomorrow, or this week.

When left to its own devices, the armed forces degrade into a bunch of lazy fucks that don't do anything until it's time to play cover your ass, musical chairs edition. You need to create a culture in which hardasses can thrive without being singled out as assholes, and this happens either via attrition during wartime (a very expensive lesson) or via a very deliberate top-down enforcement: never punish the man who reports a fuckup, always punish the man who tries to cover one up, promote men who discover and fix other men's fuckups.

Why single out the Kursk incident specifically? The Soviet/Russian way of handling of any problem is always the same: lie, hide it as long as possible, until it becomes so bad it can not be hidden anymore, sacrifice lives in heroic efforts to un-bungle the mess they made, fail at it due to the inadequacy of means and inability to organize anything in time, lie again about how it is going, blame the victims, bury the evidence, lie a bit more, then promote and award medals to people that presided over the whole mess and blame the West for everything.

Why single out the Kursk incident specifically?

It just came up in a talk I was having with a friend. It was a major News Thing back in the day and I realized I didn't really know the whole story. When I did some reading, it just struck me as tragicomic in how history just repeats itself.

You do not have to even recall the Kursk incident, you could do similarly well investigating sinking of the Moskva cruiser and Black Sea fleet flagship. There are some reports of very poor results from last maintenance report regarding the overall readiness of the cruiser. We are talking about basic things like only 10% of fire extinguishers being functional during the day of the sinking, not to even speak about faults with internal communication, problems with steering and power plant, problems with radars as well as certain anti-missile defence systems that were canibalized to maintain the other ones on the ship.

Even under the best circumstances the Russian military budget is insufficient to maintain one of the largest nuclear arsenals in conjunction with large navy in conjunction with large conscript army with aviation and all the rest. And Russia is far from ideal with huge amount of corruption, nepotism and plain incompetence getting in the way of this already challenging task of maintaining their forces. The result is what we see now.

You do not have to even recall the Kursk incident, you could do similarly well investigating sinking of the Moskva cruiser and Black Sea fleet flagship.

not entirely sure how well Moskva report is confirmed and checked, while Kursk situation is 100% clear.

Note that I'm not touching on the moral aspects of the war, just on the operational ones.

It is noteworthy that a private military company (Wagner) is doing a lot of the difficult front fighting, and the normal Russian army is just following later.

https://twitter.com/MihajlovicMike/status/1612936331587649537

What is interesting is that Soledar is basically PMC against the western-backed (equipment, weapons and above all intelligence) military: Wagner group distinguished themselves as a true crack fighting force, in many aspects better than the French Foreign legion.

Is the private sector also in war more efficient than state bureaucratic militaries?

Is the private sector also in war more efficient than state bureaucratic militaries?

Executive Outcomes was a lot better at fighting than the state militaries of Angola or Sierra Leone. That said, state armed forces usually make up for being inefficient by being able to marshal vastly more resources than any company could dream of and it's rare that a PMC/political paramilitary is bestowed enough resources to really compete on a major battlefield (the Waffen SS is the example of this).

Also, it could be the case that both Executive Outcomes and Wagner derive much of their effectiveness from being able to pick from manpower/leadership pools that are either elite (veterans, often of special forces), motivated (Right Sector militants like the Azov Battalion or their copycats on the Russian side like the Sparta Battalion) or expendable (Wagner's convicts) instead of having to start with average raw civilians.

It'll be interesting to see if Wagner can leverage its competencies (I'd caution that PR may be one of these. Prigozhin seems to at least know the value of a photo shoot.) into getting a bigger share of the Russian military resource pie and what they can do with it.

Executive Outcomes was a lot better at fighting than the state militaries of Angola or Sierra Leone. That said, state armed forces usually make up for being inefficient by being able to marshal vastly more resources than any company could dream of and it's rare that a PMC/political paramilitary is bestowed enough resources to really compete on a major battlefield (the Waffen SS is the example of this).

There's also a matter of the difference between 'efficiency' and 'completeness.' In high-risk/high-cost endeavors, multiple measures of efficiency are meaningless if compromised by a lack of completeness to things outside the scope of the efficiency matrix. 'Efficiency' might be measured in metrics like 'ability to fire X rounds in Y time at Z range,' but completeness might be other factors as 'is there an entirely different unit capable of providing protection to allow the asset to live.' In the Moskva case, the Moskva was likely a very efficient cruise missile launcher right up until the point it sank for lack of a complete air defense concept being implemented.

This is a function of resources, but it's also the sort of resources that differentiate efficient private actors- who focus on cutting costs and unnecessary expenditures- to effective government actors, who use those resources for things other than the primary mission but which support other purposes in aggregate. Even if the governments were to chase 'efficiency' in the private-sense, there's no guarantee that the efficiency won't compromise the non-evaluated metrics and make things more-efficient-but-worse.

A well regarded amateur analyst of the war in Ukraine (Perun) posted a video talking about the Russian concept of 'Vranyo' (враньё). This is a pattern of lying where various parties are aware that the lying is taking place and for what purpose. He basically cites it as a major reason for the lack of effectiveness of the special operation. The video is worth a watch if you have time (1 hour).

talking about the Russian concept of 'Vranyo' (враньё). This is a pattern of lying where various parties are aware that the lying is taking place and for what purpose.

No, "враньё" just means "lying". Source: am a native speaker. There is no some special esoteric concept here that would require the reader to posses a deep familiarity with Orthodox mysticism and ideology of the "Narodnaya Volya" movement, it looks like the analyst is reifying a generic pattern common to any low trust society. Reminds me of those endless "The Japanese concept of..." articles journalists produce when there's a slow news week.

Everybody knows and always knew that Russian state power always lies. People are fine with it. I mean, they of course object when the lies concern something personally important to them (though it almost never has any consequences) but in general everybody accepts and endorses constant and endless stream of lies. In fact, it makes them more content - without the lies, realizing the harsh picture of reality in Russia and what is happening there would be psychologically crushing for many, because most people aren't inherently evil. However, when they have the crutch of government lies, they can believe - or at least pretend to believe, they know it's lies, but they don't care - everything is going fine, Russia is a mighty empire which the rest of the world is in envy of, they are fighting nazis, and they are winning, due to overwhelming power of Russian advanced weapons and strength of its military, etc etc. Lies is what is holding Russia together and allows the war to continue. If somehow Russian government could no longer lie, there wouldn't be any war - or any Russian government as it is now, for that matter.

Lies is what is holding Russia together and allows the war to continue. If somehow Russian government could no longer lie, there wouldn't be any war - or any Russian government as it is now, for that matter.

To be fair, the same applies to all the western governments as well. The only difference is westerners aren't as cynical.

Sometimes I think there are parts of a culture that are not communicable unless a person spends considerable time inside that culture.

This is a subjective and completely anecdotal take: the amount of lying that happens in Eastern European cultures (and others too, probably) is difficult to imagine for someone from a high-trust society. It's just hard to imagine that people could lie for almost no reason at all, I guess. It's somewhat similar in that way to corruption: many of my American friends think they live in a corrupt society. I grew up in a society where my mother, just before ejecting me from her womb, had to present a 'gift' of cognac to the doctor, the head nurse, and the receptionist. A society where lying is as common as asking "How ya doing?" or talking about the weather is in the US.

Lying about big things. Small things. And that gets you accustomed to not relying on anything anyone has said. Did an online merchant say they sent you the item you paid for? Or did the clerk at the store promise your construction materials will be delivered by eod tomorrow? Or perhaps your employee called out sick? There is no way you could know for sure. The only way to increase reliability is to increase the effects of retaliation--hit people where it hurts--meaning, their long-term social standing. So you get to know the other party's friends and family so when an occasion for renege on a promise, the cost of doing so involves shame, perhaps even some ostracism if the stakes are high enough.

In contrast, while you still have a bunch of lying going on in a high-trust society, the happens sporadically enough that it's effective to bet that the other party mostly truthful most of the time: most business concludes in a predictable way.

To be fair, it does not. American government could do most of its business (excluding some spy matters, etc.) without lying, and it wouldn't break anything much. Of course, it doesn't matter American government does not lie - unfortunately, especially recently, it lies a lot, but these lies are more aimed at subverting the government to use it for private or partisan needs than a foundational necessity of governing. As it exists in Russia now, the lies are foundational for the government there. If American politicians stopped lying, we'd have a bit less rich politicians, and maybe some shuffling of the names on the doors, but the government would be largely the same. If Russian politicians stopped lying, Russia would descend into chaos.

Could the federal government also just stop lying that affirmative action works, that right-wing extremists pose the largest terrorist threat, that Common Core and other programs targeting disparate racial outcomes work etc. without significant political consequences? Is that what you really believe?

Yes.

I mean, surely there would be consequences, as names on the doors change and money stops to flow in the hands of one set of grifters and inevitably starts to flow into another, and so on. Instead of Common Core, we'd have Educational Excellency, and affirmative action university attendees would go back to sportsman's scholarships or something other designed for the same purpose (of getting that sweet federal loan money without actually trying hard to educate someone). That wouldn't change the overall political system. Withdrawing governmental meddling with education - both by prescribing standards and providing a torrent of tax money - would lead to some significant changes, but that is not based on lies. Everybody knows the government meddles, and everybody (about 98% of voters at least) wants it to meddle, the only difference is how exactly it meddles and who benefits from it. The system is not a secret, there's no lie there and everybody agrees with it - the only contention is who gets the profits and who is left holding the externalities.

I really don't see how you can come to this conclusion, but on the other hand I don't see how we could resolve our dispute barring a visit to a parallel universe. Maybe I'm underestimating people's capacity for doublethink, but I find it hard to imagine that most people truly believing we live in a mostly democratic society would shrug of their government went full yes_chad.jpg at every accusation they're using their alphabet agencies against their own citizens in order to suppress dissent. Several past wars that happened in the last two decades would also be a hard sell, if all the governments would be forced to tell the truth. Same for policies that they chose to pursue in the aftermath of these wars. Or what they're doing or not doing in the name of climate change. If they even just stopped lying about the culture war issues, that would either have massive impacts on current policy, or would require shifting to a fully jack-booted fascist state.

Again, you are confusing two things. Let me give you an example. We know US government orchestrated the suppression of the Hunter laptop story. We know there was a lot of lying involved. Did it impact the policies? Hugely. Imagine they wouldn't be able to do that. What would be different? Would we have a different name on the door of the Oval Office? Sure. (yes, I know there's not the actual name, I am speaking metaphorically). Would the Federal Government look differently, US political system work differently, Congress work differently, SCOTUS work differently? Not substantially. The political decisions certainly would differ, but the system would remain mostly the same. Same about climate change. Right now we waste trillions of dollars and sacrifice quality of life and sometimes lives on the altar of the Angry Gaia cult. If we stopped to do that, would those dollars and lives be saved? Sure. Would America work differently? Not much, it'd work the same, but better. Sure, a bunch of old hippies and young idiots would be pissed off (which they are permanently even now, tbh) but it'd be the same country with the same political system, it's not a fundamental systemic change.

Would we have a different name on the door

This statement is doing all the work for you. If you had different names on the doors of Russian offices, it would probably be on par the US, and maybe even surpass it. My entire point is that just because people in power are not allowed to lie, it doesn't mean they will be stop doing what they wanted to do, or let go of power.

If you had different names on the doors of Russian offices, it would probably be on par the US,

That's the whole point, it wouldn't. Not in the Russia as it is today. It's not 140 millions of people under the magic spell of a single Volde-Putin. It's a country whose moral fiber is by now profoundly rotten and corrupt. That's what allows Putin and his henchmen to thrive. Changing the names wouldn't help anymore (maybe if it happened 20 years ago, it could, but not today).

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but I find it hard to imagine that most people truly believing we live in a mostly democratic society would shrug of their government went full yes_chad.jpg at every accusation they're using their alphabet agencies against their own citizens in order to suppress dissent.

Bush did it about AT&T Room 641a, and Obama did it about the Snowden revelations. They didn't even promise to stop (nor, of course, did they).

"Every" is doing some work in my statement, if it only happens now and again people can always say "well, that was an exception". But yeah, I'm not dismissing the doublethink hypothesis.

I had not ever seen "враньё" used as a specific term. Perhaps it is a Kremlinologist artifact?

Sounds like a pure exoticism to me, like "hygge".

Ah yes, the Finnish concept of "comfy".

"Hygge" is Danish, mind. We are never comfy.

Right. The Finnish one was "underpants-drinking", wasn't it?

Yes, that's right. If one wanted a new source for drinking-related terms, Finnish would surely provide an endless source for them.

Yeah. As evidenced by that phrase of hugging-for-strength just being a joke. I am very disappointed by this reinforcement of Finnish stereotypes.

Perhaps, in the end, it's the conscious self-maintenance of national stereotypes that will provide the last line of defence against ongoing creeping global Americanization.

One of the tragic parts of the Kursk incident is that Russia declined several Western offers of aid (from the US and parts of Europe) until such time as it's own efforts had completely failed several days later. In particular putting national pride above the lives of it's sailors seems like quite a tragedy for the families of those lost.

But perhaps that also speaks to attitudes toward the current situation that I have trouble understanding from a Western perspective.

I'm skeptical the Kursk was about national pride at all, although I would believe you if you told me it was corruption or officer-level CYA. Nuclear submarines, their limitations, their strengths, their uses, and their construction are highly prized national secrets, to it stands to reason that the Russian Navy would be reticent to welcome foreign aid, let alone rescue subs or divers from NATO navies, which would no doubt be beaming video direct to Langley.

To put it another way, from the perspective of Russian Naval command, the secrets of the Kursk are arguably worth more than the lives of the crew (even before accounting for corruption and CYA), as those secrets protect all the other submarine crews. But telling that to the public in so many words is a great way to ruin future crew recruiting efforts.

To put it another way, from the perspective of Russian Naval command, the secrets of the Kursk are arguably worth more than the lives of the crew

That explains nothing or makes it worse, as British and Norwegian assistance was in the end accepted.

When you mention technical secrets it does put the decision into a slightly more favorable perspective. Not the lies, though. In my opinion it should be perfectly fine telling people "those soldiers knew how confidential the subs are when they signed up, they died as heroes". It isn't citizens we recruit nuclear sub crews from (I hope). We trust those guys to start or fail to start a nuclear war, but not to protect military secrets in death? Ridiculous if true.

In particular putting national pride above the lives of it's sailors seems like quite a tragedy for the families of those lost.

Question: do you think Ukraine should surrender to Russian demands immediately, or do you think that it should continue to lose its men at the front and lose its women (and therefore its next generation) to permanent refugee-vacation in glamorous Western Europe?

Because for one of those cases, you have no cause to be finger-wagging anyone else at placing national pride above human lives.

If Ukraine would surrender to Russian demands, exactly how large a share of those women do you think would return?

Russian demands currently include destroying Ukrainian nation, and they aren't exactly shy of proclaiming it. It's not a matter of "pride", it is a matter of survival - both national, political and for millions of Ukrainians, physical - since Russians are not exactly shy of just murdering whoever dares to oppose them or look at them in a wrong way, or just looks suspicious enough, in places which they are occupying.

Do you think the Treaty of Versailles represented the Entente's intention to destroy the German nation? Because I see no evidence that whatever outcome the Russians want to impose on Ukraine is potentially more extreme than the Treaty of Versailles was.

I do not know if there was such an intent, though the terms were decidedly punitive. But I do not see how anything that happened 100 years ago in Versailles could change anything that is happening now. There's ample evidence, provided by Russian propaganda materials, Russian officials words and Russia's effective actions, that the intent is the destruction of Ukraine existence as an independent nation. Russians have never hidden their disdain for Ukraine, considering it a "fake" nation, whose language is nothing but broken Russian, whose territories have always been the rightful part of the Russian empire, and whose national existence being nothing but a fantom, created by the West to spite Russians. They are fully intent on fixing that mistake and subsuming the "brotherly nation" back into the Great Russia's fold. I.e. perpetrating a cultural genocide - and if needed, a little of physical genocide too, as we saw in places which Russians managed to capture but turned out Ukrainians are less brotherly than they expected. Nothing that happened in Versailles can change that reality, so any references to that is nothing but word games trying to paint over the reality.

Russian demands currently include destroying Ukrainian nation

I'm pretty sure if Ukraine willingly gave the rest of the donbass, made public statements about becoming neutral towards the russian culture and interests, including allowing russian to be taught again in schools, russia would make peace.

The issue with the dehumanization of the orcs and with the tribal manicheanization of russian interests that the western media and people parrot is that despite having some elements of truths, overall obviously leads to a criminal utilitarian disaster of continued intense human lives and economic attrition.

russia would make peace

Today yes. Tomorrow maybe. A few short years later no.

Giving in to salami tactics is choosing to lose one slice at a time. Russia now shows a pattern of invading Ukraine and the most recent invasion included an attempted decapitation of the Ukrainian government. It would be madness to start trading territories for extremely temporary peace now. Russia would merely grow hungrier by the eating.

So is it your belief that all Ukrainian territories pre-2014 can be recaptured through force?

I'm pretty sure if Ukraine willingly gave the rest of the donbass, made public statements about becoming neutral towards the russian culture and interests, including allowing russian to be taught again in schools, russia would make peace.

No they wouldn't. Why would they if they can take the whole thing in three days (as they were sure at the start)?

Also, guess what, Ukraine did all that. Almost all.

Donbass was occupied by Russia since 2014 (so were Crimea, which somehow the Russian propagandists always ignore) and Ukraine de-facto accepted this situation, due to inability of changing it. It obviously was just a stepping stone for Russians which only encouraged their appetites and showed them Ukraine is weak and the West is indifferent, so why not finish the job?

Ukraine has never been any threat to Russian culture - majority of Ukrainians speak Russian at least as the second language, for majority in large cities, especially in the East and the South, it is the primary language at home, huge number of Ukrainians worked in Russia, etc. Before Russia started its war with Ukraine in 2014, Russian was taught in schools freely and there was no restrictions - they came after 3 years of war, in 2017.

As for "interests", given that the official position of Russia is that Ukraine should not exist as a nation and should be owned by Russia instead, since "we are the same people" and Ukraine is "an artifact of Western meddling", it is impossible for Ukraine to both exist and "become neutral towards Russian interests" - you can not be neutral in the question of your own existence.

The issue with the dehumanization of the orcs and with the tribal manicheanization of russian interests that the western media and people parrot is that despite having some elements of truths

Like 100% of those elements. When somebody fires a stream of rockets each containing a ton of explosives into a densely populated city, pretending they do it because they don't teach enough Russian in the same city, and not allow 80% of the population that speaks Russian there to speak Russian more freely, and that's why they all have to be murdered by Russian rockets - I have no trouble figuring out which side is evil here. And no fancy words like "manicheanization" will change that. Whoever fired the rockets dehumanized themselves by their own actions.

russia would make peace.

Yeah, and sign peace promising respecting remaining part of Ukraine. Maybe it should be signed in Budapest and called Budapest Memorandum II ( see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budapest_Memorandum )

So is your position that no peace should ever be signed with Russia at all?

I am well aware of this broken promise but should we be consistent and take into account other broken promises?

The Ukrainian people voted in vast majority to stay in the USSR

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1991_Soviet_Union_referendum

I think sacrificing lives to defend a country's sovereignity against an invader is generally more excusable than sacrificing lives to a technical accident by not accepting aid. I'm sure the same Ukrainians that are the sacrifices in the former case would generally be more eager to sacrifice themselves in the former case than in the latter.

Indeed, I've heard quite a few opinions to the effect of "I will sacrifice my life if I have to, to defend my country/my family/my culture/kill those fuckers". I've heard "I will sacrifice my life if it means my country doesn't have to show weakness" far less often.

I think sacrificing lives to defend a country's sovereignity against an invader is generally more excusable than sacrificing lives to a technical accident by not accepting aid

Why?

National sovereignty is just national pride writ large.

National sovereignty is just an extension the same game theory that insists upon the existence of private property. There's nothing irrational or arbitrary about it. Even the specifics of drawing the national lines are a fairly straightforward exercise in carving the space of people's interlocking loyalties at the joints.

Only if national sovereignty is useful in the same way as private property. But national sovereigns don't internalize the costs of their mistakes or reap the rewards of their enterprise like private proprietors do. So that seems doubtful. And the linked post only explains why entities that already have sovereignty in a given area consistently fight to defend it, on the assumption that such sovereignty is worth retaining. It does not explain the value of assigning such entities sovereignty over such areas in the first place.

But national sovereigns don't internalize the costs of their mistakes or reap the rewards of their enterprise like private proprietors do.

Life is generally better for the head of state and leading members of government when the government is popular than when it isn't, and good stewardship of national resources and policy is generally an effective path to popularity.

It does not explain the value of assigning such entities sovereignty over such areas in the first place.

Maybe it would be helpful (both here and generally in your commentary) if you made more of an effort to state your thesis directly instead of only implying it by criticizing other comments for what you view as the negative space of your unstated thesis.

That is not internalizing costs like private proprietors do. It would be ridiculous to say there’s no connection whatsoever between how political leaders’ fates and the ups and downs of their countries. But no one denies that (certainly not me). And the connections that you name, at best, float quite free of the actual state of the country. (See, e.g., The Myth of the Rational Voter.)

I’m not criticizing you for disagreeing with some thesis hidden up my sleeve. I’m criticizing your argument for the reasons that I stated. If you disagree, please be more specific about why.

But national sovereigns don't internalize the costs of their mistakes or reap the rewards of their enterprise like private proprietors do.

Really? I can think of more cases where sovereign nation-states do "internalize the costs of their mistakes or reap the rewards of their enterprise like private proprietors do" than I can think of cases where they don't, unless by "sovereigns" you are referring to tinpot dictators who "externalize" failures by blaming their failures on foreign actors. Poor social policy can f-- up demographics, which weakens the state. Poor farming policy leads to crop failure. Poor educational policy leads to low labor productivity. Failure to safeguard the borders leads to loss of territory. Failure to balance the books leads to national default, usually by way of hyperinflation (with a singular exception in the USD, which is supported by its use in international trade). Environmental pollution can be externalized, but it's much easier for an individual land proprietor to externalize pollution. Honestly, I'm failing to see how nations are different here.

I think that you're confusing nation-states with national sovereigns. National sovereigns are the people who rule a nation-state. Nation-states are not agents in their own right and so cannot internalize costs at all. There is, at best, an extremely attenuated connection between the events that you're describing and the fortunes of the people who rule the countries that they happen to, as history amply shows.

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What? No. Sovereignity is specifically about the control you have over the territory. Pride is more about keeping face.

And you would want your country to be hegemon over some clay because...?

Because they don't want to be Putin's slaves?

Because (and when) I can be sure that the current government will treat me better than the other guys.

The other guys marching in with tanks and artillery seems to make people less assured that they'd be better than the current government.

Because (and when) I can be sure that the current government will treat me better than the other guys.

This sounds like remarkably similar logic to Russians wanting to rescue their own submariners than having other countries do it for them.

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Can geopolitics also be culture war? I'd argue yes.

PM Modi: Global South must create new world order

“We, the Global South, have the largest stakes in the future. Three-fourth of humanity lives in our countries. We should also have equivalent voice. Hence, as the eight-decade old model of global governance slowly changes, we should try to shape the emerging order,’’ he said, while underscoring the need to escape the cycle of dependency on systems and circumstances which are not of developing world’s making.

My question is, what makes people living in Third World countries think that just because they are numerous, that means they count? Nigeria has a much bigger population than France. Which country matters more in international affairs? Why is Taiwan so important? The country has a huge footprint in semiconductors despite having only 24 million people. Had it been a primitive basket-case, its potential capture by China would still be opposed but there wouldn't be fears of far-reaching economic ramifications.

I worry that a narrative of "our time is due" has set in, giving birth to unreasonable expectations of international influence that may in fact never materialise for most Third World countries. Once this finally dawns on them, rage and jealousy may set in, a feeling of being betrayed of "our rightful influence". Influence is earned, not given. I'm reasonably optimistic about India but not so optimistic on most other poor large countries (Egypt, Pakistan, Ethiopia etc). Given disparate birth rates over the world, a growing imbalance between countries who hold the actual power versus where most of humanity will increasingly be located could lead to increased international tension.

There's a concept in international relations where you can mortgage your not-yet-realized future power and wield some of it in the present. For example, Indonesia has 275 million inhabitants, it's the 4th most populous country in the world. In theory, as countries are supposed to converge in prosperity, Indonesia should become quite powerful. So they get more influence on the basis they'll soon be stronger than they are, it would be foolish to anger them now while they're weak and then have to deal with them when they're strong.

Of course, this ignores geography, resources, political stability, organization and HBD. I think Australia is the more useful ally, Australia has gas, iron, coal, uranium, surplus agricultural production for export... Even though Australia has a smaller economy and low prospects for growth, Australia will retain greater power and influence IMO.

In addition to the size of one's economy it's important to consider how much wealth one can mobilize. 19th century Russia was a large and populous economy but couldn't mobilize most of its wealth since a lot of it was locked down in subsistence agriculture. Much of modern India's wealth is similarly locked or tied up in basic state-maintenance tasks, it can't be wielded so easily. There's a vast gulf in organization-skills between Indian military procurement and Chinese procurement. China is pumping out modern frigates and destroyers, fielding hundreds of 5th gen aircraft, India has managed 40 small 4.5 gen aircraft and has no stealth aircraft at all.

Pakistan at least has a superpower sponsor in China and nuclear weapons but I am similarly skeptical as to how the other poor countries will perform. Iran is also pretty capable, they're able to contest the West in the Middle East.

Isn't the "Global South" project a rebranding of Third Worldism, which had obvious ties to the Communist International and Maoist Movement?

Anyway. The developed nations have had a couple of centuries of capitalism. As a result, they have become forever-rich, irrevocably prosperous; they can even drop capitalism if they feel that way, the accumulated resource and technological base allows for implementing planned economy in all but name ("stakeholder capitalism" and "advance market commitments" and "carbon credits" it's called now). As is the established practice, they kneecap other nations with the extremist vomit of their intellectuals, inciting premature and unsustainable transitions with unreasonable theories and promises of fixing consequences of the previous step. Before, it was mainly Communism, where the free lunch of a new social order was dangled in front of backwards peoples; then it was Neoliberalism, when they were allowed to poison their ecosystems, capture lowest-margin markets like raw materials and textiles, and inflate the valuation of a bunch of oligarchs with poor taste. Now it's the ecological and social-progressive stuff – the worst offer of all, for it's all stick and no carrot. That is how the gap is maintained; and to narrow that gap, to gain the ability to meaningfully resist Western goading and stand as its equal, a common identity and antagonistic posture are needed.

Or so the thinking goes, I guess. Realistically, integrating with the West is the best they could do.

Isn't the "Global South" project a rebranding of Third Worldism, which had obvious ties to the Communist International and Maoist Movement?

It probably has more to do with the non-aligned movement, in terms of family resemblance. This is the Indian prime minister, after all.

That is how the gap is maintained; and to narrow that gap, to gain the ability to meaningfully resist Western goading and stand as its equal, a common identity and antagonistic posture are needed.

That and an average IQ of at least 95.

I'll say this recipe for success has been working great for China despite a non-ideal government situation with the PRC.

One thing that many people don't realize is that, despite how far China has come, they still have a lot further to go. When they are fully "mature", aka at Japan levels of income, China will far eclipse the U.S. as a world power due to having 4x the population, and probably 10x the population of +3 std IQ people.

This isn't some crazy moon shot goal either. This is just the natural development of things which are already in progress and only an extreme setback could arrest.

The growth in China's economy in 2023-2024 alone will shock many.

When they are fully "mature", aka at Japan levels of income, China will far eclipse the U.S. as a world power due to having 4x the population, and probably 10x the population of +3 std IQ people.

Which is why we may see the US kneecap them by embroiling Taiwan into a conflict with PRC by pushing Taipei to declare independence etc. It's certainly the smart thing to do if you're the top dog and what I'd have done if I were in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Why wait for your rival to get stronger?

One should also add that China may only have 500 million people at the end of this century due to their TFR only being ~1 per woman now and will likely fall even lower as they get richer. Meanwhile, the US could potentially even pass them by the 2090s. If America is still a richer country (big if) then the so-called 'Chinese century' may in fact never materialise. I think America's superpower is that it is better than anyone else at drawing in skilled migrants, something China can never copy.

In addition, America has a very large friendship network. So just comparing China and America on their own is probably a mistake. In my view, while China is unlikely to be subdued it is also unlikely to replace the US as the global hegemon.

One should also add that China may only have 500 million people at the end of this century due to their TFR only being ~1 per woman now and will likely fall even lower as they get richer.

I wonder if China will be able to mandate higher fertility. It's certainly possible. Other regimes have tried and failed, but China I think could do it. Here's how:

"City residency permits are reserved for those with children. Want to stay unmarried? That's fine, go live as a rural peasant".

"Children with siblings are given first choice admission to universities".

Of course, with so many single young men and a massive gender imbalance this could prove a bit tricky.

But even if they don't fix fertility, China will still have 20-30 years of great economic growth before the real declines start. And in any case, according to UN medium fertility variants, China will still have 777 million people by 2100 compared to 395 million in the United States. And of course I don't have to tell you that the U.S. demographics are highly dysgenic. In terms of demographics, the U.S. in 2100 will be closer to today's Brazil than to our current state. No one is projecting Brazil as a future world power.

Other regimes have tried and failed, but China I think could do it. Here's how:

Silly question, but has any regime tried banning contraceptives?

Good question. I don't know. But I do know that people were already worried about birth rates in ancient Rome so presumably it's not enough.

Communist Romania in 1966.

Well, that's underwhelming. Anything in particular happen in 1963?

On the other hand, the shear weight of their population pyramid, brain drain, and general mismanagement in the name of petty tyranny is a massive limiting factor. Israel, for example, probably has one of the largest per-capita populations of +2 std IQ persons, and while they're certainly prosperous, they're hardly one of the wealthiest countries in the world

Israel, for example, probably has one of the largest per-capita populations of +2 std IQ persons, and while they're certainly prosperous, they're hardly one of the wealthiest countries in the world

Israel is indeed one of the wealthiest countries in the world (by nominal GDP per capita). They surpassed Germany last year.

Israel, for example, probably has one of the largest per-capita populations of +2 std IQ persons, and while they're certainly prosperous, they're hardly one of the wealthiest countries in the world

I've thought about why this is. The simplest explanation would be Israel's paucity of natural resources. Other explanations include the high level of civil strife, necessary defense spending, sanctions, and of course the wastage due to religious study.

I think these explanations contribute but are not the main factor to Israel's underperformance relative to U.S. Jews.

My preferred explanation is that, for high IQ people, scale matters. Take a person with an IQ of 160, put them on a tiny isolated island, and there is very little advantage to their high IQ. Put them in New York City and they can leverage networks of influence that will greatly amplify their talents. This, to my mind, explains why U.S. Jews have an income far in excess of Israeli Jews.

The weight of Israeli defense spending functions fairly similarly to the weight of demographic age in other high IQ countries(Israel is literally the only one with above replacement fertility, isn't it? I mean unless you count Argentina), so we might have a natural experiment soon.

the accumulated resource and technological base allows for implementing planned economy in all but name ("stakeholder capitalism" and "advance market commitments" and "carbon credits" it's called now)

Points like this are legion among the far-right (even though it's plausibly exaggerated rhetoric in this case, it's deeply believed elsewhere). But 'advance market commitments', 'carbon credits' and 'stakeholder capitalism' are each small changes of historically normal magnitudes - subsidies to specific industries bid upon by competing companies, or companies putting small amounts of effort into political and social appearances along with profit. A government guiding existing market mechanisms via the profit motive is ... not a planned economy. And these are still less than a tenth of the overall economy - openAI and deepmind didn't need central-planner permission to get billions of dollars of capital as you would in one. There's a stronger case for e.g. healthcare, welfare, defense spending being like planned economies, but it's still very free-market there compared to actual planned economies.

"Carbon credits" are not a small change; they're rationing in the same way as wartime rationing. "Stakeholder capitalism" is a rebranding of a command economy.

War rationing implies 'extreme deprival' of some sort, like government-issued canned beans and rags, but carbon credits are just an ... environmental regulation. Potentially a very bad one, but that has be justified aside from allusion - fisheries management is also rationing, and that's fine. Stakeholder capitalism seems to refer to things like 'not donating to anti-climate change political groups' or 'auditing supply chains for human rights' or general philanthropy, which isn't a command economy, even where those are useless / bad. Both of those seem like significant exaggerations?

As a result, they have become forever-rich, irrevocably prosperous; they can even drop capitalism if they feel that way, the accumulated resource and technological base allows for implementing planned economy in all but name

Please, people unfortunate enough to live in the fucking EU would beg to differ. It's shambolic and getting worse, and there's seemingly no hope of it stopping. The idiots will ruin the economy and the power grid and honestly, I feel like if I want to keep living in a normal country of similar climate type, I'm doomed to learn Japanese and move there. Shouldn't be that hard, it's not tonal, and discord gaming allows for endless free practice.

It's over, really. If we only fall back to 1950s living standards, we will be able to count ourselves fortunate, but most likely we'll be getting omnipresent technological snooping, police state and tone policing too.

Japan wouldn't take you, unless you have a highly skilled blue collar occupation. You'd have to hope for an economic miracle in Argentina, which does not seem realistic.

I'd be only considering emigration there, to some rural area, in case I had a record of stable, reasonably paid remote work. Are they declining to take people who have a source of income ?

It'd not be the comfiest lifestyle, as it's an expensive place, but Japanese are still capable of building nice stuff and even their declining areas have a sort of charm, that's much easier to appreciate than decaying modernism or commie architecture.

They don't seem to be getting taken over by wokies, probably innate psychological differences.

I have no such hopes for e.g. Poland or even Russia. Woke western stuff is mostly seen as cool among Poland's careerists and normies.

Japan is indeed a better bet than Eastern Europe in terms of resistance to wokeness but how comfortable would you really feel to be an alien in the most basic, racial sense on a perpetual basis? The Japanese, even in supposedly cosmopolitan areas, will always treat you as an outsider. Maybe you're fine by that, but for me, being around my own kin will always be preferable. Wokeness is a small price to pay and it has likely peaked anyway, certainly there's much more skepticism today than even 3-4 years ago.

I've always felt like an outsider in my own native land, fwiw. I lack the instinct for tribal affinity entirely. To feel I fit in with some group, I have to be engaged in some cooperative enterprise with them.

But if I mastered the language, which shouldn't be that hard as it's not tonal, and I probably have some talent for language, and respected their culture and didn't try to fuck with them, they'd probably respect me, or at least many of them enough to make it bearable. And given my gracile [1] build and look and coloration (brown and brown, respectively), and children I'd have would probably fit in well.

[ 1]: Actual question I was once asked: "hey, do you have a sister? I saw a tall girl who looked exactly like you?" .. (sigh).

[ 1 ]: Also, clean shaven with a certain hairstyle I kept getting mis-sexed by Faceapp which would insist I'm a woman.

It will certainly be interesting to see. The math on renewables is sobering. The amount of energy input per unit of energy output is just too damn high. And that doesn't even take into account the massive shortfalls of rare earths, copper, and other minerals which are required for the massive build out of solar, wind, and power grids. That's not a one-time investment either. The usable lifetime of solar and wind generation assets is less than 20 years. Germany has spent hundreds of billions on renewable energy and all it has brought is less reliable and more expensive power.

So Europe does seem to be headed down the road of rationing. "Sorry, you can't charge your electric car today". "Planned blackout for Tuesday". "Smart thermostat set to 17 degrees by central ministry", etc..

On the other hand, Germany is burning a shit ton of coal this year, so maybe they are willing to pivot if the misery level gets high enough.

what makes people living in Third World countries think that just because they are numerous, that means they count?

(Some small amount of influence/money/power) * (a lot of people) = a lot of money/influence/power.

Above is just the GDP/Capita equation rearranged and rephrased. China and India's GDP is more than most 'powerful' countries, and that is weight to throw around. Nigeria and Egypt however should not think they are India or China.

Also account for Nationalistic posturing, especially when dealing with Third World leaders. They are tasked with the (un)enviable job of leading and controlling 10s of millions of functionally retarded IQ people (Or just extracting their [almost nonexistant] wealth). Point being abstract or logical or lofty ideals won't land.

what makes people living in Third World countries think that just because they are numerous, that means they count?

Because per-capital numbers matter less than net market size. A market that negotiates as a block, represents its buying power and influence as a block. The EU exists for a reason. Global consumerism means that powerful developed countries rely on access to big market blocks like India to keep their profits high. You're right that just being numerous doesn't mean much. But a 2x poorer per-capita country, can make up for the smaller per-capita market by having 2x as many people.

The real negotiation here is : India closing itself off and accepting a QOL hit, while lost sales hurt the exporting 1st world's industries.

Now, this is no different from an employee trying to negotiate a higher wage with its employer. Here, collective bargaining gives you more leverage. India is effectively asking the global-south to present as a more unified negotiating block, that allows for more favorable terms due to collective bargaining.

We should also have equivalent voice

Here, Modi does not just mean negotiations and importance. He means the humiliation, unilaterally pushed on (non-binding as they may be) initiatives, the talking down to and general apathy that these poor-big nations face. There is effectively this bit which goes : "If you're going to chide me every time I visit you club, then I don't want to be part of your club."

'Being spoken down to' feels especially rich coming from the 1st world because they are often to blame for or have taken advantage of similar setups already. Low-emissions nations being asked to be sustainable so western-gas-guzzlers can live a happy life. Or complaints about de-forestration, when the 1st world chopped its own trees with reckless abandon during its industrialization. Or the judgement passed towards the pollution of the rivers that is partially tied to 1st world clothing companies having terrible waste disposal practices in their 3rd world plants. It is irritating to see the imposition of western social ideas (Wokeism) or being given ranks based on scales that prioritize western sensibilities.

None of these are about influence. It is about not optics, and optics are far easier to control with numbers if you so wish to leverage them.

escape the cycle of dependency

Modi correctly points out that post-WW2 institutions are primarily concerned with maintaining peace and status quo. IE. maintaining western hegemony. Modi's suggestion is to demand inclusion or push for the formation of parallel institutions that prioritize the interests of these nations in the global south.

Now 1st world countries have a lot to lose here. A lot of their economies are based on maintaining a perception of superiority. If European cuisine, culture, architecture & luxury goods stop being seen as high class, then they suddenly cannot demand the kind of absurd margins and prices that they demand.

If countries of the global south can provide each other with economic guarantees, then that allows them to strike out more favorable deals with the 1st world.

Given disparate birth rates over the world, a growing imbalance between countries who hold the actual power versus where most of humanity will increasingly be located could lead to increased international tension.

That is part of the negotiation too. The soft threat that so many refugees will flood your beautiful 1st world countries that you won't know what to do.

Influence is earned, not given

I would rephrase it a little bit : "Influence is seized, and then held on to tightly". The global south isn't asking for influence, they are trying to test the waters on what will allow them to seize it. Germany and Japan should have more power by their economic sizes too, but the post-ww2 suppression and papa-USA means that they are reluctant to do so.

You might complain about economic per-capita differences, but the UK sits as a permanent member of the UNSC not because it has earned power. But, it is because it seized it post-ww2 and is now holding onto it tightly until another country chooses to seize it.

Here, Modi does not just mean negotiations and importance. He means the humiliation, unilaterally pushed on (non-binding as they may be) initiatives, the talking down to and general apathy that these poor-big nations face. There is effectively this bit which goes : "If you're going to chide me every time I visit you club, then I don't want to be part of your club."

I don't think Modi actually means to do anything he's saying here. He doesn't give a shit about other third world countries he just wants to tap into anti-colonialist sentiment that is still strong in India. For one thing a lot of those other third world countries are Muslims and the Muslims and Modis Hindutva party hate each other. India and China also hate each other. In lots of other third world countries Indians are market dominated minorities despised by the natives. There isn't any real plan here to unite the third world against the first and if anything India is best served by demanding a seat at the table in the first world.

I have a feeling India and Islamic 3rd world countries would butt heads with or without Hindu Nationalist politics in India. I mean, didn't they fight 3/4 wars with Pakistan during the INC era including the largest one (1971)? And of course, it's not like the Islamic countries themselves are united in any way, most recently demonstrated by the uptick in hostilities between Pakistan and the Taliban.

The reason India isn’t on the UNSC is because of China and nobody else. I think that’s the big challenge to these things, that often intra-BRIC conflict is big here. Historically India and China and Russia and China have come very close to actual war, and tensions in the former case are still high (and in the latter, who knows what China might do if the Russian Federation actually collapsed).

A market that negotiates as a block, represents its buying power and influence as a block. The EU exists for a reason. Global consumerism means that powerful developed countries rely on access to big market blocks like India to keep their profits high.

That doesn't really ring true. India is a net importer, but not from western countries, and many western countries are also net importers.

India is effectively asking the global-south to present as a more unified negotiating block, that allows for more favorable terms due to collective bargaining.

Which is not realistic because they don't share common economic interests. The Western world contains both importers (the US and UK) and exporters (Germany, the Netherlands), while the 'global South' does the same.

The real negotiation here is : India closing itself off and accepting a QOL hit, while lost sales hurt the exporting 1st world's industries.

Indians are not splurging on American movies and European wine. India mostly imports important economic inputs - machinery, energy, raw materials and fertilizer. Protecting domestic markets from foreign competition can be advantageous in some cases, but it's not really clear what the goal would be. There's no point in cutting off oil imports if your country can't produce it's own oil.

Ethiopia seems to be getting better. Pakistan clearly has the potential to, even if it’s not exactly improving right now. Of course Egypt and Nigeria are trainwrecks, though.

If you broaden to include middle income countries, Mexico and South Africa are the only two big ones that seem to be notably getting worse, although Russia and Brazil sized caveats are glaring.

mexico

I'm out of the loop, what's going on there?

Cartel violence.

Open cartel warfare is starting to spill over into locations where tourists notice it.

Ethiopia seems to be getting better.

Relative to when? I agree that they're doing better than during their most recent civil war, but that ended just 2 months ago.

Addis has gotten a lot better over the last six years. Admittedly it got shaky for a while, but bad civil wars and rapid economic development are hardly mutually exclusive historically.

What do you think Modi should have said? ’We suck and will never amount to anything’? Of course Modi the (Hindu) Indian nationalist is going to chart out a path to power and glory for the country he leads.

Sure, but it's notable that he chose to do that by tying India to a bunch of other countries that have nothing in common except being poor.

I am not so sure about that.

Eastern Africa & SEA have strong Indian influenced cultural roots (esp. SEA). The food, the importance of the family unit, the pagan roots, all have very clear similarities.

Then you have secondary similarities, such as a history with colonization & general similarities that come with living in tropical climates.

This isn't so much the west vs south as global financial elite vs the rest. We have lived in a world order in which a liberal elite class in a few major cities have wanted a world consisting of atomized consumers in a global market managed by a few large institutions in the west such as NATO, the world bank and the IMF. The ideas to really turn the world into americanized urban sprawl in which we are all free to choose what Hollywood sequel we want to watch and what Nestlé product to consume.

This worked when the rest of the world was entirely dependent on the west. Banana republics either had to accept the trade deals they were offered or go back to the 1700s. They sold bananas to the west that were delivered on GM trucks using Exxon's oil and that were paid for with US dollars using american financial institutions. The profits were used to buy goods made in the US. Today Huawei telecom products are used to sell bananas shipped on Chinese ships using Saudi oil and profits are used to buy clothes from Cambodia and software from India.

In the 50s militaries either faught with western weapons, Sovjet weapons or laughably obsolete weapons. This isn't true anymore as the west has had real difficulty even against the taliban and countries like Iran, China, Pakistan, India etc have improved their arms industries and militaries by leaps and bounds.

What Modi is saying is that the world no longer is Goldman Sachs, the state department and people in the City of London. Their power levels aren't dwarfing China's. The rural Americans that the US sent to Iraq to ensure that Iraq was inline with American interests would be much less friendly to the coastal elites and less willing to fight today. If anything the elites in the west are having an increasingly difficult managing their own countries let alone an empire which maintenance costs are shooting through the roof. Empires tend not to be defeated by getting steamrolled by an enemy army as much as declining due to rising costs of maintaining the empire. Taiwan has gone from being a cash cow to a major liability for the US. Defending American influence over Ukraine is causing all sorts of economic mayhem and is draining western stockpiles of military hardware.

Modi isn't envisioning India and Nigeria running the world together in a revanchist alliance, he is telling the people who live on a skyscraper on Manhattan that the world doesn't revolve around them.

This isn't so much the west vs south as global financial elite vs the rest.

The elephant curve implies that the objective interests of the various social classes don't line up this way. During the neoliberal era (roughly from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the present), the big picture in global inequality is:

  • The "tail" of the elephant consisting of poor people in poor countries which are not developing due to civil wars or such like: 5-15% of the world's population depending on how you count.

  • The "body" of the elephant consisting of the respectable working and middle class in rapidly growing economies including China, who are experiencing rapid income growth: c.60% of the world's population

  • The "neck" of the elephant - around the 80th-90th percentile of the world's population we see very low income growth, driven by the bottom 80% in rich countries who have been the main losers of globalisation.

  • The "trunk" of the elephant - the top few percent (including most of the top 20% in rich countries) who are doing well, with the top 1% doing better still and the super-rich making out like bandits.

The idea of an alliance between the "body" and the "neck" against the "trunk" to repeal neoliberal globalisation doesn't make sense. And if you look at what Modi is saying, he isn't saying that. The demand isn't "reverse neoliberal globalisation" it is "give me money". The anti-globalisation faction in Indian politics is peasant advocates, because Indian peasants are part of the "tail".

Banana republics either had to accept the trade deals they were offered or go back to the 1700s. They sold bananas to the west that were delivered on GM trucks using Exxon's oil and that were paid for with US dollars using american financial institutions. The profits were used to buy goods made in the US. Today Huawei telecom products are used to sell bananas shipped on Chinese ships using Saudi oil and profits are used to buy clothes from Cambodia and software from India.

The problem with Banana republics isn't that they could only trade with one partner, it's that their elites are able to extract all the natural resource wealth and are anti-incentivized to educate their populace. Being able to trade with different countries that give even less of a shit what they do to their slaves doesn't really spell their ascension.

A world without western hegemony isn't a many polar world where poor countries take an equal place at the top, it's one where the US no longer protects oil shipments from the middle east along the somali coast if they aren't bound for US controlled markets and the price of energy rises for developing countries multiplying their problems.

Modi isn't envisioning India and Nigeria running the world together in a revanchist alliance, he is telling the people who live on a skyscraper on Manhattan that the world doesn't revolve around them.

The response of the global south to the world no longer revolving around safe manhatten board rooms should properly be terror and trembling, not triumphalist speeches.

A world without western hegemony isn't a many polar world where poor countries take an equal place at the top, it's one where the US no longer protects oil shipments from the middle east along the somali coast if they aren't bound for US controlled markets and the price of energy rises for developing countries multiplying their problems.

In other words a world in which countries aren't dependent on the US for oil It is essentially like not being on a bus where one person has a gun and everyone else is unarmed. It is a world in which countries have their own ability to protect their oil shipments, write their own laws and aren't controlled by an american elite who rig global trade in their favour. It is a world in which millions of Iraqis won't be bombed to death, a world in which European countried don't have to ask the US for permission to sell things in the middle east, and a world in which companies don't have to dance to the tune of wall streets ESG-ratings.

It is a fundamental prerequisite for sovereignty in this world and for the survival of what makes our countries unique so that we don't all become a giant wallmart.

A world without western hegemony isn't a many polar world where poor countries take an equal place at the top, it's one where the US no longer protects oil shipments from the middle east along the somali coast if they aren't bound for US controlled markets

I have never understood if Zeihan seriously thinks this is a hard problem or merely uses it as a way to gesture at an entire class of unclear novel threats.

Poor countries could hire Wagner or something to hunt pirates. In a world without Western hegemony these challenges would be possible to solve on a functional safety market.

I think this is ignoring the obvious, opposite incentive- Saudi wants to be able to ship their oil safely, so they're incentivized to suppress piracy. They will probably choose far less humane means to do so than the USA would, partly because the Saudi military is built around terror to incentivize accepting Saudi bribes, but a bunch of Somali camel herders being ruled under a brutal islamic theocracy that bans sea travel is not terribly relevant to goings on in the capitals of the world.

When you have a hegemon above the conflict you really do prevent a lot of incentive patterns from forming. If there is no world police committed to totally free trade to appeal to what actually stops state level piracy or looting? Sure, you can hire some mercs to stop some small time Somalis on fishing boats but what happens when Japan notices that their idle navy can keep themselves sharp by doing a little state supported piracy? What if china decides to do this? Who is going to stop them?

This is the old stationary vs roving bandit thing. The Japanese don’t want to pirate so much that they stop shipping activity altogether, because this would be a loss for them. Instead, they want to introduce moderate tax, extracted by threat of their state approved piracy. This is, of course, bad, but this is not much different than the status quo, it’s just the tax proceeds will go to different recipients.

Influence is earned, not given

Influence is won and lost, and even the top dogs don't always get to set terms.

If Third World countries want to demand the West make good on its humanitarian promises, promises upon which the soft power of the latter largely depends, then either the West makes good or people learn not to take their humanitarian promises seriously. A space opens up for China to step in.

Given disparate birth rates over the world, a growing imbalance between countries who hold the actual power versus where most of humanity will increasingly be located could lead to increased international tension.

If that tension can't safely be ignored, then maybe the Third World countries are correctly assessing a growing power to make demands. In the age of mass immigration and poor integration a population disparity seems like quite the weak point.

He explicitly says why, in the portion you quote: he says that they "have the largest stakes in the future." The article also quotes him as saying, "Most of the global challenges have not been created by the Global South. But they affect us more. . . . The search for solutions also does not factor in our role or our voice." He could not be more clear what his rationale is. Your implicit argument that economic activity should be the only determinant of whether a country's citizen "matters" does not address his argument at all. It is also a silly argument to make re India in particular, given that it is 6th in the world in total GDP.

Given disparate birth rates over the world, a growing imbalance between countries who hold the actual power versus where most of humanity will increasingly be located could lead to increased international tension.

Well, the solution to that problem would seem to be obvious: Give them more actual power, starting by giving countries like India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Nigeria seats on the Security Council and taking similar steps re other international organizations and international agreements.