Bookmarked More Proof That This Really Is the End of History (

Over the past year, it has become evident that there are key weaknesses at the core of seemingly strong authoritarian states.

Francis Fukuyama applies his thesis that history ends with the prevelance of democray to today.

Fukuyama argues that history should be viewed as an evolutionary process, and that the end of history, in this sense, means that liberal democracy is the final form of government for all nations. According to Fukuyama, since the French Revolution, liberal democracy has repeatedly proven to be a fundamentally better system (ethically, politically, economically) than any of the alternatives,[1] and so there can be no progression from it to an alternative system. Fukuyama claims not that events will stop occurring in the future, but rather that all that will happen in the future (even if totalitarianism returns) is that democracy will become more and more prevalent in the long term.

On the flip side, he considers the many authoritarian failures.

Supporters of liberal democracy must not give in to a fatalism that tacitly accepts the Russian-Chinese line that such democracies are in inevitable decline. The long-term progress of modern institutions is neither linear nor automatic. Over the years, we have seen huge setbacks to the progress of liberal and democratic institutions, with the rise of fascism and communism in the 1930s, or the military coups and oil crises of the 1960s and ’70s. And yet, liberal democracy has endured and come back repeatedly, because the alternatives are so bad. People across varied cultures do not like living under dictatorship, and they value their individual freedom. No authoritarian government presents a society that is, in the long term, more attractive than liberal democracy, and could therefore be considered the goal or end point of historical progress. The millions of people voting with their feet—leaving poor, corrupt, or violent countries for life not in Russia, China, or Iran but in the liberal, democratic West—amply demonstrate this.

The big question, Fukuyama suggests, with all this is the United States. Although democracy is the end state, it is still something that we must struggle for.

Bookmarked Into the muck (

Time? For? Socialism? What happened when Thomas Piketty descended from the elegant mathematical Olympus of economic theory into the muck of political and economic crises, public debates, social confrontations, and competing visions of progress?

On the release of Time for Socialism, a collection of Thomas Piketty’s Le Monde columns from 2016 to 2021, Noam Maggor explores Piketty’s work in general and reflects upon his legacy.
Bookmarked Part one: Collapse of the modern Liberal Party by Mike Seccombe (The Saturday Paper)

The devolution of the federal Liberal Party has been a gradual process. Yet if one vignette sums it up, it was the scene on the streets of Manly, in the affluent, socially progressive seat of Warringah on Sydney’s northern beaches, three days before the election.

In a two part series, Mike Seccombe traces Liberal Party back to John Howard’s remaking of Menzies’ party and how it was transformed again by the voters targeted from a distance who became members. By Mike Seccombe.
Replied to Inflation, cost-of-living, supply chains, declining wages, climate impacts and inequality are leading us towards global unrest by Stan Grant (ABC News)

Beasley said five years ago around 80 million people were “marching toward starvation” that number nearly doubled during COVID now the number of people facing critical food shortage has doubled again to over 270 million and tens of millions are facing famine.

It all puts our own travails in Australia into perspective. We may complain about a shortage of lettuce and having to make do with cabbage on our burgers, but we are not starving.

Stan Grant really puts the crisis on lettuce in perspective, highlighting that there are far worse things to be worrying about, such as political unrest, inflation and starvation.

Bob Marley warned that “them belly full, but we hungry”, the poet William Blake cast it in even more apocalyptic terms: “A dog starved at his master’s gate predicts the ruin of the state.”

Bookmarked Permanent Pandemic, by Justin E. H. Smith (Harper’s Magazine )

No matter what happens with the virus—whether or not it keeps evolving in ways that legitimate new drastic measures—the technologies it has ushered in are largely here to stay. These technologies will continue to have applications in industry, commerce, dating, and other affective strategizing; some might even hold out the promise of “fun.” But the principal application will be in the domain of what Michel Foucault called “governmentality”: the set of techniques and strategies, preferably deployed in the form of under-the-radar nudges, by which a population is caused to do what those in power want.

Justin E.H. Smith questions whether the controls brought in during COVID will in fact keep controlling us long after the threat has passed. For Smith, this past few years have laid the ground work for a new regime that is as much about technology as it is about the pandemic.

The new regime is as much a technological regime as it is a pandemic regime. It has as much to do with apps and trackers, and governmental and corporate interests in controlling them, as it does with viruses and aerosols and nasal swabs. Fluids and microbes combined with touchscreens and lithium batteries to form a vast apparatus of control, which will almost certainly survive beyond the end date of any epidemiological rationale for the state of exception that began in early 2020.

The consequence to questioning COVID maximalism has been to risk being ostracised.

Dissenters risk being labeled not only conspiracy theorists, but eugenicists or even advocates of genocide, should they venture any reflection on the costs and benefits of public health policy other than what we might call “COVID maximalism”: the view that we must keep social-distancing restrictions in place wherever there is any risk of harm to the elderly or immunocompromised, no matter what other risks such restrictions cause, whack-a-mole-like, to pop up in turn. But as anyone who is familiar with the literature in medical ethics, or who served on hospital ethics boards before the pandemic, can tell you: there has always been prioritization and triage, and this is not necessarily a reflection of injustice, though of course it can be that.

This has had the consequence of creating a new fringe.

Dissenters risk being labeled not only conspiracy theorists, but eugenicists or even advocates of genocide, should they venture any reflection on the costs and benefits of public health policy other than what we might call “COVID maximalism”: the view that we must keep social-distancing restrictions in place wherever there is any risk of harm to the elderly or immunocompromised, no matter what other risks such restrictions cause, whack-a-mole-like, to pop up in turn. But as anyone who is familiar with the literature in medical ethics, or who served on hospital ethics boards before the pandemic, can tell you: there has always been prioritization and triage, and this is not necessarily a reflection of injustice, though of course it can be that.

For Smith, we have subsequently stepped into a future leading to “digitally and algorithmically calculated social credit, and the demise of most forms of community life outside the lens of the state and its corporate subcontractors.”

In short, even if you are not leaving your house and scanning your QR codes at cafés and museums, you are still furnishing data about yourself near-constantly. There are no immediate signs that this data is going to be used for anything other than inane microtargeted advertising, but once the technological structure is in place to make social credit scoring possible, it does not seem far-fetched to imagine a world where our standing as citizens is determined, say, by the eco-rating of our online purchases.

I have read before how the current pandemic is a political one, but looking at it the way Smith does, I guess all pandemics are political (or biopolitical) as he suggests. I am just left wondering what the actual solution is if as Smith suggests that he is ‘broken’ by it all?

Listened from
Cameron, I really enjoyed your discussion of education not in the news. Really intrigued by the promise of an eight episode podcast series.

Also enjoyed Steven Kolber’s discussion of zombie data with Jennifer Clutterbuck and Rafaan Daliri-Ngametua.

We found excessive, purposeless and redundant data – ‘zombie data’. Those in the technology, economics, business, and “regtech” fields indicate an awareness that zombie data, while considered dead, ‘lurks around…waiting to be called to life again” (Datastreams, 2017). Such data has also been referred to as “huge waves of numbers without meaning or relevance” (Balleny, 2013) that create datasets “without any purpose or clear use case in mind” (Kaufmann, 2014 in D‘Ignazio & Klein, 2020).

Bookmarked Why the WHO took two years to say COVID is airborne (

Early in the pandemic, the World Health Organization stated that SARS-CoV-2 was not transmitted through the air. That mistake and the prolonged process of correcting it sowed confusion and raises questions about what will happen in the next pandemic.

This lengthy piece unpacking why it took the World Health Organisation so long to recognise that COVID is airborne is a demonstration of how this is very much a political pandemic.
Liked How Putin’s Oligarchs Bought London by Patrick Radden Keefe (The New Yorker)

Invoking Dean Acheson’s famous observation, in 1962, that Britain had “lost an empire but not yet found a role,” Bullough suggests that it did find a role, as a no-questions-asked service provider to the crooked élite, offering access to capital markets, prime real estate, shopping at Harrods, and illustrious private schools, along with accountants for tax tricks, attorneys for legal squabbles, and “reputation managers” for inconvenient backstories. It starts with visas; any foreigner with adequate funds can buy one, by investing two million pounds in the U.K. (Ten million can buy you permanent residency.)

London property is always an option for such investments. After King Constantine II was ousted in the wake of a military coup in Greece, in 1967, he moved into a mansion overlooking Hampstead Heath; ever since, global plutocrats have sought safe harbor in the city’s leafy precincts. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian buyers raced into London’s housing market. One real-estate agent described his Russian clients “gleefully plonking saddlebags of cash on the desk.” According to new figures from Transparency International, Russians who have been accused of corruption or of having links to the Kremlin have bought at least 1.5 billion pounds’ worth of property in Great Britain. The real number is no doubt higher, but it is virtually impossible to ascertain, because so many of these transactions are obscured by layers of secrecy. The Economist describes London as “a slop-bucket for dodgy Russian wealth.”

Bookmarked What does the fuel excise cut mean? What happened to the beer excise cut? Five quick questions about the federal budget by Peta Fuller (ABC News)

Want a shortcut guide to the federal budget? Here are the answers to five quick questions from tonight’s announcement.

Listening to or reading discussions on the budget always intrigues me. I am not sure if I have become too cynical, but I always wonder why each decision might be made. I can understand the decision to cut the fuel excise, however this does not actually solve the situation and takes money out of revenue. Overall, it would seem that I am not the only person cynical about the decisions:

And look, even if all the measures announced were fair dinkum and definitely going to happen, this budget is elaborate and messy. It looks like an economic theory having a nervous breakdown in the street.

Josh Frydenberg says this is “a plan” for a strong economy and a stronger future. But it looks more like a weather forecast.

Bookmarked The Party Room (

Want to know what’s really going on in Parliament House? Fran Kelly and Patricia Karvelas give you the political analysis that matters and explain what it means for you.

Along with Annabel Crabb’s politics newsletter, I find The Party Room a refreshing take on politics. Never sure if I am being played by marketing, I prefer to consume my content through a trusted lens.
Bookmarked Monday 14 March, 2022 | Memex 1.1 (

There’s clearly no Russian Plan B for Ukraine. If that is indeed the case, then we know what’s likely to happen.

When Chechnya was being obliterated in 1999, most of us paid little attention. After all, it wasn’t a European country. But Ukraine is.

Our complacent post-1946 holiday has really come to an end.

John Naughton wonders if the situation in Ukraine is history repeating and whether our post-1946 holiday is over.
Bookmarked Why the West May Have to Offer Putin a Way Out by Tom McTague (

The question for world leaders is how to ensure the Russian president is defeated while nevertheless providing him a route out of the crisis.

Tom McTague discusses the challenges associated with resolving the situation in Ukraine. This includes giving Putin a means of getting out with a win.

Unlike Khrushchev, Putin has not simply walked up to a line, but crossed it, unleashing a terror for which he should be held accountable. The horrible reality, though, is that the best option for the West might involve finding a way for him to not be held as accountable as he should be—but then to never forget what he has done.

This is also something Ezra Klein and Fiona Hill discuss on The Daily podcast.

Alternatively, Stan Grant touches on the wider political implications in regards to China and Taiwan.

Xi Jinping is the puzzle. He says he is a champion of globalisation and multilateralism. But he sounds and acts increasingly despotic.

Who is the true Xi? If it is the authoritarian who believes his time has come — if he will not talk Putin down — then we face the prospect of an even more deadly conflict in the near future.

In that case, we must accept that Vladimir Putin has not only invaded Ukraine, he has invaded Taiwan as well.

Liked We Should Not Endure a King by Cory Doctorow (

The point of antitrust isn’t to make companies work better. It’s to make them fail better. It’s to ensure that abusive employers can’t buy off the NLRB, that payday lenders can’t buy off the CFPB, that polluting industrialists can’t buy off the EPA, that murderously reckless aerospace companies can’t buy off the FAA, that intergenerational pharma crime families can’t buy off the FDA.

It doesn’t matter if a monopoly is efficient. If we let rich people structure our lives — if we yield to the right’s eugenic insistence that some are born to rule, the rest to be ruled —we pay a price so high that it erases any “efficiency” gains.

In the short term, it’s “efficient” to build an apartment complex with no fire doors; to toss your waste into the street; to drive drunk rather than paying for a taxi.

“Cory Doctorow” in Pluralistic: 28 Feb 2022 – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow ()
Bookmarked How the Crisis in Ukraine May End by Derek Thompson (

There is a useful analogy with Pearl Harbor. In the late 1930s, Japan had invaded Manchuria and was engaged in a war with China. And the U.S., which was supporting China at the time, imposed an oil embargo on Japan. We squeezed the Japanese government until they realized they only had about a year and a half of resources left. They were desperate to stop the oil embargo. So they took the gamble of Pearl Harbor and paid for it with a costly war in the Pacific. I think we have to consider a question: If we apply similar economic pressure to Russia, could Putin make a similar decision to what Japan did in 1941?

Derek Thompson speaks with Paul Poast about ways in which the current crisis in Ukraine may play out:

There are now five ways that the aggression in Ukraine can end, according to Paul Poast, a professor of foreign policy and war at the University of Chicago. They are: a disastrous quagmire or retreat for Russia; violent regime change in Kyiv; the full conquest of Ukraine; the beginning of a new Russian empire; or a chaotic stumble into something like World War III.

Bryan Alexander also provides his own collection of simulations and scenarios.

Liked For a few short days, we experienced the awesome power of personal responsibility by Mark Humphries (The Age)

After nearly two years of the Prime Minister informing us that various issues were “a matter for the states”, is it any wonder that our Premier would embrace this spirit of buck-passing in determining that the issue of mask-wearing should be a matter for the individual? What a thrill to be able to tell our grandchildren that we were there to witness the birth of the next big thing in political theory: trickle-down responsibility. It went about as well as trickle-down economics.

Liked Morrison’s climate ‘plan’ reveals a spectacular new model of political leadership in Australia by Annabel Crabb (ABC News)

Given Morrison’s evisceration of Bill Shorten just three years ago for failing to provide precise modelling for Labor’s proposed emissions targets, how is it that he can now breezily commit to a target 29 years away with the assurance that a substantial amount of the heavy lifting will be done by technological wizardry currently beyond our ken?

Can you trust a man who exempts himself so readily from the standards he imposes on his opponent?

There are other questions: The tidal shift of global finance is not new. There is zero chance that either the Treasurer or the PM was unaware back in 2019 that Australia would be penalised by global markets for clinging to coal. Did the Treasurer just fail to spot this? Did the PM? Or was winning government in 2019 — courtesy of the climate scare — more important than looking after the national interest?

Further: Glasgow has been in the diary for five years now; the Government’s been aware of it for all that time, and it’s the same Government.

How likely is it, honestly, that a Government that leaves a five-year deadline until the Tuesday before is going to make timely, hard decisions to work towards a target with 30 years left on the clock?

Liked Are the Melbourne protests Australia’s own Capitol riots? (ABC Religion & Ethics)

It’s time for those who produce and those who consume the media to find new frames through which to represent and attempt to understand the can of social unrest we’ve seen in Melbourne. These new frames would attempt to understand how government policies and pronouncements (no matter how well-intentioned) can ostracise and alienate certain groups (such as tradespeople), and make their particular grievances vulnerable to co-option by nefarious actors. To put it bluntly, if we want to stem the rise of the far right, it’s advisable not to push people into their arms.

Framing the Melbourne protests as our very own Capitol riots is inappropriate. Such framing misrepresents the participants and the issues at stake in the Melbourne events, and thus stands in the way of knowing how to reduce the likelihood of repeat performances.

Replied to

The idea of ‘no no no no no yes to framework no no no yes’ presented by Steven Dennis as the way congress works reminds me of Kim Stanley Robinson’s description of change and time in The Ministry for the Future:

The world in their time. In all the blooming buzzing confusion of their moment, they would take stock and get some clarity on the situation, and act. And if Badim’s black wing had anything to it, they would act there too. The hidden sheriff; she was ready for that now, that and the hidden prison. The guillotine for that matter. The gun in the night, the drone from nowhere. Whatever it took. Lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, fuck it— win.

“Susan B. Glasser” in It’s Too Early to Consign Joe Biden to the Ash Heap of History | The New Yorker ()