The Bear’s Lair: A multipolar world may be safest and best

For a decade now, American foreign policy types have been bemoaning the loss of the “hegemony” that the country appeared to enjoy in the 1990s. They even regret the allegedly stable “bipolar world” of Manichean if “cold” struggle that preceded it. Instead we are now heading into a multi-polar planet. Foreign policy pessimists liken this to the pre-1914 “Diplomacy” board game, in which no one power can control the world, and so war is supposedly more likely. This is wrong: a unipolar world is unsustainable in the long run, and a bipolar world highly dangerous. Only in our mew multi-polar future may we be truly safe from cosmic annihilation by war. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: 1943 — a road not taken

As I am away this week, I am reprinting a “Classic” Bear’s Lair column, from August 9, 2002
This is an essay in alternate history, to suggest how, had random factors fallen differently, Britain’s history in the gloomy 1945-79 period could have been very different, and perhaps happier. It looks in particular at what might have happened had Thatcherism (without the leadership of Margaret Thatcher herself, then only 18) been adopted in 1943, in the darkest days of World War II. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Glass-Steagall solves a problem caused by regulation

In the 1980s and 1990s I favored repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that separated commercial banking from investment banking. Coming from a merchant banking background, where the distinction was ignored, it seemed a piece of FDR-era nastiness, that had decapitalized the investment banks and greatly worsened the Great Depression. However, the 2008 crash and subsequent developments have convinced me that I was wrong. Unless we are to throw out another Depression-era invention, deposit insurance, Glass-Steagall appears inevitable. The only question is how to put the legislation in without causing another ten-year depression. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Are bad new ideas better than no new ideas?

Donald Trump is now talking about the U.S. pulling out of the World Trade Organization. Hillary Clinton is talking about instituting a $15 per hour minimum wage. These are clearly both lousy ideas (I’ll explain why.) But given the counterproductive stasis of the world economy currently, are we not better off moving the stasis, and maybe accidentally making an improvement, rather than letting nature take its course in the next downturn? Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: I have seen the future and it’s stupid

Last week, driving through a nearby suburb, I had to brake sharply to avoid a pallid youth who stepped trance-like into the street without looking at the traffic. I learned from my son that he was probably chasing a purple blob on his cellphone, playing Pokemon Go. This, together with the sad story of the man whose self-driving Tesla totaled itself into a white truck on a sunny day, gave me a sudden vision of humanity’s fate in 2100. Mike Judge’s 2006 film “Idiocracy,” showing how far humanity will regress in 500 years of dysgenic breeding, was over-optimistic in two respects. The collapse will happen in much less than 500 years – and it will be power-assisted by technology. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Some thoughts for Japan’s constitutional changes

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe appears to have won a supermajority in the Diet’s Upper House, with the Komeito party’s help, enabling him to change the constitution. He has now announced that his first priority, before changing the constitution, will be another $100 billion government spending program. Given the sorry state of the economy, we have some suggestions he may not be considering about how Japan’s constitution needs to be changed – to ensure that policies like those of the last 25 years will never be repeated and a Japanese bankruptcy may perhaps be avoided. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Brexit could unshackle Britain from a corpse

When Britain joined the future European Union in 1973, it appeared to be improving its economic outlook by doing so. Certainly when I foolishly voted “Yes” in the 1975 Referendum I thought so. Europe seemed the only bright possibility for the appallingly run United Kingdom, with 25% inflation that year and a Labor government leftist and incompetent even by the standards of most of that ilk — yes, I can assure younger readers that it was indeed even worse than Gordon Brown’s effort of 2007-10 (the advent of Sunny Jim Callaghan and the IMF the following year greatly improved it.) Continue reading