Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

How Social Darwinism Destroyed America From the Inside: Or, What Happens When the Average Person Believes in the Survival of the Fittest

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Whenever I look at the USA today versus its rich-world peers, an observation leaps out at me. America’s built a society on a kind of furious single-minded dedication to one idea… Social Darwinism (or the survival of the fittest). Let’s begin with the obvious. Its economy is modern history’s greatest machine for the survival of the fittest. The winners deserve extreme fame, fortune, and power… Elon Musks’ 55 billion USD (3.11 trillion Roubles. 348.83 billion Renminbi. 3.58 trillion INR. 71.42 billion CAD. 70.87 billion AUD. 44.58 billion Euros. 39.71 billion UK Pounds) bonus… but the losers don’t even deserve to live. Forget healthcare, savings, incomes, and so on. I step over them on my way to the café. Now, if you’re an average American, perhaps you don’t see the problem with all this. “So what?”

The problem is that Social Darwinism can’t build a healthy economy for the very people who believe in it, ever, period, full stop… even though I’d bet most Americans probably still think “survival of the fittest” is the best form of social organisation in history. Once you see how I also bet you’ll think it’s both funny and sad. What does “survival of the fittest” mean? It means an erosion or elimination of the average, doesn’t it? It means that only the top percentage (whether it’s 20 percent or 1 percent) of some population really makes it. However, the average person who believes in it so fiercely isn’t in there, he’s at the 45th, maybe 50th percentile, if he’s lucky. LOL. Funny and sad, no? Survival of the fittest comes back to haunt even the average person, the one who’s become, somehow, at least in America, its staunchest global advocate.

That’s precisely what’s beginning to happen in America now. The average person now has less than 1,000 USD (56,557 Roubles. 6,343 Renminbi. 65,036 INR. 1,300 CAD. 1,288 AUD. 810 Euros. 722 UK Pounds) in savings, a shrinking real income, a falling life expectancy, and no possibility of retirement, ever. They are going to live a shorter, harder, meaner, dumber, nastier life… than their peers elsewhere, or their grandparents. The survival of the fittest that Americans champion is working perfectly at destroying them. Social Darwinism is giving “survival” to the “fittest”, those at the very top (let’s say the top 10 percent), while punishing the very average, at the 50th percentile. The average person who thought, strangely, that being average wouldn’t somehow get him selected out. However, that’s what “survival of the fittest” does… select out the average. Hence, a middle class collapsing in three ways:

  • becoming a smaller part of society
  • a falling quantity of life
  • a falling quality of life

Survival of the fittest is annihilating the average person in America, even though that very average person seems to admire and long for it… that’s Social Darwinism’s ghastly revenge. In fact, seeing all but super-rich millennials struggle to have kids and make families, one might even say that Social Darwinism is working perfectly in taking away the reproductive chances of the weakest. However, I don’t think we need to be quite so reductive to say it’s a failed way to think about organising a society.

How is American Social Darwinism annihilating the chances of the average person? Well, American society is an arena for the survival of the fittest… it doesn’t protect the vulnerable. By design, there are no real safety nets, social systems, or public goods, while all America’s peers enjoy these things. For example, it ties healthcare to a “job”, and only then to a dwindling number, because if you aren’t productive, you don’t deserve to live. However, even if you’re productive, your income is stagnant. That’s Social Darwinism tuned perfectly… being productive or efficient is barely enough to hang on, it’s having just enough “fitness” to live at the edge of “survival”. Therefore, the survival of the fittest has kept America from building the basic systems and goods that the rest of the world’s rising quality of life depends on… healthcare, education, transportation, public media, welfare, and so on.

Why should the average person enjoy any kind of investment in him? Why should the poor? They aren’t fit. Therefore, they beg corporations and hedge funds to provide the basics of life, as they laugh at him. Meanwhile, the average person in America doesn’t really cry out for these things, because he still believes in the survival of the fittest, yet all the while, the problem is that he isn’t the fittest. Maybe, he’s at the 50th percentile of fitness… shouting that only those at the very top are fit enough to survive. How funny. How sad. How’s one to prosper, then? Well, who defines “the fittest”, anyway? The fittest do. Therefore, our socio-economic problem soon becomes a cultural problem. Let me put that more clearly. Is “fittest” the top 30 percent? The top 10 percent? Who decides? If it’s the top .01 percent, they’d keep “fittest” as small as possible, won’t they? That’s what happened in America… once, “survival of the fittest” might have meant the top 40 percent of society; now, it’s barely the top 10 percent. How does that kind of erosion even within Social Darwinism happen?

Everywhere in America, the élite tell the average that they must bow down to this terrible god of Social Darwinism. It’s the only god. It’s the best god, who’ll one day reward them with… what? Flying cars? Immortality? They dangle all manner of things before them. However, the reality is simpler… by definition, the average person can’t win these things, ever, for that’s what “survival of the fittest means”. Still, every single day, the American élite tell average Americans the same thing, in newspaper columns, cable news segments, books, films. Self-help, the prosperity gospel, stock tips, home flips, Reality TV shows about the rich and powerful, bootstraps, fame, money, glory… “Live your best life!” … “You don’t owe anyone anything!” What’s the common thread? What’s it all really saying? It just recapitulates Social Darwinism, isn’t it? Until people are more or less indoctrinated, American culture really says something like this:

Social Darwinism is the greatest ideology the world has ever known! Have faith! Your reward is coming, too… you too can be one of the fittest!

Therefore, the élite parade celebrities and tycoons before Americans, exhorting them:

Be more like this!

The first problem, obviously, is that 90 percent of people in society aren’t ever going to be the fittest. Nevertheless, here’s the problem inside that one. The élite are themselves winners of a contest of survival of the fittest. They tell people what worked for them, but that’s all. They have no incentive whatsoever to look past their own biases and say, “Social Darwinism isn’t working for anyone but us!” Why would they? Do you see the cultural issue? There is a contest in which the “fitness” one needs to “survive” rises and keeps rising. Once, it was maybe 30 percent of Americans; now, it’s maybe 10 percent. Now, you can hardly blame the poor average person for succumbing to this furious onslaught of propaganda, but he’s a fool… an average person believing in an ideology that says he himself shouldn’t survive. Therefore, he doesn’t. How funny all this is. How ironic. How tragic, too.

America is discovering the hard way what happens when the average person supports his own self-destruction, economically, socially, and culturally. Social Darwinism has resulted in America becoming something like the modern world’s grimmest dystopia… a place where kids massacre each other every few days and no one cares enough to lift a finger to help them. Why is that? You see, the endpoint of Social Darwinism brings us to the darkest place of all. Being a more savage predator than the next person is the only guarantee of “fitness”. However, a predatory society isn’t a very nice place to be, is it? That’s why the countries in which it was born, and then used… Britain, Germany, Italy… rejected it and consider Social Darwinism now a stain upon history. Will America ever outgrow Social Darwinism? I doubt it. The forces above are difficult to change. When the average person believes he himself is nothing but a ritual sacrifice to the gods, dark ages fall upon us.

17 February 2018

Umar Haque

Eudaimonia

https://eand.co/how-social-darwinism-destroyed-america-from-the-inside-7909acc6e099

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Monday, 26 February 2018

Russia Exports Record-Breaking 50 Million Tonnes of Grain

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It’s only right that the largest country in the world should also be the greatest agricultural giant. The best soil in the world is a Russian word… Чернозём (Chernozyom), “black earth”… Russia has the largest deposit in the world. Traditionally, the Central Black Earth Region is southwest of Moscow, including and especially Voronezh, Kursk, and Belgorod, as well as Lipetsk, Tambov, and Oryol Oblasts. This traditional region extends into the northeastern Ukraine, especially Chernigov Oblast. Hitler sent trainloads of the soil back to Germany, to compensate for their soil, which is poor by comparison to that in Russia… although not necessarily bad by itself. Although it’s illegal to sell agricultural land in that fashion today, it still happens in the Ukraine, as the post-Maidan régime rushes to sell its country and people, as Gogol described in Taras Bulba:

One sells his own out like selling soulless grain in a marketplace.

In Russia, they aren’t selling the land or the people, but they’re successfully exporting a bountiful harvest, after saving millions of tonnes for the motherland. RT quoted Putin:

It’s a record grain crop. Minister of Agriculture Tkachyov said it’d be 130.5 million tonnes, probably more. In general, it’s the largest harvest in Russian history

That really pokes a hole in the idea that sanctions are weakening Russia. The Russian people will endure, and grow ever stronger. Agriculture has always been a symbol of Russian growth and endurance. RT reported:

The growing production of grain in Russia boosts exports, which are close to a record 50 million tonnes this year according to Andrei Sizov, director of the SovEcon analytical centre. He said that Russia exported 48 million tonnes between July 2017 and the end of January 2018. Last year, Russia ceded its status as leading wheat exporter to the USA. The Agriculture Ministry expects to regain this status by the end of this agricultural year (July 2017 – June 2018). It forecasts grain exports to be 45 million tonnes against 35.5 million tonnes in the previous year. Overall, agricultural production in Russia should grow three percent this year, from last year’s 120.7 million tonnes. That’d be the best-ever harvest for Russia, even counting the Soviet era.

Russia’s export market is actively expanding. Russia supplies grain to Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iran, and Saudi Arabia announced plans to become a major hub for Russian agricultural products in the Middle East. In the near future, exports to Indonesia and Thailand will increase, as well as those to Latin American countries, including Mexico. Russia has a significant share of the European market; almost 12 percent of Russian agricultural exports, worth around 2 billion USD (111.974 billion Roubles. 12.618 billion Renminbi. 129.61 billion INR. 2.526 billion CAD. 2.54 billion AUD. 1.623 billion Euros. 1.424 billion UK Pounds), go to Europe. Three years ago, President Putin set a goal of making Russia the world’s largest supplier of healthy, ecologically-clean, and high-quality food.

20 February 2018

Matfey Shaheen

Russia Feed

http://russiafeed.com/putin-leads-russia-export-stunning-record-50mn-tons-grain/

What Sanctions? Russia’s Investment Rating Upgraded

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On 23 February 2018, Standard and Poors raised its estimation of Russia’s sovereign credit rating from BB+ to BBB-. This is good news for the Russian Federation as it continues to realign its economy in response to the various sanctions that the West (mainly the USA) imposes on the nation. Under President Putin’s leadership, Russia gradually improved since the peak of the sanctions crisis near the end of 2015. The rating change means that S&P no longer considers Russia as “junk” investment territory. The Financial Times reported that S&P attributed the upgrade to the country’s “prudent policy response” taken in response to the sanctions. The analysts further said this:

The ratings are supported by Russia’s commitment to conservative macroeconomic management, its strong net external asset position, low government debt, and relatively high monetary flexibility, including a flexible exchange rate. The ratings are constrained by our assessment of Russia’s economy, which remains dependent on revenues from oil and gas exports, as well as by wider institutional and regulatory weaknesses. Further constraints include geopolitical tension, and resulting international sanctions, creating a drag on Russia’s long-term economic growth prospects.

The S&P rating lift takes Russia into stable investment territory. Another analytics agency, Fitch Ratings, affirmed Russia’s long-term foreign and local currency issue default ratings, also at “BBB-” with a Positive Outlook:

Russia’s ratings balance a strong sovereign balance sheet, robust external finances, and an improved policy framework against weaker macroeconomic performance than peers, structural weaknesses (commodity dependence and governance risks), and geopolitical tensions. The Positive Outlook reflects continued progress in strengthening the economic policy framework underpinned by a more flexible exchange rate, a strong commitment to inflation-targeting, and a prudent fiscal strategy. These policies contribute to improved macroeconomic stability and, together with robust external and fiscal balance sheets, increase the economy’s resilience to shocks. The estimated federal budget deficit narrowed to 1.5 percent of GDP in 2017, less than half the 2016 out-turn and well below the BBB median. The non-oil deficit shrank to 7.9 percent of GDP in 2017 from 9.1 percent in 2016. Fitch forecasts that Russia will post a fiscal deficit of 0.6 percent in 2018 (outperforming the budgeted 1.3 percent deficit), reflecting higher-than-budgeted oil prices, continued non-oil and gas revenue growth, and expenditure restraint. It should achieve the current official 2019 primary balance forecast comfortably, with Fitch forecasting surpluses at both the primary and overall levels.

The rest of the report is similarly quite positive. It’s an interesting point that many Russian businesses are grateful for the opportunities created by the sanctions even though they had the intent to hurt and punish Russia for whatever cause célèbre the West could dream up. Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, doesn’t it?

25 February 2018

Seraphim Hanisch

Russia Feed     

http://russiafeed.com/what-sanctions-russia-investment-rating-got-upgraded/

Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Next Crash: Or, Why a Stock Market Booming While Life Craters is a Social Ponzi Scheme, Not an Economy

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Oh, no, friends… the Dow crashed… cue hysteria over everything from gold to retirement accounts to Bitcoin to Trump. Hold on a minute. What does it really mean? Here’s something to bear in mind. Investing in a collapsed society, where people have little left to be preyed upon for (and even those meagre morsels of returns an authoritarian could snatch away in a heartbeat) is a foolhardy bet. If it’s opaque, we’ll get to what that means.

Let’s start with what you probably know. The stock market isn’t the economy. The market boomed… but real incomes stagnated for decades. However, even that’s not really “the economy”. The economy is how well people’s lives are doing, and on that score, America’s in uniquely bad shape among rich nations… falling life expectancy, rising mortality, mass killings, stress, rage, misery, loneliness, and distrust. Therefore, ironically, it appears to me that Americans speak of The Market like the Soviets spoke of The Party. Just as Soviets said, “The Party’s in fine shape!”, so, today, Americans say, “Comrades! The stock market’s booming!” Both are myths that deflect from reality, protecting us from the harder work of seeing things as they are. Just as the Party wasn’t Soviet society… just a twisted caricature of it… so the stock market isn’t the American economy… it’s a bizarre upside-down mirror image.

While I’m sure you’ve had similar thoughts, here’s what you might not have gotten to yet. This shell game… a stock market booming while an economy and the lives in it crater… can’t go on forever. An economy based on such is a Ponzi Scheme of prosperity conducted on a massive social scale. One day, the bill must come due. Perhaps, you think… what could be better for capitalists than a nation of neo-peasants? However, the truth is a little more subtle. The stock market booming while life falls apart reflects a real economic transfer… the average person’s quality of life, stability, security, opportunity, and (of course) his income and savings dissolve into the future profits of predatory entities, whether they’re banks, corporations, hedge funds, etc. Where a truer capitalism… if such a thing exists… might focus on providing value, these self-evidently don’t… hence, life falling apart.

How long can all that go on? There must be something to prey on. However, the average American doesn’t have much left to give. His income is shrinking. He has less than 1,000 USD (58,366 Roubles. 6,290 Renminbi. 64,220 INR. 1,258 CAD. 1,280 AUD. 817 Euros. 723 UK Pounds) in savings. He has no real vacation or leisure time, working longer and harder hours than his peers anywhere else. He’ll never retire, be able to educate his kids, or afford decent healthcare. He’s even given his life… to the point where his longevity is now declining. Is there anything left for monopolistic predatory capitalism to take? Not much. This game can’t just go on forever… it can’t go on much longer at all. What happens when markets understand all that? They fall hard and fast. The market isn’t the economy… at least until there’s nothing left to syphon off, and, then, suddenly, kaboom. Markets must ultimately reflect the economic, social, and political reality of a failing nation, too… just as they had to before the Depression, reflecting inequality, stagnation, and predation.

What does that all mean, at the root? Markets must price in risks. However, the greatest risk of all for America is one that we haven’t yet priced in… one not considered, valued, and accounted for. That’s political risk. For example, markets discount perpetually chaotic Latin American or Eastern European economies; now, they’ll have to do the same for America. You see, not only is American life falling apart… American democracy is too. A (literal) Nazi is running unopposed for Congress in Illinois. That’s a tiny example of the trends that daily headlines reveal all too well… America is imploding from an imperfect democracy to an authoritarian kleptostate. The nearest parallel is probably Russia. Nevertheless, one doesn’t put one’s money into Russian investments without carefully considering political risk.

What does “political risk” of “autocracy” really mean? Why do markets care? Think of it as a country run by and for mafias. Mafias run protection and extortion rackets for small enterprises… the same is true for kleptocrats on a national scale. They grant favours to whoever will pay them off the most. They give shares in privatised industries to their cronies. They use every trick in the book to make already-tilted playing fields ones that players can’t enter at all unless there’s money paid out, whether in soft or hard bribery. They’ll mercilessly extort whoever isn’t part of the organisation or the family. Let’s say you’re an investor, looking at America. How far away is it from such a scenario? Already, nationalist sentiments have gone all the way to the top. They’re ripping up trade deals. They’re choosing favourites. Instead of doing business, CEOs try to curry favour… although they hold their noses at the stench. Going forward, you’d be very foolish not to begin pricing in all this risk… that one day, at the whim of a single authoritarian leader, all your money might simply disappear, be expropriated, be seized… the first step in most such situations is that you must give a portion of it to his family, friends, allies, just to do business at all.

There’s a steep political risk now for money flowing into America, just as there is and has been for other fallen states. However, the difference is that markets haven’t priced in this risk yet. They’ve coasted on two comfortable illusions:

  • American democracy will magically fix itself
  • The gains from preying on its imploded middle class outweigh the rising costs of autocratic politics

Nonetheless, those gains are drying up… all that’s left now are the costs… strongmen, extremism, and authoritarianism. That points to a very simple conclusion. The American stock market is in for a historic crash. It can’t go on being a perverse mirror image of economic reality forever. It goes up; it goes down. However, at some point, it’ll fall and fall mightily, as investing in a collapsed society where people have little left to even be exploited for (even those dwindling returns an authoritarian could snatch away from you in the blink of an eye) is a foolhardy bet. Of course, that isn’t a “prediction”. Markets always suffer crashes. It’s only a way of understanding the next crash. Perversely, the market boom of the 2000s was due to riches gained from the implosion of American life. However, the crash to follow will be about what happens after a society implodes… the loss of American democracy, prosperity, confidence, and growth, replaced by despair, cruelty, authoritarianism, and collapse.

5 February 2018

Umair Haque

Eudaimonia

https://eand.co/the-next-crash-254816fbbeb7

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