The Bear’s Lair: Did the West lose the Cold War?

All of us who are old enough can remember where we were when it happened – the fantastic sight of demonstrators breaking down the Berlin Wall that had divided Germany and mankind for several decades, apparently marking the death-knell of the evil Communist tyranny. But a generation later, the question has to be asked: did the West actually win? Did the free market actually triumph over the miseries of central planning? Or was Communism simply transmogrified into a form that, promulgated through the universities and the media, is now dominant and repressive throughout the West? Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: The Struldbrugg Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution is currently 256 years old, if you agree with my chronology in “Forging Modernity” dating its inception to 1768, plus or minus a year or two. Even given that it soared beyond mere human limitations, you would expect it to be showing signs of age by now. Yet in recent years, it has shown signs not merely of maturity but of senescence; it is losing capabilities that it once possessed. If the Industrial Revolution has turned Struldbrugg — Jonathan Swift’s mythical creatures who live forever, growing ever older, ever uglier and ever feebler — our economic future is a grim one. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Don’t blame Trump for the coming slump

Observers have been puzzled by the continued strength of the U.S. stock market, asset prices generally and the U.S. economy in the face of sharp rises in interest rates since early 2022. Artificial stimulus from record U.S. budget deficits seems to be part of the cause, but an even more significant indicator is the velocity of M2 money supply, still one third below its pre-2008 historical level. With too much money in the system, asset bubbles and inflation are inevitable. Correction of this will produce a major slump, probably after the inauguration of the next President in January 2025. If that President is Donald Trump, the slump will not be his fault. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Mankind’s taste for economic suicide

The democratic system of government has many advantages, but it is bedeviled by the electorate’s tendency to fall for snake-oil salesmen peddling economically devastating nostrums. In recent years, the climate change “net zero” nonsense is the most obvious of these follies, but they stretch back through democratic history to the repeal of the Corn Laws and beyond. Finding a way to quell these outrageous scams is essential if the human race is not to revert to barbarism and poverty. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Corporations must provide job security

The United Auto Workers’ success in unionizing a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee suggests that the reported death of private sector unions is not imminent. Fifty years ago, even in cyclical industries unionized workers were close to Japan-style lifetime employment, with any layoffs in business downturns allocated by inverse seniority, so that after a few years a worker’s position was guaranteed. In white-collar activities, long careers were predominant and layoffs were scarce. Yet in today’s knowledge industries and elsewhere, the social contract between large corporations and their employees has become one-sided, with layoffs commonplace and lifetime employment a distant dream. This places excessive costs on employees. As the recent history of GE, Boeing and other faltering behemoths shows, it also eliminates the workforce’s knowledge and skills and destroys shareholder value. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Take an axe to international bodies

The European Court of Human Rights’ decision sanctioning Switzerland for having not done enough to combat global warming is typical of all international bodies. It flouted the original restrictions imposed on the court’s activity, the decision did direct economic harm to ordinary Swiss citizens, and the Court exhibited utter contempt for Swiss democracy. International bodies have become a mechanism for leftist ideologues to impose their will on the rest of us, entirely free of control by democracy or by the tenets of rationality. These bodies need to be eliminated. Given that they were set up to be eternal and impervious to elimination, this will be difficult. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Does democracy work best in Asia?

Britain and the United States are together the progenitors of modern democracy and it has since spread worldwide, albeit suffering a retreat in the last decade. Nevertheless, the current governments under which we are groaning suggest that the U.S., Britain and Western Europe are not very good at operating a democratic system. Can it be that some of democracy’s later adopters in South and East Asia can show us old hands a thing or two? Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: The environmental blight of environmentalists

I was shocked this week to discover that the Pan American Highway, much admired in my youth as a potential connector for the entire American continent, is still incomplete, with a 66-mile Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia that has been held up by environmentalists since 1972. Given the hyperbolic multiplier from completing first-move infrastructure, that is total economic insanity – I cannot offhand think of a stronger word, but if there were one, I would use it. It is just one of the appalling costs and blights that the environmental movement has imposed upon humanity since its 1960s genesis. The time has come to declare freedom from this scourge. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: There are no independent central banks

It has long been a nostrum among economists that central banks should be independent of their countries’ governments. The 1998 decision granting “independence” to the Bank of England was specifically motivated by that thesis. Yet in practice, central banks have not stood staunchly against the free-spending proclivities of their governments; instead, they have indulged them, forcing down interest rates to unprecedented levels in a way that enhanced government profligacy. If indeed central banks are not independent of their governments, what use are they? Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Skirting round the 1930s drain

President Biden’s denunciation of the takeover of the modest remnants of U.S. Steel by Nippon Steel, the premier steel company of the United States’ most important ally, leads to only one conclusion: protectionism and autarky are reaching 1930s levels. There are other parallels; for example, wars are breaking out all over the world, as they did in the 1930s. Are we indeed bound to slide down the same slippery slope as did the 1930s, ending in the toxic drain of global war (which would be infinitely more destructive this time round)? There are disquieting indications, though we can hope to take measures that will avoid disaster. Continue reading