Saturday, June 29, 2024

Aratere

Last weekend, the ferry Aratere that links the north and south islands of New Zealand ran aground about 3 kilometres out of Picton, the port at the southern end of its journey. The Maori name of the ferry means “quick path”. The loaded ferry was travelling slowly at about 3 knots when it unexpectedly turned sharply to the right and ploughed straight into the steep bank on the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound. I wondered if this event was a sign to the people of New Zealand about the state of our economy.

In an election a year ago, New Zealand turned to the right, by replacing a centre-left government with one from the centre-right. The new government promised that the changes they would bring would put the nation on a “quick path” to economic prosperity. However, since the election, the economy has stumbled along, not getting much worse, but not improving either.

The Aratere ran into the steep bank of the sound. The bank that is holding back the growth of the New Zealand economy is the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, our central bank. It has consistently held interest rates high (currently the official cash rate is 5.5 percent, and businesses are paying even higher rates). The bank has not committed to reducing these steep rates soon, despite the economy struggling and unemployment increasing.

I wonder if the actions of the Reserve Bank will become an obstacle causing the economy to grind to a halt, despite the turn to the right, and the promise of the quick path to prosperity.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Modern Politicians

Aurelien explains why most modern politicians are not up to the task.

They will know a great deal about how to make a good career, who to suck up to, and how to please important people. They will have effectively zero relevant experience as public servants...

This is important, because the skills needed to succeed in politics today have very little to do with the skills needed to be a good politician. That may sound odd, so let’s set out the differences. Traditionally, politicians seeking high office had to be fairly robust, managing on little sleep, largely foregoing real vacations, ready to give up evenings and weekends, able to absorb insults and invective without worrying about it. They had to be able to think on their feet, deal with an unscrupulous media, master detailed briefs quickly and sound at least half-way intelligent at seven in the morning or at midnight. As they advanced, they needed a sense of what their parliament and their public would accept, how to present themselves to the media, and how to retain the support of their colleagues. At a high level, they needed to be able to distinguish between causes that were hopeless, and causes worth fighting for.

Modern politicians are generally better educated (though not necessarily more intelligent) than those of previous generations, but they are not necessarily educated in the right things. It’s more important to have gone to the right University, and studied the right subject, than it is to know anything about anything. Their skills are those of survival and advancement inside an organisation... with the end of fundamental political differences between parties and the increasing homogenisation of the political class itself, it is the skills of advancement in an organisation that count. Belonging to the right faction, attaching yourself to rising stars, having the right opinions at a given moment: these are the skills to cultivate.

Almost by definition, such people are unprepared for the responsibility of running a Ministry, let alone a country. They have not done the kind of job, in politics, in business, in the media, even in academia, where they have to take responsibility for things. They do not know how to manage, and so they practice “management,” as ticking boxes and reciting slogans is now known. Unfamiliar with the need to engage with detail, they are obsessed with image and presentation...

The full article is here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

European Politics

Alistair Crooke explains the reason for the political shift in recent European parliament elections.

The European MEP election outcome may come to be viewed as the ‘first swallow’ signalling a substantive change in the weather...

Many in the West now see only too clearly that the western ruling structure is no liberal project per se, but rather is an avowedly illiberal mechanical ‘control system’ (managerial technocracy) – that fraudulently poses as liberalism.

Clearly many in Europe are alienated from the Establishment. The causes may be multiple – Ukraine, immigration or falling living standards – yet all Europeans are versed in the narrative that history has bent to the long arc of liberalism (in the post-Cold War period).

Yet that has proved illusory. The reality has been control, surveillance, censorship, technocracy, lockdowns and climate emergency. Illiberalism, even quasi totalitarianism, in short.

He traces this back to when Zbig Brzezinski (who was to become National Security Adviser to President Carter) published a 1970 book entitled: Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era. In it, Brzezinski argued:
“The technetronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society…dominated by an √©lite, unrestrained by traditional values…[and practicing] continuous surveillance over every citizen … [together with] manipulation of the behaviour and intellectual functioning of all people … [would become the new norm].”

Elsewhere he argued that “the nation-state as a fundamental unit of man’s organised life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state”. (i.e. Business cosmopolitanism as the future.)

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Identity Politics

The latest article by Aurelien explains the emergence of “identity politics”, which dominates the Western wor’d. Other connections that unite people have been destroyed by liberalism.

I just want to discuss the damage that Liberalism has caused to the traditional intermediate structures of western societies, and that has provoked the disastrous attempts to make up for it through Identity Politics, or, as I would prefer to call it, the Politics of Grievance.

Some of these problems could legitimately be described as side-effects. The worship of property-ownership and the encouragement of speculation drove ordinary people out of cities, and scattered families around the country, to wherever they could afford to live. The financialisation of the economy destroyed entire industries, devastated entire communities, made health-care and education more difficult to obtain, and destroyed careers and the stability that went with them. The preference of governments for cars and motorways rather than public transport destroyed city centres, the abolition of barriers to movements of goods, capital and people produced a race to the bottom which has benefitted almost nobody.

Yet, whilst people have got rich from these developments, and whilst there were certainly those who saw political profit in some of them, most ordinary Liberals who went along with them did so because of a naive belief in “freedom,” and in the ability of the market to sort everything out. Even now, some hold desperately to the belief that “flexibility” of some kind, or more education, or information technology, or artificial intelligence, or something, will put things right again.

Liberalism was impatient with the past, and wanted to sweep away traditions, superstitions, religion, history, even nations, and replace everything with rational, mathematical calculations of the common good. So instead of compassion we get Quality-adjusted Life Years, instead of education being a public good and a means to personal betterment, it is a cold investment intended to produce a revenue stream later. Instead of citizens, with rights and responsibilities, we have residents who might as well be customers, paying fees to governments and benefiting from services, like shareholders in a company... Most of the points through which individuals were previously able to situate themselves with respect to others simply disappeared.

Read the full article to understand the implications of these changes.

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Israel or Judah

The prophet Jeremiah promised the restoration of both Judah and Israel. Here are a few examples.

In those days the people of Judah will join the people of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance (3:18).
In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety (Jer 23:6).
The days are coming, when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess (Jer 30:3).
The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah (Jer 31:31).
I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before (Jer 33:7).
The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah (Jer 33:14).
"In those days, at that time," declares the LORD, "the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the LORD their God" (Jer 50:4).
In those days, at that time," declares the LORD, "search will be made for Israel's guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare (Jer 50:20).
Israel refers to all the descendants of Jacob (twelve tribes) or the ten northern tribes that broke away under Jeroboam. They were sometimes called Samaria. After Jeroboam and Ahab led them into sin, they exiled to Assyria where they were scattered and lost their identity after they mingled with the local people.
In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes (2 Kings 17:6).
The southern kingdom based in Jerusalem lasted much longer. It included the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (small) and the Levites living amongst them. They were exiled to Babylon, but returned to their land seventy years later under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra records that those who returned consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and some priests and Levites (Ezra 1:5). These two tribes were referred to as the Jews in Jesus' time. They were exiled and scattered amongst the nations by the Romans in AD 70, as he had prophesied. They managed to keep their identity in exile.

The current state of Israel is actually the nation of Judea comprising Judah Benjamin and some Levites. More correctly, it should be called the state of the Jews. And they can only claim land in the south that God gave to them, ie Judea.

This means that the current state of Israel is not a fulfilment of the promises of Jeremiah cited above. For these words to be fulfilled, the twelve tribes of Israel will need to be restored to blessing and restored to their land, as Paul promised in Romans 9-11.

All Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26).