British historian Adam Tooze’s 2014 book The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 takes an original and distinctive approach to the First World War. Tooze is not interested in how the war started nor in how it was fought. Only one thing really mattered – the entry of the United States into the war. US intervention had virtually no effect on the course of the actual war itself but it had a profound effect on the peace negotiations and on the postwar world. It changed everything. From that moment on the US was the world’s dominant power. The only question was how the US would exercise that power.
One of the biggest problems that western societies must face over the next few decades is what to do about aged care. We’re going to have an awful lot of old people to care for and it’s going to be very expensive. It’s a problem that most of us simply do not want to face, and governments are reluctant to confront the issue because there is no easy way to provide the necessary money.
The aged crisis is partly a product of the many undesirable social changes that have occurred since the Second World War. Partly, but not entirely. A major component of the problem is simply that old people are living much longer, and they have fewer children to look after them. It’s no good saying that in the past people cared for their elderly parents so people today should be able to as well. It’s not that simple. Those elderly parents could live long enough to reach their nineties and by that time their children are going to be rapidly approaching old age themselves (a member of my family was in her seventies and still having to care for her mother who lived to be 99). A century ago an old person would typically have three living children to share the burden. These days many aged people are lucky if they have a single child to shoulder the burden.
It’s also not realistic to think that families can still care for elderly relatives without government assistance. It just isn’t possible. A frail elderly person might still have a decade or more of life ahead of them, and when people live to extreme old age there is more often than not the complication of dementia, and caring for an old person with dementia is not possible without a good deal of support. I can tell you that from personal experience. We have to accept that the government will have to be involved. The family, and private charity, are not sufficient.
Of course those social changes I mentioned earlier have made the crisis much worse. People today are not keen on accepting any kind of responsibility and are inclined to see elderly family members as an inconvenience best dealt with by putting them in a nursing home as soon as possible. The problem with that is that nursing home care is much much more expensive than caring for the person at home, and that’s quite apart from the fact that while a nursing home is sometimes the only option it is generally not a very good option.
A society that values hedonism, autonomy and freedom is not well equipped to deal with the problem of caring for the elderly, and it’s amazing how many people who embrace these values seem to be able to pretend that it’s not going to happen to them, that they are not going to face the prospect of one day being shipped off to a nursing home when they become an inconvenience.
There aren’t any easy answers but somehow we’re going to have to find some kind of answer. I have a feeling that we will continue to pretend the problem isn’t there and the results are going to be very unpleasant.
President Woodrow Wilson had very definite ideas on the subject. The failure of Wilson’s version of global internationalism has obscured the fact that the US, even under the supposedly isolationist Republican administrations of the 1920s, was not only the world’s dominant economic power but also the dominant political power.
For the other European powers, bankrupted by the war and reduced to financial dependence on the US, the question was what could they do about the situation? In Tooze’s view Soviet communism and the various strands of fascism represented an attempt to confront this problem.
For Britain the situation was exceptionally complex. Britain appeared to have emerged from the war stronger than ever but this was an illusion. Britain’s Empire was a large part of the problem. Maintaining and defending the Empire was far beyond Britain’s resources. The Empire had been a potential source of wealth but no British government had ever figured out how to make this potential actual. The rising tide of nationalism made it unlikely that Britain could hold on to its imperial possessions in the long term but no government was prepared to admit this. By the 1920s the Empire was largely an illusion, but despite this Britain very unwisely embarked on fresh imperial adventures in the Middle East.
Tooze (who is essentially an economic historian) focuses on some of the lesser known economic problems confronting the world during this period, such as the catastrophic American recession of 1920. He also points out that hyper-inflation was by no means confined to the Weimar Republic. Overshadowing everything else was the problem of how to pay for the First World War. The US had in fact bankrolled the war efforts of the French, the British and the Italians but now the debts were going to have to be repaid and the US was determined that every red cent would be repaid. This was a problem for the French, with much of their country in ruins and their economy in a shambles. Of course it seemed like a very attractive idea for the French to make the Germans pay for their war damage, but with the German economy in an even bigger shambles that was only going to lead to more problems and in any case Germany was simply not in a position to pay what was demanded.
The war had serious unbalanced the world economy in other ways as well, inflation was a problem everywhere, and the prospects for Europe were undecidedly unpleasant.
The war also unleashed political problems. Wilson’s ideas on self-determination were not quite as crazy and unrealistic as they’re often portrayed but breaking up the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires was in retrospect a reckless step. The war also led to demands for greater democracy throughout the world, democracy being seen as some sort of magical answer to political problems (in practice it naturally produced ever more corrupt and ever more incompetent governments).
Tooze also mentions a number of fascinating events that seem to have disappeared down the memory hole, such as the French invasion of Germany in 1923. The 1920s was actually quite a tumultuous period in terms of the foreign policies of the various powers. There was a sense that a new world order was emerging but it was not clear what shape it would take.
Tooze is no great literary stylist but his writing is generally clear and workmanlike.
Most books on the interwar period focus on the 1930s so it’s interesting to find a really in-depth study of the 20s. Tooze offers plenty of food for thought. Highly recommended.
There is an issue that no-one today seems to want to deal with, or even to acknowledge, but it’s an issue that is going to cause profound trauma to what’s left of our society. That issue is the imminent disappearance of retail employment.
It’s already happening but we’re still pretending there’s no problem. Bookstores have largely disappeared. Video stores have pretty much gone completely. Music stores are now rare. This is nothing compared to the tsunami that is approaching. It seems highly likely that supermarkets will disappear within the next ten years. Most of the specialty stores in your local mall will close. Online shopping will no longer be an option – it will be the only option. Very very few retail businesses are going to survive.
And once the malls are deserted because most of the shops have closed what happens to the businesses that depend on the passing trade in shopping malls? What happens to the coffee shops? They will close too.
This will be a wonderful world for certain big corporations. With wage bills largely eliminated profits will skyrocket. It won’t be such a swell world for ordinary people. Manufacturing jobs have already been eliminated or outsourced to the Third World. What happens when retail jobs are gone as well?
We already have a problem with a large underclass that survives generation after generation on welfare. What will society be like when that underclass becomes 40% of the population?
We are facing a change as dramatic as the Industrial Revolution. Of course we will be told that fantastic new opportunities will open up. There’ll be lots of service jobs! Now let’s be honest – most service jobs are crap. The work is often ghastly, the pay is atrocious and worst of all much of the work is casual. Most service jobs are about as attractive as being in domestic service in Victorian England. And it would take a lot of service jobs to compensate for the loss of retail jobs. An even bigger problem is that a large proportion of service jobs are subsidised by the government, or in other words paid for by the taxpayer. They are not productive jobs. They do not actually add to the wealth of the country. They’re a cost, not a benefit, to the economy.
So far feminists have ignored this issue, even though a majority of the people who are going to lose their jobs are women. Feminists don’t care since it won’t impact their careers in academia, the bureaucracy and the media.
Middle-class people in general are not worried by this looming disaster. They assume that it will only affect working-class people like those horrid little shop assistants. Middle-class people however should not be too confident that their jobs are secure. More and more IT jobs are going to be outsourced. Whole industries that provide the sort of employment that middle-class people like will disappear. Does anybody believe radio has a future? Or newspapers? Even television will feel the crunch and many jobs will go.
I suppose the globalists and the SJWs will have their answer ready – they will tell us that what we need is more immigration!
The future will be interesting, but I suspect it won’t be very pleasant.
If our society is to survive there is obviously a great deal to be done. That in itself is a bit of a problem – where exactly do we start?
I think that the first thing we need to do is to distinguish between what is achievable and what is not achievable. There are many things that would be highly desirable but if they fall into that second category there’s not too much point in worrying about them.
We also need to distinguish between short term goals and long term goals. At certain points in history certain things are possible. At a later date it may be that other things will be possible. Or it may be that they will not be possible. We should not lose sight of long term goals but it is more useful to put as much energy as we can into those things that can be achieved now.
Take immigration. Closing the borders would be an achievable goal. It would take an immense amount of effort to push through such a measure but it could be done. Deporting illegal immigrants who have engaged in serious crime would be an achievable goal. On the other hand mass deportations are not going to happen. Not in the US, not in Australia and not in any European country. Whether mass deportations would be a good thing or a bad thing, whether it’s a moral thing to do or not, these questions are irrelevant. It’s not going to happen. Pushing for such a goal is not merely futile but counter-productive. Setting a realistic goal and then pushing for it with absolute determination is the only sensible strategy.
Or take higher education. Ideally we should close down at least half of our universities. Society has no need of the immense numbers of graduates that are currently being churned out, a very large number of whom would be better off not wasting the time, energy and money involved in pursuing the seductive but dangerous dream of university education. Closing down universities is however very unlikely to happen, at least in the short term. On the other hand cutting off funding for worthless Mickey Mouse degrees in Gender Studies or similar nonsense should be an achievable objective. Such studies are merely breeding grounds for professional “activists” – a species that is both useless and exceedingly harmful.
Conservatives suffered defeat after defeat in the Culture Wars by a policy of never-ending retreats and surrenders. That is always a losing strategy. That does not however mean that we can win by launching large-scale frontal attacks on the enemy’s strongest positions. You win a war by pursuing a positive offensive strategy but you need to choose your battles carefully, you need to recognise those positions that are too strong to attack in present circumstances and you need to concentrate on areas where gains can be made. The important thing is to make gains somewhere while defending the territory you already hold. You don’t defeat an enemy all at once. You wear your enemy down by taking every opportunity to win even small battles. It is necessary to keep the initiative but it is foolish to expose yourself to defeat through recklessness and poor judgment.
In other words we need to avoid the defeatism of mainstream conservatism and also to avoid the rashness and over-confidence of some sections of the alt-right.
It is even more important to know what your actual objectives are. Anyone who fights a war without clear objectives will inevitably lose. What kind of society do we actually want? Do we want the utopian dreams of socialists and libertarians? Do we want the war of the jungle of the unfettered free market? Is economic prosperity the secret to human happiness? Is freedom a necessary condition for happiness and is it compatible with democracy? Is it more important to have government that is efficient or government that is honest? If we need a much more socially conservative society (and I certainly think that we do) what part should government play in this? Can we legislate our way towards social conservatism? And what of the catastrophically low birth rates in western countries – can government action do anything to reverse these trends?
These are clearly big topics that cannot be addressed in one blog post. I will make an attempt to formulate my own answers to these questions in future posts.
The 20th century has been described as an age of ideology. In the past few decades ideology seems to have been become less important. Identity politics has become the dominant theme. Politics is no longer a clash between believers in competing ideologies but a clash between competing identity groups. People vote for parties and candidates that will advance the interests of their identity group (be it feminists, homosexuals, blacks or other ethnic groups) – the actual policies of the parties and candidates are no longer relevant. In most cases elections are contests between parties whose policies are more or less identical anyway.
There are those on the alt-right who believe that whites should adopt identity politics. The idea of white nationalism has been gaining ground among alt-righters in the United States.
Personally I’m a bit sceptical, for several reasons. I’m all in favour of nationalism but I’m dubious about a nationalism based on something as vague and as broad as race, or even ethnicity. It concerns me that it’s the sort of woolly thinking that led to the nightmare that is the EU. It’s also the sort of thinking that led Winston Churchill to come up with his ludicrous idea of some kind of brotherhood of all the English-Speaking Peoples, blithely ignoring the fact that the various English-speaking nations had no actual interests in common.
My second reason for scepticism is that I simply cannot bring myself to consider all white people, or even all Anglo-Celts, to be somehow “my people.” I can’t even consider all white Australians to be my people. I find it impossible to feel any sense of solidarity with white Australian feminists, white Australian LGBT activists or white Australian environmentalist extremists. I feel no solidarity at all with liberals. I’m afraid that I can’t really accept the idea that identity trumps ideology. Call me old-fashioned, but ideology matters to me.
I don’t want my country overrun by immigrants but I also don’t want my country trashed by feminists, homosexuals, environmentalists and other assorted liberals. The threat to our civilisation posed by liberalism in all its myriad manifestations is far greater and more far-reaching than the threat posed by immigrants. Without liberalism there would be no immigration menace.
My third reservation is this – has identity really superseded ideology? I’m not so sure. It’s true that the major political parties are now more or less interchangeable. It’s true that politicians talk about identity politics more than they talk about ideology. But then anyone who believes what politicians say is pretty naïve – politicians always lie. Ideology does still matter, it’s just that the major political parties all share the same ideology. Their devotion to that ideology is as absolute as the devotion of the most devout Marxist. The ruling ideology is free trade, global capitalism and open borders combined with social radicalism and identity politics. The social radicalism and identity politics are needed to ensure that the population remains divided and demoralised and thus unlikely to challenge the rule of the elites.
This globalist ideology has nothing to do with traditional notions of left or right but that should not lead us to make the mistake of thinking that it is not a political ideology. The age of ideology has not ended.
One of the most important recent news items, the full significance of which is likely to be missed by most people, concerns Starbucks’ support for homosexual marriage. The key ingredient of this story is the statement by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz that, “it is not an economic decision to me.” Schultz doesn’t care if the decision COSTS Starbucks money.
There is one core belief that has historically united both the Left and the Right and that is the belief that Big Business cares about nothing but the bottom line. To the Old Left it was the proof that capitalism is wicked and evil. To neocons on the other hand that is the great virtue of capitalism – it’s what makes capitalism so efficient. To most conservatives it’s just an unquestioned assumption.
The problem is that it simply isn’t true, and never was. The bottom line is certainly a considerable motivation but there are other motivations as well. Most notably, power and fear. Money is attractive but once you’ve made your first billion money ceases to be a motivation in and of itself. Money becomes a means of gaining power. You don’t want to increase your fortune from one billion to ten billion because you want the money – you want the money because it will buy power. You are quite happy to sacrifice a few billion to increase your power and influence.
If you doubt this just take a look at Hollywood. Does anyone believe that movies like Selma get made because they will be guaranteed money-spinners? Hardly. In fact Hollywood has always been motivated as much by the desire for the approval of the elites as by profit. In the 40s the studios churned out “prestige pictures” which made little money (or even lost money). They did so as a way of gaining respectability. Hollywood today is obsessed by political correctness. The movie-makers believe in such nonsense. The studio chiefs do not. What they believe is that it’s in their interests to placate powerful lobby groups (homosexuals, greens, etc) and to curry favour with other members of the elite. The media in general is more about power than money. You don’t run a newspaper to make money. You know it will lose money. You run a newspaper to gain power.
Fear is a major factor. When corporations give millions of dollars to leftist political parties, extremist green groups or campaigns for homosexual “marriage” that does not imply that those corporations support those interests. What it does imply that is that those corporations are afraid of those groups. In many cases it’s a desperate (one might even say pathetic) attempt to ingratiate themselves with people they fear.
And then of course there are cultural marxist CEOs like Howard Schultz whose motivations are overtly
ideological, in which cases advancing the ideology becomes much more important than making money. Even if he eventually drives the company to ruin it’s not as if he’s going to end up living on the streets. He’s made his pile. If the company goes down the toilet the employees will suffer but you can be sure that Howard Schultz won’t do any suffering.
Conservatives, and especially social conservatives and traditional conservatives, need to understand that Big Business is not their friend. Big Business is much more likely to be a bitter enemy.
One of the most striking changes in the political landscape during my lifetime has been the bizarre reversal of priorities on the part of both the Left and the Right. In particular, the reversal of priorities on economic issues.
From the end of the Second World War up until the 1970s the Left in general was absolutely passionate about economic issues. The Right by contrast tended to be less passionate and much less dogmatic on such issues. Everyone on the Left was essentially a socialist. The differences on the Left were between those who wanted socialism right now and those who wanted to see socialism imposed gradually. There were also differences between those who wanted full-blown absolute socialism and those who were prepared to tolerate a strictly limited degree of small-scale free enterprise – between those who wanted everything owned by the state and those who would allow the survival of small businesses (although naturally highly regulated small businesses).
In the same period the Right generally speaking favoured moderate centrist economic policies. Almost everyone on the Right accepted that the welfare state was here to stay, and most right-wingers thought that was a good thing. Where they differed from the Left was in believing that the welfare state needed to be kept within strict bounds. They were opposed to large-scale expansion of the welfare state but very few would have considered the abolition of the welfare state to be either practical or desirable. Most of those on the Right believed in free markets, but only up to a point. They were concerned about monopolies and they disapproved of cartels. They felt that some degree of government intervention in the economy was necessary. They were generally speaking suspicious of free trade on the grounds that national security required the existence of a healthy industrial base, and on the grounds that it would cause unemployment and other undesirable social consequences. Right-wingers in general were pragmatic on economic issues.
The situation today is dramatically different. The Right is divided into those who worship free markets and globalisation with obsessive zeal and those who favour Big Government because Big Government is good for Big Business.
The Left today on the other hand seems to have zero interest in economic matters. They pretty much go along with the idea of a partnership between Big Government and Big Business because that’s the policy favoured by the people who provide the funding for leftist parties. Modern mainstream leftist parties are very much parties of Big Business. In fact even the lunatic fringe of the Left is mostly funded by Big Business. As a result economic issues are now a forbidden zone for the Left.
The Left today is entirely focused on social issues. That suits Big Business perfectly. The one thing Big Business does not want is for anyone to start asking awkward questions about economic policy. People might start to notice that what is good for Big Business is not necessarily good for the country or for ordinary people. The CEOs of mega-corporations are absolutely delighted to see political debate as long as it’s confined to issues like same-sex marriage and other “social justice” issues. They don’t give a damn about social justice or same-sex marriage but these things serve the very useful purpose of diverting the attention of the media and the populace away from the subjects that might prove embarrassing, like the fact that their products are now manufactured by virtual slave labour in the Third World.
The Left’s abandonment of economics amounts to one of the greatest political betrayals in history. Leftists love to talk about how much they care about the marginalised and the vulnerable but the marginalised and the vulnerable are the people the Left has sold out.
Of course the Left has never really liked the working class. This goes back to the First World War when the working classes chose love of country over world revolution. The Left elites have hated working-class people ever since. Marxism always has been an ideology for the elites. This is one of the reasons leftists are so strongly in favour of immigration – it’s a way to punish working-class people. It’s also why the Left lost interest in economic policies that might help the working class and turned instead to manufacturing more politically reliable victim groups. Modern leftists are overjoyed by globalist capitalism because it destroys the working classes.
The leftists of the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s may have been blinded by ideologies that were never going to work in practice but at least they believed in something. They may have been wrong about many things but they were not unprincipled. The leftists of today are merely the tools of ruthless mega-corporations. The bizarre thing is that very few people seem to have noticed this happening.