I first began to predict a major economic collapse back in 1999. Although I understood that it was at least fifteen years off and possibly more, I believed that it would be wise to begin to prepare for it then, as the actual date of collapse could not be predicted. (Better to be a few years early than even one day too late.) Not surprisingly, back then, this prediction appeared to most people to not only be unlikely, but laughable.
World diplomacy is, at present, on rather shaky ground. Throughout history, whenever major economies are approaching a state of crisis, heads of state typically become chronically irritable. If we step back a bit, we see that the present state of affairs was long in coming. After World War II, the US led a veritable extravaganza of productivity. Other nations got into the slipstream of this economic advance if they were able to do so and, by the mid- to late-1950s, Canada, Europe, the UK, Japan and others were hanging tightly onto the coattails of the US boom in order to advance their own economies.
Here in Hanoi resides a large building that, although quite significant historically, has faded into relative obscurity. And yet, it has a tale to tell. It’s most famous in the West as the “Hanoi Hilton,” the name given to it by American POWs between 1964 and 1973, during America’s war with Vietnam. US Congressman John McCain was famously held here after his plane was shot down, as were many other US pilots.
The larger the country, the less the likelihood of getting a leader who can be trusted with the job. On the surface of it, this would seem to be an illogical claim. Surely the size of a country has no bearing upon whether its leadership is competent or trustworthy and yet, it’s very much the case. This is due to a combination of conditions that can be found in every country.
If left to their own devices, people will tend to come up with a society in which residents treat each other with equanimity and respect each other’s property. They’ll tend to help their neighbours, yet will otherwise respect each other’s privacy. This is not just happenstance. It occurs for a reason. It’s the most effective way to ensure that peaceful coexistence and mutual benefit are maximized over the long haul. So why then, do so many societies seem to begin this way, but eventually devolve into just the opposite? The answer is that they grow to a size in which leaders are no longer equal members of the community, but are in a position above the rest. And at that point, their self-interest is no longer the same as the self-interest of those they govern.
A decade or more ago, I began to discuss with associates the possibility of governments and banks colluding to eliminate physical cash. Back then, the idea struck most everyone as poppycock, that governments could never get away with it.
In 1260, Kublai Khan created the first unified fiat currency. The jiaochao was made from the inner layer of bark of the mulberry tree. It’s of interest that the mulberry tree was quite common in Mongolia. What allowed Kublai Khan to get away with treating tree bark as currency was that each bill was cut to size and signed by a variety of officials. They affixed their seals to each bill. To further ensure authenticity, forgery of the chao was made punishable by death.
Of course, the business of governance is far more important than a friendly poker game between friends. All the more reason why, when political leaders are making their assessments as to the national future, they should make sure they have a winning hand, prior to betting heavily. Every day, we’re reminded that the Asian powerhouse is moving ahead at a pace that’s unheard of in the West. It’s almost as though the clocks stopped in the West ten years ago, but Asia kept on advancing in every way.
In the days of yore, there were kings. Everybody could agree to hate the king because he was rich and well-fed, when most of his minions were not. Then, a more effective system was invented – democracy. Its originators had in mind a system whereby the populace could choose their leader from amongst themselves – thereby gaining a leader who understood them and represented them. In short order, those amongst the populace who wished to rule found a way to game the new system in a way that would allow them to, in effect, be kings, but to do so from behind the scenes, whilst retaining the illusion of democracy.
Throughout the world, the media televise weekly reports on the protests in Hong Kong. Developments have remained highly visible, courtesy of regular demonstrations that take place like clockwork, every weekend in the business district of the city. And these are not small demonstrations. A crowds of up to two million has gathered on at least one occasion.