Intellektuell adspredelse om spredning

(AdvaNiall Fergusonrsel: Dette er liveblogging – jeg kommer til å skrive feil, til å misforstå ting og til å glemme hele diskusjoner. Caveat emptor.)

Niall Ferguson er en av disse menneskene – public intellectuals – man har lest mye om, men ikke lest mye av, bortsett fra det som reflekteres i mer lokale skribenter. Så det var med en viss forventning jeg fant meg en vindusplass på Cafe Christiania for Civitas frokostmøte i morges. Temaet var «The World Economy in a Time of Divergence: Money, Energy, Democracy and Complexity» som i hvert fall ikke begrenser diskusjonen i nevneverdig grad.

Og dermed, notater på engelsk:

  • main topic: divergence (which is coming up in a sea of convergence, as in globalization etc.) between countries and economies
  • four divergences in the world today:
    • monetary policy: between those involved in stimulus (japan, some European) and those taking a less active role (the US, mainly, which no longer has a theory to go with its models)
    • energy: oil getting cheaper, good for the European Union, for China (their imports have huge strategic implications for the next 20 years), a tax cut for importers, but serious implications for the exporters (Iran, Venezuela, Russia). Important for Norway, but will not have political consequences here.
    • political: not between democratic and authoritarian, but between weak and strong governments. Why are all elections so close? UK, Israel, others… People used to win big – that never happens any more. My hypothesis: This is what we want – weak leaders. We don’t want strength in our leaders and vote for the weak ones. Europe votes for economic and military weakness. Incidentally, the authoritarian regimes are weak to – Ukraina was a result of failure, Putin is restrained by economics and how many casualties the Russians will accept. Same in China – there have been coup attempts in China, but they go unreported. President Chi is embattled and his anti-corruption drive is about removing rivals. Very few strong leaders in the world.
    • states versus networks: (se denne artikkelen). Technologies of the 20th century empowered hierarchies, but today’s technology empowers networks, like Google and Islamic State. Horizontal and self-organizing, can’t be decapitated by drones, since they are not hierarchical. You cannot decapitate a network. Networks will displace hierarchies to a much larger extent.
  • Are you a hierarchy person, work for a large organization, or are you a network person? Networks are not good or bad, they just are, and they are ascending. Some of it good, some of it very bad.


  • success of democracy? Churchill’s answer – preferable to enlightened absolutism, because there are not that many Lee Kuan Yew’s, and way to many Kil Il Sungs.. But whatever you choose, there seems to be a 50/50 phenomenon in elections. Secondly, we seem to have democracies in many countries, but not the rule of law (independent judiciary, etc.) That is more important for freedom than universal suffrage. Democracy without law has repeatedly produced disasters. Freedom is in retreat: Islam reduces women’s rights. Worldwide, feminism is losing, often with democratic support. It will take longer to establish rule of law in China than democracy.
  • is there a connection between democracy and size of state, and are democracies less able to make firm decisions? Strong incentives for politicians to establish and expand welfare state to get votes. Bit there seems to be a ceiling for public spending, where does it come from? Found it in the 1980s, because there are unintended consequences, such as inflation. As for democracies «kicking the can down the road» – be careful with that metaphor, you can injure yourself on the can… European leaders have been kicking the Greek can for a while, the jagged edge might hit their shoe at some point. Henry Kissinger called this the «problem of conjecture»: As a leader, you have a choice between taking a difficult decision and kicking the can until something turns up. The payoffs are asymmetrical: Voters are not grateful for things that were preempted. If you play for time, you may get lucky – Hitler may not have ambitions beyond Sudetenland. There is no such things as «the future» at the point of decision – there are many futures. Then something bad happens, and you try to act preemptively.
  • migration? Displacement of people one of the great scourges of our time… Part of larger movement, returning to the period before WWI, with millions of people moving to the US. [missed some of this] Islam now has bloody borders and innards, has not always been like that. We struggle with integrate refugees, but only experience the ripples. There is no strategy any more, military alliances without military doctrine – we don’t know how to deal with the disintegration of the Middle East. Islam is a massive ideological threat, and our policy is to allow it to spread.
  • watch France: Le Pen might win eventually…
  • European Union more networked than anything previously set up to rule Europe – and that is not saying much… It overrepresents the small countries. Has reduced German power, economically and other, but Germany is still dominant. I am not a Europskeptic. Can’t become a federal state, but useful. Answers the Kissinger question: «Whom do I call when I want to speak to Europe?» Angela Merkel! She is formidable and has others obeying her, but she has not strategic vision, nothing that will inspire a generation. She is a tactician, the superior poker player. You need a strategic vision to guide you before the data are in.
  • failed states as result of networks? Failed states long before networks, Somalia for instance. As imperial structures retreat, the power vacuum may make it impossible to create a stable state. The nation state is a novelty, historically. Mostly it has been empires, and some of them have been good. German bad, English and American pretty benign. When they retreat, violence escalates – India after British retreat. Now the end of the US empire in the Middle East – US underwrote the politics of the Middle east from the 50s forward. Under Obama the US as walked away from its role as order maker in the Middle East. Doesn’t take much for a state to fail – look at Libya. Networks flourish in failed states… Living in a failed state is much worse than dealing with bureaucrats…

Niall Ferguson er en uhyre velformulert og effektiv kommunikatør, men mitt inntrykk var at han har standardhistorier, og hans teknikk når han får spørsmål er å svare kort på det, for så å reformulere spørsmålet og gripe til et eller annet vel innøvd. Men underholdende er det. Jeg skulle gjerne ha stilt et spørsmål selv – nemlig om det finnes noen form (annet enn Google Rank og citation indices) for «accountability» i nettverk, og om det i det hele tatt er mulig å ha effektive nettverk uten en eller annen autoritet, om det så kun er Jimmy Wales. Er transparency det samme som accountability – og hva skal til for at det skal fungere?

Men det får heller bli en diskusjon for et essay på et eller annet tidspunkt. Tiden på Civitas frokostmøter er sjelden bortkastet, og var det ikke denne gangen heller.


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