Jerusalem

December 11, 2017

Predictably, Trump’s decision to accept Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel has attracted condemnation by the mainstream media. Dramatic headlines predicted outbreaks of violence in the Middle East and the end of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Here is a brief explanation of the language used by Trump’s team to comment on the Jerusalem declaration.

The historical background of the Jerusalem dispute depends on how far back we are prepared to go in time. Palestinians prefer to look at it from the centennial perspective because prior to the emergence of modern Zionism in late 1800s Jerusalem was governed by the Ottomans and inhabited mainly by the Arabs. Jews on the other hand adopt a millennial timeframe claiming that Jerusalem was their spiritual capital for about a thousand years before the birth of Christ. But, pragmatically, what matters even more than ancient history is that Jerusalem was captured by Israel after the Six-day War in 1967 and has been under its military and administrative control since. This is what Donald Trump meant when he said that his declaration is a “recognition of reality”.

What is also worth noting is that the US Congress and Senate recognised Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel in 1995 and instructed the President to relocate the US embassy there no later than 1999. The three recent US presidents have since been signing waivers twice a year to delay the move – effectively ignoring the Congress direction. When Nikki Haley said that Trump’s decision represents the “will of the American people” this is what she meant.

It is also commonly accepted that, following the failure of the Oslo negotiations, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has gone nowhere. Since 2000 we have seen escalating bellicose rhetoric on both sides, punctuated by the periodic eruptions of violence – the worst ones being the 2000-2005 Second Intifada and 2014 Gaza War. All of this happened while the US Presidents were stalling the implementation of the Congress’ directive to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, ostensibly in order not to jeopardise the peace negotiations. This is what a senior Trump’s official meant when he said “It seems clear now that the physical location of the embassy is not material to a peace deal”.

As a result of wars and political processes, the negotiating position of Israel includes control over Jerusalem. It does not mean that the arguments of the Palestinians should be dismissed. What it does mean though is that the Palestinian negotiators have to recognise this fact and factor it into their strategy. This is what the former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, meant when he described Trump’s declarations as “Just a dose of reality”.

jerusalem

Advertisements

Not so close, please! (2)

December 5, 2017

Mauled by Buakaw Pramuk in the title fight of the 2004 K-1 World  MAX kick-boxing tournament, Masato had to wait three years for his revenge. When both fighters met again in 2007 Masato was expected to benefit from the rule change which allowed only one knee per clinch. Cynics would say that the organisers of the event did all they could to help the local boy but it was up to Masato to take advantage of it. That he stepped into the ring focused, confident and positive is a mark of a great warrior.

As with the 2004 title bout please bear in mind that both fighters are trying to play to their strengths – Buakaw’s kicking and kneeing and Masoto’s mid-range punches. So, this is what the spectators at the quarter finals of the 2007 K-1 World MAX kick-boxing tournament were treated to:

a79c1dfaa15fa2068adfae463a68a886

This is one of the most memorable kick-boxing bouts ever in that Masato, after being humiliated by Buakaw the previous time they met, managed to adopt the fight plan which gave him a decisive win. He stayed at mid-range most of the time where his superior punching skills were the difference. Except in parts of the second round, Buakaw failed to take advantage of the roundhouse and push kicks which had given him victory over Masato in 2004. With the changed rules (only one knee allowed) clinch was not a factor in 2007.

The last minute of this fight is a master-class in combination punching by Masato. After 2007 both fighters continued their careers, then retired and came back from the retirement but for me nothing matches the intensity of their 2004/2007 K-1 rivalry.

Not so close, please! (1)

December 5, 2017

The martial arts of kick-boxing and Muay Thai (Thai boxing) both allow punching and kicking. Fighters can also use the knees although the exact rules vary between the codes. Thai boxers are trained to strike with their elbows and throw their opponents on the deck in clinch but both techniques are banned in Western style kick-boxing. Kicks are typically delivered at range, punches from close-up and knees to the ribs in clinch.

The way the above two martial arts evolved kick-boxers tend to be good punchers and Thai boxers usually rely on kicks and knees. Each fighter tries to keep the distance at which his favoured techniques are most effective – Thai boxers will kick and then go to clinch, kick-boxers will try to throw punches at mid-range. The result of the fight will often hinge on which competitor manages to stay at an optimal range to maximise his/her advantages.

The 2004 finals of the K-1 World MAX tournament was held in the kick-boxing crazy Japan. The local hero – Masato Kobayashi – was heavily favoured to win. In the title fight he faced a little known opponent from Thailand, Buakaw Pramuk. Buakaw had had mixed fortunes in his home country where he never won any national titles and this was his first attempt to make a name for himself on the World stage.

When watching the linked video clip of the 2004 title fight bear in mind that Masato, trained as a kick-boxer, was at his best punching at mid-range, whereas Buakaw’s strengths were in kicking and kneeing.

up2_07

Well, Buakaw absolutely destroyed Masato by doing what Thai boxers do best – roundhouse kicks and knees to the ribs in clinch. He nullified Masato’s superior punching skills by going straight to clinch after each sequence of kicks. The fight was so one sided it is a travesty the judges sent it to the fourth, deciding round. In fact after the fight Masato ended up in hospital with broken ribs and coughing blood.

After the drubbing he took at the hands (legs and knees, actually) of Buakaw you would not expect Masato to look forward to a re-match? Stay tuned…

 

My eco confession

December 4, 2017

Through a combination of laziness and contrarianism I have delayed transitioning to the eco-friendly alternatives of the plastic supermarket bags. Despite the very bad press they have been getting I somehow could not bring myself to ditch them. I knew all along that both the disposable paper bags and reusable cotton bags are better but chose to do nothing.

My complacency was partly due to the fact that plastic bags feel a lot lighter than the alternatives – it is amazing how thin a wade of 100 or 200 of them is at the supermarket checkout is. Paper bags on the other hand are a lot more substantial and appear heavier. The problem with the multi-use cotton bags is that I tend to either lose them or forget to take them with me. Also, if something like meat juices spill in them, cotton bags are very unhygienic but to stop the leaks meat must be double bagged which means more plastic. To ease the burden on my conscience I always tried to re-use the plastic bags – as rubbish bin liners, to collect kitchen or garden waste etc. I know – excuses, excuses but at least I have come out clean which must count as a mitigating circumstance?

With a guilt-laden conscience I read the article on Stuff which compared the environmental footprint of the plastic, paper and cotton bags and immediately felt better. You see, the study conducted in 2011 by UK Environment Agency concluded that low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic shopping bags may in fact be the most eco-friendly solution, especially if re-used. Some enlightening quotes for your consideration:

Paper bags are often seen as more environmentally friendly because paper is recyclable. But paper bags could be the worst of the lot because of the difficulty in reusing them (…) the process of making paper bags takes almost four times as much water, and releases more than three times as many greenhouse gas emissions than conventional plastic bags. In 2007, San Francisco banned non-compostable plastic bags but the policy led to an increase in the use of single-use recyclable paper bags. Only 38 per cent of paper bags were recycled, the rest went to landfill where they take up five times more space than plastic bags. Paper bags usually do not biodegrade in landfill because there is no oxygen. The UK study found paper bags need to be reused three times if they are to have less of an environmental impact than a conventional plastic bag used once, but the study found “no significant reuse of paper bags,” not even as bin liners.

Ok so, unless you re-use them (does anyone do that?), paper bags are much worse for the environment than even single-use LDPE plastic. What about cotton though?

The study found cotton bags need to be used at least 173 times if they are to do less environmental damage than a plastic bag that is used once. If a plastic bag is reused three times, for example being used twice in the supermarket and then as a bin liner, the cotton bag has to be used almost 400 times to have lower global warming potential than plastic. This is because of the amount of energy and use of non-renewable resources it takes to extract cotton, make the bags and then ship them.

Again, unless used every second day for a year (does anyone do that??), the cotton bags are less eco-friendly than single-use LDPE. And if you put them through a wash once in a while the equation looks even worse.

It is interesting that the intuitive preference we tend to have for “natural” (paper, cotton) materials is not always the best thing for the environment.

1512190840808

 

 

Does Donald Trump lie five times a day?

November 22, 2017

The Washington Post have painstakingly compiled the public statements made by Donald Trump since the beginning of his presidency and arrived at a startling conclusion that 1628 of them are “false or misleading”. This has been interpreted by other media to mean that Trump has lied habitually over the last ten months – “At least five times a day, on average, this president says something that isn’t true” . In this post I will fact-check the WaPo’s claim. I am fully aware that Donald Trump routinely presents the interpretation of the facts which supports the point he is making. I am not out to prove that no other interpretation of these facts exists but merely to check if Donald Trump indeed lies to the public five and a half times a day.

My job was made easy by the concise and transparent presentation of Trump’s “false or misleading” claims on the WaPo website. The top five statements repeated by the US President multiple times (with slight variations) since he got elected are as follows:screenshot_2017-11-22-12-52-50-717_com-android-chrome-e1511314251287.jpg

Well, many people would agree that Obamacare is a disaster and, if the current President is so keen to dismantle it, I would also consider it as good as dead. This statement is neither false nor misleading. It merely presents the Donald Trump’s view which some will agree with and others will not.

screenshot_2017-11-22-13-25-00-367_com-android-chrome.jpg

The WaPo’s rationale for counting this statement as false/misleading is bizarre. First, they agree that the claim is factual – meaning the stock market is currently at a record high level. However, during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump said that Obama did not deserve the credit for the stellar performance of the stock market during his term. To me the current claim by the President Donald Trump remains correct on the strength of the supporting facts, regardless of how the presidential candidate Donald Trump viewed Obama’s impact on the US economy in 2016. Nothing false or misleading here.

screenshot_2017-11-22-13-35-51-622_com-android-chrome.jpg

I am sure there are companies moving into the US and that some of them are indeed moving back. Unless someone is forcing them they do it because they want to be there. If there are polls showing record high business confidence levels the whole statement does not present as false or misleading.

screenshot_2017-11-22-13-41-51-670_com-android-chrome.jpg

The tax cut legislation is currently making its way through the system. WaPo claim that Reagan’s cut was bigger in percentage terms but, given the economy has grown since, it is entirely possible that the dollar value of Trump’s cut will top it. Any prediction about the future has a margin of error but I see nothing false or misleading here.

screenshot_2017-11-22-13-49-28-696_com-android-chrome.jpg

WaPo accept that the statement is true but, during the 2016 campaign, Trump claimed that the unemployment statistics are not reliable. If WaPo disagree with him the 33 statements made by Donald Trump as President are true and his election campaign claim false – not the other way.

These top five statements add up to 245 examples of allegedly “false or misleading” claims made by Donald Trump since taking the office in January 2017. But, as my brief fact check above shows, they merely present an angle on the actual events which supports Trump’s narrative. I have no time to go through the rest of the WaPo list but, assuming it is of the same quality as the top five, I am not impressed.

In summary, I believe that the Wapo’s claim Donald Trump makes “false or misleading” statements over five times a day is not just misleading. It is downright false.

untitled

 

Really sad

November 14, 2017

I always thought that the most negative people in the World are the Green party supporters. If no environmental action is taken the Earth is being raped. If governments do something it is too little and too late. But as of about a year ago (8 November 2016 to be precise) the greenies have some serious competition for the misery crown. The CNN reporters.

The CNN coverage of the presidency of Donald Trump is a never ending barrage of morbidly depressive news. It is like nothing positive, constructive, uplifting has happened in the US in the last year. Every possible negative angle is being explored, dissected, amplified and regurgitated in a relentless procession of self-referencing gloom. In fact I struggle to recall a single unqualified expression of praise for Donald Trump’s actions coming from the CNN since his stunning election victory. But maybe the reporters are correct to view him as an unmitigated failure? Maybe the US indeed descended into an abyss of misery a year and a bit ago? Here are a few facts which do not quite fit in this narrative.

  1. The US share market is having an absolute ball under Trump and has added over USD5 trillion to its value since the election day. The Dow Jones industrial index has risen an amazing 31% in that period. From what I remember the only share market news headlined in the CNN coverage since the elections was a dip in mid-March (red arrow in the chart below). So what CNN found worthy of prominently reporting on was the brief wobble in an unprecedented rally on Donald Trump’s watch –  “Dow has worst day in 8 months as Trump drama rattles market”Document1-page-001
  2. The US unemployment rate runs at 4.2% which is the lowest it has been for 16 years – not that you will find out about it from the CNN front page coverage.
  3. The annualised growth rate in the second quarter has now been revised up to 3.1% – just ahead of market expectation and the highest it has been since early 2015. Again, you would have to dig deep through the CNN economy pages to find out.
  4. ISIS has lost its de-facto Syrian capital of Raqqa. This decisive success in the 3 years long battle against the Islamic terrorists has been achieved under the new rules of engagement introduced by Trump – for which he took the rightful credit. For some reason the demise of ISIS appeared so de-emphasised in the CNN coverage that one could easily have missed it in the deluge of news reports on all the calamities afflicting the US under Trump.
  5. The attempts to illegally cross the US border from Mexico have dropped by up to 67%! The admission that this staggering drop is an “attribute to President Donald Trump’s aggressive immigration enforcement policies” did not make the CNN front page headlines.
  6. The recent tour of Asia appears to have been very successful for Donald Trump who managed to get his message across while avoiding unnecessary grief. But here is a bunch of depressing headlines CNN featured in their coverage of this rather auspicious development:

“Trump, Duterte at odds on whether rights was discussed”

“Cilizza: Trump laughed when Rodrigo Duterte called media ‘spies’ Not good”

“This may be the most awkward presidential handshake ever”

“Opinion: Trump shoots himself in the foot”

Screenshot_20171114-081559

What this is telling me is that there is something about CNN which causes people to develop a negative view of life. Really sad. Oh, wait – what did I just say??

Triggered (3)

October 29, 2017

In the brilliant podcast interview given to Sam Harris, Scott Adams claims that on the evening of the 2016 US election Hillary voters were hit by a “cluster bomb” of what is known as cognitive dissonance. It occurs in people who find themselves in a hitherto unthinkable situation and, rather than adjusting their views, create an illusory version of the external reality which they are finding easier to deal with.

The example Scott uses to explain the current state of the public life in the US is that of a movie theatre in which one half of the audience is watching a different movie than the other half – on the same screen. Trump supporters, who were not triggered into cognitive dissonance on 8 November 2016, see the economy going well, Dow Jones at record high levels, illegal immigration 50% down, ISIS dispersing and tax cuts on the horizon. The movie the other half of the theatre is watching is dramatically different and also changes with time.

At first it featured the sky falling and a Hitler character in the White House who had to be resisted. This was the time of the “Not my President” demonstrations and Antifa violence. Then the movie changed into one showing Donald Trump (Hitler had dropped from the cast) using normal presidential mechanisms but causing complete chaos in the White House. At present the alternative script has Donald Trump’s agenda (which aligns with both his election promises and the Republican stance) getting back on track but, predictably, his detractors hate what he is trying to achieve.

What I am finding impressive is that Scott Adams predicted both Trump’s win and the subsequent split of the audience into two halves, each watching its own movie. Here is a great quote from the linked podcast interview:

“I predicted that Trump will not only change the political life – he changed everything – but also will rip a hole in the fabric of reality and allow us to peek through it”

There is a wealth of other interesting angles in what Scott has to say and I recommend the podcast to anyone trying to understand what is going on in the world of US politics. It is a highly thought-provoking piece of social analysis which may trigger some people into checking which movie they are watching.

zebra_best_optical_illusion

Triggered (2)

October 28, 2017

The Sam Harris podcast interview with Scott Adams was an eye opener for me when it comes to understanding peoples’ reactions to the election of Donald Trump. For those who cannot invest two hours to listen to it online I will try to summarise Scott’s key points.

In the run up to the 2016 elections the American public was divided into those who wanted to see Trump win (or at least considered this possibility) and those who viewed this outcome as unthinkable. The polls consistently indicated that the latter group was right – the odds were overwhelmingly is Hillary’s favour. Additionally, all the mainstream media (CNN, NYT, WaPo) had run a relentless campaign demonising Donald Trump as a racist, homophobe, misogynist and so on. Bombarded by this deluge of propaganda coming from the media outfits people used to trust, approximately one half of the Americans considered Trump unelectable and Hillary’s win the only possibility.

On the election night the unthinkable happened. Trump’s win split the US society into two camps. Those who had voted for Trump (or at least considered him a serious contender) took a deep breath, had a beer or two and moved on. Most viewed Trump as someone who, while unconventional, should be good for the economy, tighten up the borders, confront the inbred Washington elites etc. For this section of the American society the life carried on – albeit with a colourful, polarising and unpredictable occupant in the White House. Their worldview was not upended by the Electoral College results.

Before we look at how the other camp reacted to Trump’s win we need to introduce the concept of cognitive dissonance. This is what individuals experience when they find themselves in a situation so unexpected that it challenges their deeply held beliefs. One way of dealing with cognitive dissonance would be to change one’s views so they fit the unfolding reality. However, with the way human mind works, a different reaction is much more common. Faced with a situation considered absurdly unthinkable we tend to re-define the reality – essentially creating an imaginary version thereof in which things make sense to us.

According to Scott Adams, this is exactly what happened to the Hillary voters on the night of 8 November 2016.

Triggered (3)

images

Triggered (1)

October 27, 2017

This post gives account of my personal struggle to deal with the ripples caused by the meteoric rise of Donald Trump. There are two angles here – my own coming to terms with the extraordinary events surrounding his election and trying to understand how others view them.

During the campaign I did not really like Trump’s populism but was impressed by his willingness to talk about the issues no other presidential candidate would touch. What truly shocked me though was the way the mainstream media, whose job is to give a neutral account of the reported events, openly threw their weight behind Hillary Clinton. The likes of CNN, NYT or WaPo gave up on any distinction between news (meaning fact reporting) and opinions – virtually all their coverage consisted of anti-Trump opinions presented as facts.

This was followed by the professional bodies selling out in a similar way. I watched with disbelief when American Psychoanalytic Association reversed its long-standing policy and allowed its members to publicly discuss the mental condition of Donald Trump. I struggled to reconcile the concept of an open society – in which media and science should be neutral – with the reality of so many organisations shamelessly taking one side in a democratic political contest.

My bewilderment continued after the election, when the people I know and respect appeared totally blind to the monumental social manipulation playing out in the mainstream media. The same online news services which so blatantly biased their election coverage in favour of one (failed) candidate were trusted to provide a neutral account of what the winner was up to. How could anyone possessed of a critical mind accept the anti-Trump garbage peddled by the disgraced mainstream media? How come so many of my friends still do?

The answer to my questions came from an unexpected source – the Sam Harris podcast interview with Scott Adams

Triggered (2)

donald-trump-are-you-fucking-kidding-me

Putin and the US election

October 26, 2017

The Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election has been a subject of much speculation. Most people appear to assume that Putin’s aim was to promote Trump because of some sort of ideological or personal connection between the two, often referred to as “co-operation” or “collusion”. This post presents my views on this contentious issue.

Having grown up in Poland before the Iron Curtain fell I experienced first-hand the tactics used by the Soviets to exercise control. Their classic method is sowing discord to exploit fractures in the societies of the countries they want to dominate. This approach, described in detail in the KGB manuals, can target any existing or prospective social tension but will typically focus on the following areas:

  1. Discontent of the underclasses over unequal distribution of wealth and social privilege
  2. Promotion of political groups and leaders promising change – the more radical the better
  3. Ferment caused by the feminist ideology seeking to undermine the patriarchal system
  4. Racial divisions which can be exploited to foster social chaos and civil unrest

For someone who grew up watching the process in real life divide-and-rule is an ABC of Soviet expansionism. While this method would not work against North Korea, it is remarkably effective in splitting up free societies which allow open debates on contentious issues. Most countries which eventually fell under the Soviet rule first experienced waves of internal discontent expressed by the underprivileged, women and minorities – all inspired and sponsored by the KGB machine. Viewed through this filter Putin’s support for Trump is not a sign of any meaningful allegiance but simply the promotion of a destabilising change in the political system of a traditional adversary. But have other social fractures been targeted by the Russian hackers in the run-up to the US elections?

http://www.dailywire.com/news/22675/russian-operatives-fooled-womens-march-sharing-emily-zanotti?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=062316-news&utm_campaign=benshapiro

“According to The Daily Caller, the Instagram account, @feminist_tag, was actually the work of Russian officials, and designed to use the burgeoning anti-Trump “resistance” to further divide the country, sowing political discord that the Russians hoped would lead to a system breakdown. Russian media outlet, RBC, reports that @feminist_tag was part of a much larger Russian program, designed to inflame identity politics, and which included Facebook ads, specifically targeted to increase racial and gender-based tensions. The program specifically targeted areas like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, as well as, it seems, the Women’s Marchers — anyone who was actively undermining American unity, it seems.”

http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/26/media/facebook-russia-ads/index.html?iid=EL

“Sources with knowledge of the ads tell CNN that they ranged from posts promoting gun rights and the Second Amendment to posts warning about what they said was the threat undocumented immigrants posed to American democracy. Some ads promoted Black Lives Matter while others decried it, as the Washington Post reported Monday. The apparent goal of the ads, the sources who spoke with CNN said, was to amplify political discord and fuel an atmosphere of incivility and chaos around the 2016 presidential campaign, not necessarily to promote one candidate or cause over another.”

So here we go – Putin’s support for Trump which the liberals obsess about was just one component of the propaganda campaign straight out of the KGB manuals, whose aim was to weaken the American society. As evidenced by the rounds of mutual recriminations between various political factions in the US, the Russians succeeded in their goal.

il_570xN_860980331_fhz8

How to save on fuel

October 20, 2017

My recent research into car fuel economy has turned up some surprising findings. It looks like more may mean less and it is possible to save on the gas bill without turning the ignition key.

If you have been following the competitive automotive market in the last decade or so you cannot have missed the emergence of small turbo-charged engines. The theory underpinning their claimed efficiency is solid. If you drive them leisurely they are just small engines which, due to lower internal inertia and friction, burn less gas. But if you need to accelerate quickly the turbo kicks in producing the required power boost. A large displacement engine on the other hand suffers more losses to overcome the inertia and friction of its moving parts while the full power it is capable of producing is only called upon infrequently. This is why the laboratory tests used to derive the “official” fuel economy figures consistently show that small turbo cars outperform larger, atmospheric engines. Very logical, right?

Right, except this is not how people drive their cars. A comprehensive survey of the fuel consumption in real life has revealed two startling facts, summarised in the graph below.

1412756386580_wps_70_MPG_graphic_jpg

  1. The difference between the claimed and actually realised fuel economy is much greater for smaller engines
  2. The real life fuel consumption of small engine cars is worse than both medium-sized and large engines

The reason is that most users push their car far beyond what the official economy tests do which changes the rules of the game considerably. Thrashed small turbo engines have to work very hard to produce the required power way outside the optimal range of their operating conditions. But larger displacement engines tolerate being pushed hard a lot better and, on the road, deliver better mileage. Additionally, the stop-start systems which stop the engine when car comes to a standstill do very little to improve real life fuel economy – they were invented purely to take advantage of the numerous stop-start sequences in the official laboratory testing regime.

Ok, so if we cannot save fuel by choosing a car with a small turbo engine what can we do? Before you look at exotic tricks like over inflating tyres consider the number one recommendation published by The Telegraph:

Doc1-page-001

Yes, the most effective way to save on gas is very low tech – do not turn on the ignition! Plan your day to minimise car trips, purchase whatever you can online not at the counter, do groceries on the way back from work (and do not forget the bread – otherwise you will have to make an extra trip).

Despite the remarkably complex technology available these days some things in life remain simple.

Chairman Xi

October 19, 2017

The recent state-of-the-nation address by the Chinese leader Xi Jinping has officially confirmed what most people already expected. China is planning to replace the US as the most powerful nation in the World – economically, politically and militarily. Something that even 20 years ago would have been viewed as a fanciful dream is becoming a reality. This post will look at how and why the West is about to get knocked off its perch.

The most telling part of Xi’s statement is that China does not intend to emulate the West’s political system. This makes perfect sense – to get where the West is now China needs to adopt the solutions the West had used to achieve its current dominance, not the policies it is employing at the moment. What made the West incredibly successful and allowed it to project both hard and soft power to all corners of the World was free-market economy. We need to realise that at present China, although nominally communist, is in fact much more capitalist than any country in the West. This is precisely why it has enjoyed phenomenal rate of unbroken economic growth in the last few decades and is now positioning itself to overtake the Old World. It is the capitalism, stupid!

For the readers of the blog who are too young to know what I am talking about, pure capitalism is a system based on free exchange of goods and services, which limits the government intervention to the matters of public safety and national defence. The closest the West got to it was the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the 19th century US. The problem with capitalism is that the smart and resourceful will get very wealthy while others will not, leading to social tensions fuelled by jealousy. Socialism successfully explored the fractures created by unequal distribution of wealth. Where socialism sparked revolutions (like in Russia, China, Cuba or Cambodia) the citizens quickly became equal but only in their shared misery. All other developed countries suffered a creeping influence of socialist ideas which, eventually, put the West in its current position. So what exactly killed the economic vitality of the Old World?

As individuals, families, social groups or whole countries get comfortable in their success they also become keen to legislate security. But any policy aimed at forcing a particular social outcome goes against the spirit of capitalism and blunts its entrepreneurial thrust. While it may sound morally comforting to fight racism, sexism, discrimination or take from the rich to support the poor all these interventions will hit the growth rate and, eventually, lead to stagnation. If the equality of access to all opportunities on offer were conducive to maximum growth it would have naturally emerged in a capitalist economy, without the need for government intervention. But if we have to legislate to make employers pay taxes for those who do not work, offer child-rearing leaves to both men and women and print fat content on bottled water it is precisely because all those actions kill economic growth. And when tax intake dwindles, to keep funding the bloated social programs, welfare states have to borrow. This is where the West is at present – visionless, overregulated and burdened by debt.

China’s rise to prominence is remarkable because it used the very handicap that had held it back – state authoritarianism – to suppress the social dissent created by wealth inequality. While a socialist revolution in a communist country is unthinkable the Chinese leadership made sure that the rich were allowed to get richer unmolested, making the poor less poor in the process. The stats of China having lifted 500 million of its citizens out of poverty are staggering. This is as perfect an example of benign dictatorship as we will ever see. Compared to China’s effort at eradicating poverty the pathetic, ideologically-driven and ultimately counter-productive actions of the likes of UN are a disgrace.

I wish the communist-capitalist China all success on its path. I also wish the West courage to analyse its failures with a view to reign in the unaffordable welfare programs and re-create conditions for growth.

china