September 2009 Archives

"Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?...The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking--not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."
In 1984, George Orwell introduced Newspeak, a new language being gradually adopted by citizens of a fictional country called Oceanaia. As Orwell notes, the intention was that once Newspeak had been fully adopted, 'a heretical thought should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words'. This was done through the invention of new words and, more importantly, by 'eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings.'

Words, of course, don't change their meaning by coincidence. As Orwell points out in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, the 'decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes'. Of course, if we think foolish thoughts, our language would become full of foolish words, but the effect becomes a cause and the new language encourages more foolish thoughts. But what exactly does it mean that the decline of language has political and economic causes? Well, since the civilized world happens to be in the middle a severe ideological crisis, we can use a contemporary example to show how this process works. 

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National Effort.
We live in a time of immense confusion. Words that used to mean one thing suddenly mean another. The values which made us prosperous and free are being questioned and trampled on. We are in a mess, and our instinctive reactions seem to make things worse. 

In 1989, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Francis Fukuyama declared "The End of History" and noted that 'The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism'. Twenty years later, the ideological appeal of classic liberal values  - free markets, property rights, civil liberty, and individual responsibility - is in decline, following an economic meltdown in developed countries and the perceived success of the authoritarian-socialist model, most notably in the People's Republic of China. Capitalism as we know it is dying. Some say it already died a long time ago. 

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Fish.
Once upon a time, there was a little island in the middle of the ocean. The islanders harnessed the waves to power local industry. They got fish from the water to feed their families. They built their houses along the coast. 

Every now and then, a natural storm destroyed a few houses, disrupted the supply of fish for a few days, and sometimes even drowned a few of the locals. The islanders knew that the world is full or surprises, so they were careful - they always saved part of the fish they caught in special reserves for a rainy day, appointed lifeguards to sit on the most dangerous beaches, kept themselves in good shape, and taught all their children how to swim.   

One day, a bunch of local businessmen came to the island's government with a proposition:  Give us a license to manage the ocean and we'll save you all these unexpected troubles! This way, you can spend more time on productive activities, and make long term plans. We can build a perimeter around the island to control the flow of waves. In addition, we  can make sure that all of the fish in the special reserves are protected and well-nourished, and regulate the number of fish who reach the coast every day".

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'One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.'
The above was not written by the speaker of China's Communist Party; it was not published on China Daily or the Global Times. It was written by Thomas Friedman and appeared in yesterday's New York Times. Friedman is so in love with central-planning, that he is willing to give up his so-called liberal ideology and dismiss China's ruthless and violent control mechanism - which holds 20% of the world's population under considerable oppression - as a system with some "drawbacks", led by "enlightened people". 

Just to recap, Friedman is talking about a country in which people do not have the freedom to decide how many kids to have, which city to live in, where to spend their holidays, or which web sites to visit. They are also denied the right to voice their opinion on a variety of issues, and are required to register with the authorities if they wish to publish a blog, leaflet, or spend 30 minutes in an internet cafe.

Continue reading PRC 2009 = USSR 1929? >>>.
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USCN Dollar
Earlier this year, Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, called for the establishment of a new global reserve currency to supplant the US Dollar. Zhou suggested that the new currency will be super-sovereign. That is, not belonging to any state. The actual exchange value, according to Zhou, will be determined through discussion between different countries. Zhou claims that his new plan would 'secure global financial stability and facilitate world economic growth'. Sounds like a good idea? In addition, if China wants to undermine the US Dollar's supremacy, why not use it's own currency, the Yuan, as a replacement? Let's put things in context. 

Over the past 60 years, The US Dollar has been the reserve currency of choice for most of the world's major economies. This means that governments chose to hold significant amounts of their currency reserves in US Dollars, and the that Dollar was the main currency used in international trade. It still is.

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Note: The views and observations expressed on this web site are published for the sake of public discussion and do not represent my personal opinion or the opinion of my companies, clients, and/or employers. If you would like to get my opinion on anything, ask me.

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