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  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

New year musings

I wish everyone a cheerful and successful new year, whilst knowing that outcome is impossible.

Today I attempt to document matters that look positive and matters that seem negative.

Positives, with necessary qualifications.

There is no major global war likely, though the Chinese President has reportedly told his troops to be ready in case of need and Russia claims to have developed a new missile that cannot be negated by current American technology. Let us hope these negative points are fake news.

There is no major international illness sweeping the world, like the influenza after World War 1 or Aids in the 1980s. Perhaps research teams everywhere are working on such an illness and there could be an accidental or deliberate release. Let us hope world leaders are too sensible to release such a horror, as it could be a very big problem for nations unable to quickly diagnose such an illness and devise immunisation or cure very rapidly.

Areas of serious global misery, such as insufficient food or brutal undemocratic leaders, seems to be becoming smaller. Will global population growth decline, in which case this trend may continue? Or will uncontrolled population growth or other negative factors lead to continued attempts of people unhappy where they are to places they perceive as more attractive. Recent upsurge in boat people approaching the UK in overcrowded boats suggests another hot spot though in recent years numbers attempting attempts to reach prosperous European countries have fallen.

In prosperous, well-governed countries medical research seems to this writer to be doing well, providing fresh hope to people with dread diseases of various sorts.

In prosperous, well-governed countries literature, music and the arts seems to be well supported and producing a lot of beautiful material.

Women seem to be in some sort of ascendency in prosperous, well-governed countries. Men are paying a price due to attempted overshoot, but must cop it sweet as centuries of advantage by men is ended.

Gay people are allowed to marry in many prosperous, well governed countries and their private sexual activities are no longer illegal.

Negatives, apart from qualifications to positive factors already discussed, and gleams of light in otherwise cark clouds.

Major uncertainties are due to many adverse political developments in major democratic nations.

· The election of President Trump. I admit that the ‘great disrupter’ has shaken up various aspects of American life and its relations to allies and, dare I say it, natural non-democratic enemies. The attempt to get China to behave better in matters of trade and intellectual property ownership is overdue but President Trump’s inability to keep good staff is a sign of ... mental instability?

· The UK’s decision to leave Europe is my mind will be shown to be wise but it seems around half Britons, called ‘the elite’, do not agree. It looks like Brexit is headed for a ‘hard landing’ which will have a lot of unhappy consequences for both the UK and the Eurozone.

· In any case, the Eurozone has a major design flaw of a fixed exchange rate among members that rewards Germany and other Northern nations and punishes Southern nations like Italy, Spain and Greece.

· Politics in our nation also seem very uncertain. The ALP is reverting to the politics of envy and will upset many Liberals in money grabs which will be justified by Kelly O’Dwyer’s money grab from retired people who are mostly merely ‘well-to-do’. A landslide to Labor will be immensely damaging, as it was in the time of Whitlam and Cairns. In the event of a miracle comeback by the coalition, the House of Reps may have no major party with a majority. We may learn that no government is better than a bad government.

Great inequality in most nations is a major flaw in undemocratic nations, where the bosses and their mates keep the helots under firm control. But in most democratic nations, prosperity co-exists with growing inequality that is becoming to seem like a design flaw. Australia is one of the most egalitarian nations, with little increase of inequality (reference the Productivity Commission). We also are a democratic nation with relative to existing population the largest ratio of immigrants to people born in Australia.

I must draw reader’s attention to a fine book by Yuval Noah Harari, ’21 Lessons for the 21st Century’.

Hurari draws attention to several trends that deserve attention.

‘Humankind is losing faith in the liberal story that dominated global politics in recent decades, exactly when the merger of biotech and infotech confronts us with the biggest challenge humankind has ever encountered’.

Other gems come from the index. Here is a partial list.

Work – ‘When you grow up, you might not have a job’.

Liberty – ‘Big data is watching you’.

Equality – ‘Those who own the data own the future’.

Nationalism – ‘Global problems need global answers’.

War – ‘Never underestimate human stupidity’.

Education – ‘Change is the only constant’.

Meditation – ‘Just observe’.

All the best for 2019, gentle readers. And do read Harari’s wonderful book.

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