The World Shifting Beneath Our Feet

The World Shifting Beneath Our Feet. By N.S. Lyons, the penname of an essayist working in the U.S. foreign policy community.

This is a tough pill to swallow for conservatives, but it is probably correct:

Unfortunately for those dreaming of harnessing a majority anti-woke popular will, the truth is that, as statistician and philosopher Nassim Taleb has explained in detail, it’s typically not the majority that sets new societal rules, but the most intolerant minority.

If the vast majority generally prefers to eat Food A instead of Food B, but a small minority is absolutely insistent on eating Food B and is willing to start chopping the heads off of anyone who disagrees and serves Food A — and the majority doesn’t care enough to get all bloody dying on this particular culinary hill — all restaurants will soon be serving only Food B, the new national cuisine. This is especially true if the intolerant minority already holds a disproportionate position of influence within the system.

Witness Twitter, which doesn’t have the societal constraints that normals use to keep weirdos and extremists under control.

The Ukraine war has re-invigorated the liberal international order:

It’s frankly not hard to see why Putin may have thought the West and its liberal international order was decadent, divided, and falling apart — because it has been. I believe the deepest purpose of Putin’s military gamble was to give that order a firm shove, causing the whole rotten edifice to come tumbling down when the West proved incapable of keeping him from getting what he wanted in Ukraine.

It was a shock to everyone, Putin and the West alike, when Ukraine put up such fierce resistance and Russia’s military proved so much less capable than all expected. It was only this fact that unexpectedly saved the Trans-Atlantic order and changed the whole global strategic equation. …

The new world, after Ukraine:

Putin’s screw up in Ukraine has been a disaster for China. Russia was supposed to be a strong partner for China, one that could pose a substantial military threat to Europe and help keep America and the West tied down there. Now it is clear to Washington that Russia no longer credibly poses any serious conventional military threat to NATO Europe, which means it can soon begin to turn its full attention to containing China in East Asia.

By far the most disastrous outcome for China is the increasingly apparent alignment of Europe with America into a single geopolitical bloc (along with some key Asian states like Japan, South Korea, and Australia). Together, these countries represent nearly 60% of global economic output and therefore of global material power. China and Russia are together only around 20%.

As long as Europe remained autonomous from America, China had a chance of facing the United States on relatively even terms. This is the whole reason China launched its Belt and Road Initiative and has tried to tempt the countries of Europe into closer economic relations with it, pulling them away from North America and toward a Eurasian orientation. Now that dream appears to be over. …

[This new international order] would pull back from total globalization and distinguish an in-group and an out-group of nations, policing an inclusion-exclusion distinction. This means that it will create a global bloc large enough to leverage significant economic and technological network effects, then exchange access to that network for continued loyalty.

What’s coming in the West:

This new order is also likely to be fundamentally technocratic, power centralizing, and anti-federal. There can be no dissention in the bloc, or it risks falling apart; if EU-U.S. unity breaks or Europe fragments then this whole order would collapse, and we’d move back to a more equal U.S.-China rivalry.

So, to cut to the chase, internal dissent from official values is going to be tolerated less and less. As part of that, I expect this order to be vertically integrated, with a focus on digital control, and make public-private partnership a core part of its operating system. In other words, I’d expect far more movement toward ‘harmonizing’ digital regulations (i.e. on censorship), ESG standards, formal and informal sanctions, and digital currency systems across the Atlantic. …

Digital currencies will be a disaster for those of us not 100% conforming to the bureaucrats:

Both the Biden administration and the EU have described digital currencies as an urgent priority. In part, I think they fear the massive sanctions levied against Russia will encourage other countries to try to begin using digital currencies (and in particular the digital yuan, which is currently the most advanced) to start circumventing dollar/euro supremacy. To make sure this doesn’t happen, multiple central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank (ECB), the Bank of England, and the Bank of Japan, have begun cooperating to ensure their new central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) can be easily convertible. This would make staying within that currency system very convenient and unavoidably attractive for global capital.

It just so happens that CBDCs would provide governments with totally unprecedented surveillance and control over all transactions, wherever in the world they occur, in real time. It would make fine-grained control of economic incentives — say setting limits over how much anyone can spend on fossil fuels each week before their money stops working or begins to have less purchasing power — much simpler, along with making tax evasion and any other illicit financial activity impossible. We’ve already seen a recent example in Canada of how useful this kind of control over financial activity could be to enforce ideological political control.

But to make a harmonized digital currency system work, a harmonized digital ID would be a requirement, so I’d expect that to come sooner rather than later. Then cash would have to be phased out. The ECB’s report on CBDCs is quite explicit about this. …

Is this inevitable? Not quite…

I think there is a fair amount of momentum behind the new order right now, thanks to the war in Ukraine, ideological evolution within liberalism, and advancements in digital technologies that enable greater centralized control.

However, I think the more powerful the Trans-Atlantic bloc feels, the more likely they — Washington and Brussels — will be to hubristically push for ideological and political conformity around the world, and especially at home. And the harder forced ideological and political conformity is pushed, the more backlash will be generated.

We’ve already seen this happening within nations, in the form of ‘populist’ movements, and within the EU in the form of nationalist rebellions against supranational diktats. And the more this happens, the more frustration at the top will grow, and the harder the crackdown will become — provoking more backlash. So, there is a chance that this entropy will help subvert and then ultimately pull apart this new order. And I think the chances of this will become significantly higher in the case of a major global economic crisis, which seems likely to be just around the corner. …

A new epoch has begun:

I think many people in the West can now tell that the zeitgeist has shifted in a ‘post-liberal’ direction, as liberalism has failed to prevent the rise of its own successor ideology in the form of identity politics and therefore begun to collapse in on itself.

Conspiracy theories:

Interviewer: With so much of the discussion around “the Great Reset,” digital currencies, the World Economic Forum, and other globalist institutions descending almost immediately into the realm of conspiracy theory, how can we initiate credible conversations on essential issues?

Lyons: I think conspiracy theories are proliferating because we can all feel now the ground shifting under our feet but have no easy way to understand and make sense of that feeling of chaos. Conspiracy theories provide a simplified way of trying to make sense of what is happening. If, for example, a small cabal of rich global elites is controlling world events (as in the theory of the “Great Reset”), this makes the situation seem easier to understand. But, in fact, this is not very helpful, since things are actually even crazier than that! Many systemic forces and factors and ideas are at work changing the world right now, over and above many different people and groups with different interests.

Read it all.

hat-tip Stephen Neil