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Winter Is Coming - Ch. 2 - The Lost Decade 
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 Winter Is Coming - Ch. 2 - The Lost Decade
Winter Is Coming
Ch. 2 - The Lost Decade

Please use this thread for discussing the above chapter.



Wed Oct 17, 2018 10:41 pm
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Post Re: Winter Is Coming - Ch. 2 - The Lost Decade
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Seventy-nine days after the NATO air campaign began, Serb forces withdrew from Kosovo and nearly a million people were able to return to their homes. Remember Kosovo when you hear people say sending weapons to Ukraine would only “escalate the conflict” or “lead to World War III” in the popular straw man argument. Of course the scenarios and opponents are different—Russia is not Serbia and Putin is not Milošević. But the lesson is that much good can come from the decisive application of power, both in the moment and with a deterrent effect, and that waffling has real consequences and fuels future aggression.

This looks a little scary. Although there is a disclaimer that "Russia is not Serbia and Putin is not Milošević," Kasparaov seems to say what worked before would succeed in Ukraine. A dangerous conclusion that's probably irrelevant as long as Trump is in office.



Tue Dec 25, 2018 6:26 pm
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Post Re: Winter Is Coming - Ch. 2 - The Lost Decade
There are similarities between the situations, and they call for a little thought. Russians are not generally interested in dominating the Ukraine - despite the appeal of lost glory from the days when they dominated all of Eastern Europe. But there are a lot of Russians living in Eastern Ukraine, and Russians do have a very strong interest in preventing abuse of these expatriates in all of the former Soviet satellites.

So of course it is easy to gin up a sense of grievance. What if the West was to hammer out a system for resolution of such grievances, complete with a charter of the rights of minority ethnic groups and a "normal" process for creating autonomy? The Rohingya could have benefitted, as well as the Kurds and the Tutsis. The rule of law is mostly about reducing issues of policy, which might be resolvable only by violent conflict, to issues of fact, which can be investigated and verified or not. To the extent that governments are prepared to agree on policy structures that apply everywhere, the rule of law can become a bulwark against Putin's creeping confrontationalism.

Kasparov characterizes Bush's policy as "blind support of the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia" and an end to "the hypocrisy of putting stability ahead of democracy and freedom." What he omits to discuss is that stability is often a truce between factions that otherwise would use violence to slug out their differences. If the abuses created by dominance of ethnic minorities can be managed by rule of law, then stability becomes just another aspect of relying on legal means rather than military might to resolve conflicts.



Thu Jan 24, 2019 3:22 am
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Post Re: Winter Is Coming - Ch. 2 - The Lost Decade
The other item I have highlighted in this chapter is Kasparov's take on socialism.

He declares that the contest between socialism and capitalism is over, and in general this makes sense. The Soviet model attempted to put in place industrialization using central planning, and it ran out of steam when quality of production began to be more important than quantity of production. The innovation-friendly system of capitalism proved more satisfying all around - more freedom, more prosperity, more sense of progress, more capacity to achieve goals, and better jobs. It would be a mistake to assume that capitalism will automatically continue to perform well for the same reasons. We are already seeing strong signs that interweaving of capitalist motivations with public-spirited guidance mechanisms will be the most humane and satisfying of approaches.

To steal a metaphor from the world of religion, "Incentives are like an engine, and public oversight is like a road map. If you don't have incentives, you won't get very far, but if you don't have public oversight, I don't want to go with you."

It is not yet clear whether the innovation process that made people's lives better will continue to generate benefits at anything like the pace of the second half of the 20th century. At first blush, not. Pharma is running out of breakthrough drugs and turning to tailoring to individual genetic and epigenetic profile as a source of benefit. Valuable, but the cost-benefit ratio is way worse than for the low-hanging fruit of the discoveries in the decades after WWII. People educated in sciences are going jobless at astonishing rates.

Then the question becomes whether capitalism sufficiently benefits the world when it follows the Microsoft model, hoarding the profits from its intellectual property and its monopoly position in the market, and shepherding the market along a path chosen by the producer, with incremental innovations but not much real progress.

At the same time we see a huge increase in the profits from abusing workers and consumers, by contrast with erosion of profits from benefiting them. If you look at the regulations Dear Leader has cancelled, they were almost all about protecting consumers and workers and the environment from corporate abuse. Clearly there are big gaps in the incentive system we relied on up until, say, 1999.

Mainstream policy thinkers don't consider socialism, the social ownership of the means of production, to be any kind of answer. But a participative model of governance, such as in Germany and, to an extent rarely recognized, Japan, begins to look more and more appealing.

One way to think about this set of observations is that ownership doesn't make that much difference anymore. "Ownership" in large organizations is just a legal shorthand to denote "sufficient influence to be in a position of dominating management decisions." KKR and Bain don't even need to buy 51% of the shares to take a company private anymore. So we need to start taking actual governance, rather than its formal legal structure, seriously, and to think about how to integrate social goals into governance processes in a constructive way rather than a controlling, micro-managing, way.



Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:03 am
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