The Bear’s Lair: Good riddance to globalization

President Vladimir Putin’s catastrophic blunder in invading Ukraine has upset the applecart of the post-1991 international order. The outcome of that conflict is currently unknown – there are a wide range of possibilities. However, most of the better outcomes will result in an end to the globalization dream – in reality, nightmare – and a return to an atomized world, with higher costs, to be sure, and maybe the occasional war but with far greater freedoms. Only the unlikely triumph of globalizers would condemn us to a truly unfree world, and perpetual and increasing impoverishment. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: The ever-more blurred line between free and unfree

Like any good child of the Cold War era, I was brought up to believe there were white hats and black hats: democratic countries that respected freedoms, even though one might disagree with particular governments, and non-democratic countries, at that time mostly Communist but historically also Fascist, who violated human rights and individual freedoms with impunity. Now we have a democratically elected international bully who is corrupt and tyrannical, yet runs a pretty admirable economic policy, and a democratically elected darling of the media who behaves like a tyrant when opposed. The freedom line is growing awfully blurred and may disappear altogether if some possible dystopias eventuate. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Why would you want to preserve this economy?

Financial media are now worrying that, if the Fed is even hawkish enough to raise rates by 0.5% instead of 0.25% at its meeting in March, the U.S. and global economies will tank. In reality, with producer price inflation at 9.7% in the year to January 2022, even a 0.5% interest rate rise is the first step in a very long road, perhaps back to the double-digit interest rates of the early 1980s. So, the economy is probably doomed anyway – and just why would you want to preserve it, in its current form? Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Charles II’s Platinum Jubilee

Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, celebrating 70 years on the throne, set me to wondering in what ways history would have changed if one of her predecessors had reigned for 70 years. Modern constitutional monarchs have little historical effect, with one exception which I will deal with below, while most of their predecessors, who ascended to the throne at 40 or 50, could not plausibly have lived long enough. (George III, who could have, was terminally mad from 1810 onwards.) Mediaeval monarchs, even living long enough, would have changed only foreign policy (for example, I have seen an alternate history with an aged and triumphant Richard I, oppressing France for half a century). There is however one contender, who could have reigned for 70 years and would have changed even world history by doing so: Charles II. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: The economics of subverting democracy

Portugal’s Socialists recently won an unexpected victory after gaining access to €45 billion in Covid recovery funds – magic doors opened for the party favored by Brussels’ bureaucrats. In Italy, Mario Draghi’s socialist government is propped up by €200 billion in Covid recovery funds, as the years drag on without free elections. This is an EU problem, yet elsewhere also subsidies, slush funds and taxes are being used to subvert democracy and support socialism. While such subsidies are in place, we are in grave danger of subsiding into a George Soros tyranny indistinguishable from the former Comecon. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Becoming more Confucian

Eamonn Fingleton, in The American Conservative, recently wrote a piece “The Confucian Model” about East Asian economies, the analysis in which I thought made sense. However, I disagreed with his conclusion, that, now that this “Confucian” model has been invented, authoritarian societies have a built-in economic advantage over democracies. To me, the benefits of “Confucianism” can be attained without much difficulty in democracies, provided only we have governments that adopt the right policies. Of course, that is the tough part! Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Coal – wonder-fuel of the future!

In November and December 2021, China’s coal consumption rose to record levels, well over half the world’s total. That enabled China to record a 8.1% growth rate in 2021, by far the highest of any major economy. It also coincided with the COP-26 climate change conference, in which Western governments unanimously promised to sacrifice the living standards of their people on the altar of Greta Thunberg’s whims. The moral is clear: coal, rather than greenie hot air, is the way to improve people’s living standards – as it always has been. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: De-financializing the global economy

Since 1980, the global economy has become increasingly financialized – by all measures, the ratio of debt to GDP has steadily increased. If something cannot go on forever, it will reverse, and there are two ways in which this might do so. One way is the global kumbaya of a debt jubilee, which would collapse human civilization. The other much better way is a de-financialization, such as we have suffered twice before – a painful but necessary return to sound finance and paying cash. As an optimist, I believe this economic root-canal procedure is in our future. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Canals, not steam catalyzed the Industrial Revolution

Pendeford Rockin' Canal Boat

Source: Æthelred

The Industrial Revolution is traditionally held to have begun in the middle 1780s with James Watt’s invention of the rotary steam engine with condenser attached. (The condenser alone did not allow Watt’s engine to power machinery, since it still used the jerky Newcomen “beam” motion.) Yet there was another innovation, almost 20 years earlier, which had more short-term importance to industrialization and was the real spark to its take-off: James Brindley’s “Grand Cross” system of canals. Continue reading

The Bear’s Lair: Public opinion’s leftward ratchet

In 1970, Venezuela was a little richer than Chile — $1,014 nominal dollars per capita versus $933! on World Bank figures. Both were corrupt social democrat countries with poor management and bloated government. Fifty years later in 2020, Venezuela, which continued and worsened its socialism, had a GDP per capita of only $1,691 nominal dollars while Chile, which after the 1973 coup took a free-market approach, had soared to a GDP per capita of $12,990. Yet Chile just voted to reverse its policies and follow Venezuela’s. Why? Continue reading