Tag Archives: elite group

Mamominarch

2013 – 2018 EVT – A Current Account Surplus? Think again! (Mamominarch)

Last weeks’ summary: In 2012 EVT, Everstate (the ideal-type corresponding to our very real countries created to foresee the future of governance and of the modern nation-state) knows a rising dissatisfaction of its population. To face the various difficulties and widespread discontent, in a first scenario, Everstate’s governing bodies have transformed the conclusions of the Mamominarch Commission into policies. They have thus started implementing the programme of drastic reduction of public expenses through privatization and outsourcing, transfer of responsibilities to local administrations and increased reliance on The Regional Union, accompanied by a temporary increase in income and consumption taxes. The first months of reforms have been successful and the situation appears to improve.

(The reader can click on each picture to see a larger version in a new tab – a navigating map of posts is available to ease reading – research note at the bottom of the post).

trade exports s3

Everstate’s capacity to reimburse its debt should also come from a positive current account, fed, in part, by a positive trade balance, aggregating results in trade of services and trade of goods.

Trade balance (1)

Initially, the well-educated population and the disappearance of many positions of civil servants leads to an abundance of expert personnel. Through Novstate and its friends companies, benefiting from the positive perception the reforms undertaken in Everstate generate, the export of services skyrockets.

However, with time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to send children to school. The provinces have now to manage the education system alone or with the private sector, and the latter sees no immediate interest in funding primary or high schools.  Private schooling becomes the norm, and  weights heavily on the budget of the less well-off.

If the best-known universities find some funding with the new inflow of capital, this is restricted to specific branches, namely finance, economics, some areas of politics, war strategy and tactics thanks to Novstate, IT and some technologies of direct interest to the companies having invested in Everstate. As a result, research greatly suffers. To compensate the absence of public funding, universities triple their fees and only the most fortunate families can now send their children to universities. Scholarships almost disappear. The banks are not interested anymore in lending to students as the benefits are too small and as students, most often, have no guarantor. Local administrations send reports on this dreadful evolution to Everstate’s national representatives and to the central government, but the latter can only try to compensate through its yearly orientation paper, which has close to no effect as it is not assorted of any possibility of action. Hence, the number of well-educated and internationally competitive Everstatans rapidly dwindles.  Furthermore, those who could receive graduate and post-graduate education are trained exclusively in those approaches at one with the Mamominarch system. Hence, as time goes by, if ever the Mamominarch system is not proving to be the ideal solution expected, will they still be considered as adequate?

After the first months of euphoria and hope following the implementation of the Mamominarch policies, the educated youth finds itself in the same conundrum as previously, but with even less prospects. If new qualified jobs are created by the foreign and domestic companies investing in Everstate and by the new outsourcing contracts, those are given in priority to ex civil servants and to foreigners. As a result, already by the second half of 2013 EVT, except in the IT sector focused on online shopping and electronic payments, most young graduates and post graduates find themselves still unemployed or under-employed, taking whatever jobs they find in tourism or industry. At the beginning of the period, those with the best academic records, and who can afford it, try to migrate, but, considering the still uncertain global situation, few succeed. By 2018 EVT, the relative position of the Everstatan educative system is such that, added to the failure of their elders to escape, hardly any smart young Everstatan still tries migrating.

Overall, the export of services cannot grow anymore.

As far as the export (and import) of goods is concerned, those depends not only on human skills and workforce but also on available resources. Now, as seen, with the exception of the tourism industry, Everstate has to face domestic shortage or sharp increase in prices  (stemming among other causes of a relative decline in supply) for the resources it used to transform and to include in the goods it exports.

Furthermore, many of those resources – classical and new – needed by Everstatan producers  are not located on Everstatan territory. For example, for many high-tech companies, rare earth elements are a crucial industrial component.* However, those rare earth deposits are not present everywhere and in the same quantity, China being, currently, the lead producer.

This new condition regarding resources, as explained previously, should imply increasing tasks in governing, which, themselves, demand new resources and income for the ruler and its staff (including the need for new staff).   This, in turn, would mean further and new state spending, at least until the system is stabilised. However, as supplementary state expenditures are ruled out by the Mamominarch system, then the search for new resources and income cannot even be thought and thus novel strategies of extraction of resources can even less be identified. Thus, the increasing tasks of governing can be neither planned nor carried out. Worse still, the dismantling of so many services of the state makes it impossible to monitor, record and analyse what is happening.

As, worldwide, so many industries are competing for the same resources, national policies and negotiations are more than helpful, they are necessary. However, in Everstate, businesses cannot anymore benefit from such support and each company with supply problems must fend for itself. Each is now alone to find solutions, or it must turn to the Regional Union or to International institutions or try to find other private allies, which, in a world of hardened competition, may be hazardous. Meanwhile, other companies from other countries do benefit from their government’s support. Everstatans businesses thus find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Indeed, relatively quickly, the young Everstatan industries dealing with those materials involving rare earth elements, for example, lose to competition. Either they go bankrupt or, when their technology is interesting, they are bought by foreign companies, which then re-localise according to their own priorities. By 2018 EVT, no Everstatan industry involving rare earth elements remain.

The situation regarding energy is similar, however with even worse consequences… to be continued.

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* Among others, for interesting estimates on the whole rare earth element market, see the analyses made by the South African company frontier Rare Earth, as well as their sources. For an example of use,  see articles on the electric car and corresponding batteries (although the importance and scarcity of Lithium for Lithium-ion batteries is disputed) e.g. David Biello, “New Energy-Dense Battery Could Enable Long-Distance Electric Cars: Material changes enable a new battery to store more electricity–and could boost the driving range of electric vehicles,” Scientific American, February 27, 2012; Shane McGlaun, “Science Researchers Create Fluoride Battery, Look to Replace Lithium-ion Technology,” Daily Tech (Blog), October 24, 2011.

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Further research

As underlined in the previous post, ideally, with more resources, notably a team of researchers and adequate computing facilities, the values attributed to variables should be quantified, when the variables are about quantities.  Notably, it would be very interesting, assuming we were able to enter specific times for each link, to test the variation of those time periods according to changes in quantities, and vice versa. It is indeed possible – or even likely – that thresholds and tipping points may occur according to such variations. More broadly, such hypotheses could also be tested on qualitative variables, methodology to be defined.

Mamominarch

2012-2013 EVT – Implementing the Mamominarch conclusions

Last weeks’ summary: In 2012 EVT, Everstate (the ideal-type corresponding to our very real countries created to foresee the future of governance and of the modern nation-state) knows a rising dissatisfaction of its population. To face the various difficulties and widespread discontent, Everstate’s governing authorities decide to follow the conclusions of the Mamominarch Commission that recommend to drastically reduce state expenditures.

(The reader can click on each picture to see a larger version in a new tab – a navigating map of posts is available to ease reading – methodological or research note at the bottom of the post).

The Mamominarch conclusions become policy

All governing bodies thus adopt the conclusions of the Mamominarch Commission. New laws are enacted when needed, which is easily done as the major parties seating in Parliament were part of the Commission. The constitution is even changed to incorporate the new ideals and objectives. As top-level civil servants were also either part of the Commission or represented, legislation can be executed without any major impediment. Indeed, a mix of career and organisation related incentives*, as well as normative material and ideological stakes greatly facilitate execution at all levels.

As the major elite groups, including the lenders, were also present, no elite-prompted hidden opposition exists; liquidity and the various resources mastered by the elite, including the traditional mass media, are largely made available. International and Regional support by those organisations that were included in the Commission is strongly emphasised through various diplomatic gains and prestige attention. A few more  Everstatan officials and political figures obtain high level positions in various international fora.

Papers, articles, interviews and books from the various experts, famous people, and academics having been part of the Mamominarch Commission soon reinforce mass media support. “The Mamominarch break-through: reinventing true happiness” written by Novstate’s CEO and founder becomes an international best-seller, while Hollywood starts the production of the next blockbuster on the life-story of the successful businessman.**

As the new measures are heralded as the new type of governance adapted to the reality of Everstate and allowing for a happy future, in line with the worldview and its beliefs, citizens find back meaning and hope and accept the new laws and policies, although with some worries regarding the efforts they will have to consent. A few remain skeptics but their voices are muted by the majority and by the normative deluge of support to the new system. The unions hope that renewed growth will stop unemployment.

As a result, the Occupy Everstate movement loses many of its sympathisers. Furthermore, as the Mamominarch system means less state, the part of the movement that tends to embrace anarchism is satisfied. The presence of Evernet’s CEO within the Commission quells some of the fears regarding over-regulation of the Internet and online networking. Occupy Everstate tends thus to lose even more active supporters and apparently recedes. Its most active members can do nothing else than going back home. Yet, the links between them, notably through social networking are not severed.

Remains now to engineer the reforms and notably the delicate short-term transition.

Implementing the Mamominarch policies 

state and ruler expenditures s3

The variable upon which the Mamominarch Commission plays is “ruler and state spending” (see below methodological and research note).

The drastic reduction of expenses will reduce the deficit, stop borrowing and thus stabilise the interests, notably those paid abroad as a large amount of the debt is held overseas. However, the existing debt must also be reimbursed. This should be made possible overtime and as quickly as possible, notably with a positive current account.

First, Everstate must organise a temporary increase of resources extracted to meet the existing expenses, waiting for those to disappear or be significantly reduced. It must do so without impacting either the lenders’ nexus or the elite groups. However, as the overall situation has not yet changed (see 2012 EVT: Budget Deficit and Liquidity), the only way, as recommended by the Commission, is to sensibly increase taxes on personal income and on consumption, the latter being favoured as it is said to be less felt by citizens. To underline the temporary character of the effort a special contribution is created, “the salvation tax,” which will affect all tax payers incrementally and progressively and is perceived on all incomes (rate between 8% and 12%), will be paid as soon as 2013 EVT. Meanwhile a new tax on consumption of 3% on top of the existing ones, “the anti-debt tax” is applied immediately. Those taxes will be suppressed in five years.

The drastic reduction of public expenses is planned over a five-year period. All public services related to infrastructure will be decentralised and sold to the private sector within the next six to twelve months. All heath care related activities, and the whole pensions and retirement sector will similarly be privatized over the next two years. By 2017, aiming at  reducing the central civil service by 50%, whole sections of ministries will be priced and then sold, if the mission of the unit is seen as economically viable and better externalised, or transferred to a local administration. Services will then be paid either by the state or local administration through contracts following the outsourcing method, or directly by people, according to cases. Within the central state administration, the management of outsourcing is reinforced on an interagency or interministerial basis, while exchanges with The Regional Union for analysis and direction are increased. The education and university systems are considerably privatised and localised; Everstate, working hand in hand with the Regional Union, will keep only a mission of orientation and accreditation.***

With cuts equally divided in 5 steps, one per year, the foreign and diplomatic services, defense, intelligence and police budget are further reduced. Most operations of cooperation and aid will be the responsibilities of volunteer organisations and private firms within the year. Only the bare minimum of diplomatic presence will be kept, while analysis increasingly will rely on both private contractors and The Regional Union. The army will be further reduced across all functions, with a staggering increase in the use of private contractors, mainly operated by Novstate. The new cyber-division that was about to be created is contracted to a Novstate’s friend company. Police forces become localised and use of outsourcing through private security companies must become the norm. Novstate offers a centralised access to information and communication, besides operating many local police posts.

Within a year, state expenditures are already strongly reduced, but not sufficiently. As hoped, Everstate is upheld as model for having so efficiently and swiftly solved the problems that plague so many countries. The debt has been reduced through the flow of money generated by the privatizations. Income, notably taxes, is still insufficient to pay for  expenses, but the deficit is on its way to be reduced.

The success and the favourable environment attracts foreign capital, notably new banks, insurances and financial institutions developing new products, as well as foreign companies taking over some of the state services of Everstate, when those are not provided by Novstate and its friends companies. They mainly settle in Everstate’s capital. Foreign capital is also very active in allowing for the privatization of Everstate’s state infrastructure. CEOs, who think it would be more interesting for them to produce part of their goods in the Western provinces of Everstate, start building factories and hire local people. Meanwhile, medium to high-end tourism, notably in the snowy and mountainous North and on the coastal areas, is flourishing. Interestingly, the seaside area also attracts internet companies specialised in online shopping and electronic payments.

Unemployment, by mid-2013 EVT seems to be stabilised, even if it is not reduced. However, the brutal change of system has introduced a rampant fear, yet compounded by hope, in Everstatans as they see their income reduced and have to adapt to the new healthcare, pension system and to the whole new now privatized services. The answer to fear is a new harshness and selfishness in social relationships as each compete to try to earn more.

After those years of worry and stagnation, a real boom is starting to appear possible for Everstate, and its growth rate, although still low, is above those of its neighbours.

To be continued

* See for an example of the way those incentives can interact, Nolan, Janne E., and MacEachin, Douglas, with Kristine Tockman, Discourse, Dissent and Strategic Surprise Formulating U.S. Security Policy in an Age of Uncertainty. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, 2007; Chester A. Crocker, “Thirteen Reflections on Strategic Surprise,” Georgetown University, 2007.

** For dynamics between national security issues and apparatus and the movie industry, see Jean-Michel Valantin, Hollywood, the Pentagon and Washington. Anthem Press, 2005.

*** Some countries within the OECD are currently downsizing their civil service sector and  using privatization, with noticeable variations according to countries, see, for a study on the EU members, Forward Planning and International Affairs Bureau (B2), General, Directorate for Public Administration and the Civil Service, “Administration and the Civil Service in the EU 27 Member States: 27 country profiles” Republique Francaise, MINISTÈRE DU BUDGET, DES COMPTES PUBLICS ET DE LA FONCTION PUBLIQUE, 2008. With the 2010-2011 renewal of the crisis, downsizing in the public sector has increased, as for example, in the UKgovernment statistics on civil service employment since 1902. However, compared with the scenario used here, those changes have been or are  implanted over longer periods of time. For example, in Austria “The number of federal administration employees has fallen from 300,000 in 1985 to 133,000 at present” (2008). Further research on variations in the speed of the reforms and their impact would need to be undertaken.

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Methodological and research note

Working backward with ego networks

The method remains to use ego networks as previously. However, the model has been created in a forward manner, using existing work on state-building that takes as assumption an increase in needs and resources. Here the decisions taken in the scenario answer to a slightly different logic, as underlined in the previous post: they do not consider needs or state-building, but only a reduction of expenses.
We shall thus, in terms of ego network, sometimes have to work backwards, following the arrows from target to source to identify the value the source node could have, given the value attributed to the target node (this may also be seen as a variation on the method known as backcasting.)

Further research

Ideally, with more resources, notably a team of researchers, the values attributed to variables should be quantified, when the variables are about quantities. This will become even more obvious with the next posts.  Notably, it would be very interesting, assuming we were able to enter specific times for each link, to test the variation of those time periods according to changes in quantities, and vice versa. It is indeed possible – or even likely – that thresholds and tipping points may occur according to such variations. More broadly, such hypothesis could also be tested on qualitative variables, methodology to be defined.

Mamominarch

2012 EVT – Scenario 1 – Mamominarch: Off with the State

Last weeks’ summary: In 2012 EVT, Everstate (the ideal-type corresponding to our very real countries created to foresee the future of governance and of the modern nation-state) knows a rising dissatisfaction of its population. Plagued with a deepening budget deficit and an increasing need for liquidity, a related creeping appropriation of resources while the strength of central public power weakens to the profit of various elite groups and with an outdated worldview that promotes misunderstanding, disconnect and thus inadequate actions, the political authorities are increasingly unable to deliver the security citizens seek and risks to the legitimacy of the whole system increases. Alarmed by the rising difficulties and widespread discontent, the governing authorities decide to do something. Three potential scenarios or stories will be told: “Mamominarch: Off with the State,” “Panglossy: Same Old, Same Old,” and “Genuisy: the Making of History.”

(The reader can click on each picture to see a larger version in a new tab – a navigating map of posts is available to ease reading).

The Mamominarch Commission

Considering the difficulty of the problems at hand, and the need for a consensus among powerful elite groups, as well as regional and international actors, to see the array of measures applied, once they would be identified, Everstate’s government convenes a high level commission that must find out what has to be done.

The highest level of the government thus hand-picks to participate in the work: high level government and state officials, the latter representing civil servants, parliamentary representatives of the major parties, who had been in power alternatively for the last seven decades, famous economists Everstatan and foreign, the director of the Everstatan School of Liberal Politics, management experts, business leaders, notably the CEOs of Novstate and its friends companies, the CEOs of the largest banks and largest financial funds, business consultants, experts in new technologies, high level officials of the IMF and WTO and of the Regional Union. All powerfully stand for the normative order to which Everstate belongs and for the major entrenched elite groups. As an exception to this rule, the CEO of a very performing high-tech Everstatan company, Evernet, is also invited to represent the emerging elite group related to computing and networking.

After two months of intense debates and work, most often done by the staff of those personalities that participate in the high level working group, the Mamominarch Commission, as it is now known, reaches the conclusion that the root cause of the problems is an impossibility to match public expenses with public income, even in times of economic growth, and thus that the obvious solution is to drastically lower public expenses.

Structure of general government expenditures 2008 (OECD 2010)

Of course, this solution is designed in terms of expenses and not of needs, but is it really a problem? The normative model of the time, which has been just so successful into bringing wealth and growth, upholds free entrepreneurship, free trade and free market as ideal. Meanwhile, the state and especially its bureaucracy tend to be seen as expensive and inefficient, obviously unable to adapt to the new conditions as the deteriorating situation proves, and furthermore unable to contribute to ensure its primary mission, the security of its population as, again, the protests and the increasing tension shows. It thus makes complete sense to push the normative order one step further and to finally apply it fully: to rely on free entrepreneurial forces and on the market to provide for goods and services as much as possible, to always work in this direction, while the state must wither away. After a short period of adaptation everyone will be happy and definitely better off as balance will have been restored and this time permanently.

What will be more delicate to engineer is the short-term future, when further efforts in terms of income will be asked from the population, as existing debts must be reimbursed and interests paid. But, the difficulties will only exist for a very short period of time, as the renewed growth will rapidly make the effort painless.

Some civil servants will have to be laid off but as services will be taken over by the private sector, they will certainly find work again very rapidly, on the model of Novstate. Such a move may even enhance their career, as the economy will certainly be greatly boosted by this new system.

The Shadow Banking System, Conceptualized, designed and created by Zoltan Pozsar, The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, November, 2009

Furthermore, selling whole parts of the state, as has already been started, will bring in more money that will be used to reimburse debts, thus helping stabilise taxes. There will be no need to find really new taxes, except, maybe, for a short period of time, and especially no need to truly start thinking about ways to make the lenders’ nexus pay more tax – which is, anyway, something really difficult to craft as the whole financial system has become so complex, and would ask for international treaties, which would demand too long to obtain, assuming it were possible.*

Finally, as many members of the Commission underline, this will be good for business, attract investment, and put Everstate in rank to compete with the top financial and businesses orientated places in the world.

Only a minimum army and police will remain at state level. Most of the police force will now be under the responsibility of local towns, as, anyway, criminality has to be solved by proximity actions, on the ground, and through a better understanding of criminals. Operations against existing national threats will be shared between what remains of the defence forces, with a rising use of private contractors. Novstate’s CEO has pledged during the debates that his company and its friends businesses would do their utmost to fulfill any need Everstate would have in this matter.

PR, communication and advertisement specialists, as well as lobbyists, are now brought in to make sure that the conclusions and message of the Mamominarch Commission are delivered at best so that they become policy decisions adopted by Everstate’s governing bodies.

Everything goes indeed very smoothly and all Mamominarch’s conclusions are adopted.

To be continued

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References

Zoltan Pozsar, Tobias Adrian, Adam Ashcraft, and Hayley Boesky, Shadow Banking, Federal Reserve Bank of New York Staff Reports, no. 458, July 2010; “According to one measure of the size of the shadow banking system, it grew rapidly before the crisis, from an estimated $27 trillion in 2002 to $60 trillion in 2007, and remained at around the same level in 2010.” Financial Stability Board (FSB), Shadow Banking: Strengthening Oversight and Regulation, October 2011, p.1;  Brook Masters (2011-10-27). “Shadow banking surpasses pre-crisis level”The Financial Times. accessed 2012-02-10.

 

garden of delights by Bosch

2012 EVT: Material Stakes in an Outdated Worldview (The Chronicles of Everstate)

Last week’s summaryIn 2012 EVT, Everstate (the ideal-type corresponding to our very real countries created to foresee the future of the modern nation-state) knows a rising dissatisfaction of its population as authorities cannot anymore deliver security. The last phenomenon driving Everstatan governing bodies’ rising inefficiency in ensuring their mission is an outdated worldview that leads to misunderstanding and disconnect, which is first upheld by ideological stakes.

(The reader can click on each picture to see a larger version in a new tab - a navigating map of posts is available to ease reading).


The knowledge institutions and related people, which are guardians of norms and thus have ideological stakes in upholding an outdated worldview, are also motivated by material stakes in seeing norms respected, upheld and continuing. Indeed, their institutional  survival depends on the continuation of those models, for example, through funding and employment.

Even if some or most within those institutions (again with variations according to their exact normative function) are increasingly aware that models have to be revised – but how far and how deep – being the first to do so could mean being cast away and thus losing both status and income. Individuals within institutions are caught in a system similar to traders on the stock exchange in the period preceding the burst of a bubble.

Furthermore, as the lender nexus and other elite groups benefit from the new means to appropriate public power, as those appropriations are permitted by the current model and underlying norms and thrive from the lack of real understanding, then those elite groups also have a material stake in seeing the current model and norms remaining in power. This is even more the case that some of those elite groups gained status as well as income only because of the absence of adequate models. If another model of socio-political organisation existed that allowed Everstate to face the new pressures, ensure security and thus bring back the satisfaction of the population then those elite groups would lose power. They are thus most unlikely to willingly abandon their new found or reinforced privileges.

If or when new understanding and new models, possibly with the slower creation of new norms and beliefs emerge, this will create new elite groups while the discarded model will imply the disappearance of existing elite group. Those new and disappearing elite groups will not only be related to understanding and knowledge as well as needed skills but also to the disappearing and emerging needed resources, that will then be fully integrated within the new model.

Any attempt at proposing something new or different is thus, for now, either muted or remoulded in agreement with the existing paradigm. Its authors, if they are too weak institutionally, are either marginalised or bought in to the price of the novelty of their ideas. In one way or another, new ideas are not heard.

Thus beliefs outlast the situation. As beliefs constrain understanding, which in itself conditions actions, a growing disconnect takes place between reality and actions. As actions disregard reality, they may only imply further dissatisfaction and become essentially increasingly escalating in terms of tension and scope of grievances.

For example, in other countries, protests then violence had followed an escalating pattern. For the initial phases, that looks very much like what is happening in Everstate. There, the trigger had been, surprisingly for the government and the elite, an increase in food prices. Yet, such increases had been constant over the past three years. This new price rise had not even been major. People had been thought to be used to those increases that were, anyway, expected. Furthermore, people had been repeatedly told that such inflation was not that important because the prices of so many other items, including wages, were not increasing, which showed, from the economy and monetary experts’ point of view that there was no real generalised inflation. Obviously, the monetary and economy gurus had forgotten to consider that seeing constant increase in food prices while wages were remaining stable would soon become a major problem in real life for real people. They had also forgotten that despite beliefs in the law of the market, the demand for some vital goods was inelastic, and that related shortage was not an option. Those would be translated in political terms rather than nicely remain within the sole economic field. Thus, the analytical tools set up by experts were congruent with the model and the norms, but so far away from reality that escalation and tension could not only rise unnoticed, but also be dismissed. When violence exploded, it took everyone by surprise. The strength of the norm is such that quickly an explanation fitting the model and avoiding possibly questioning it surfaces: the revolutions that took place could be explained by the need to embrace the democratic model, not by any other need.* Thus, from the normative point of view, Everstate, being a democracy and having been for quite a while, can learn no lessons from those other protests and their escalation, as they bear no resemblance whatsoever with what is happening in Everstate… or so the model says.

The situation into which Everstate and the normative world to which it belongs find themselves is blocked.

The people and the nation, composed actually of the same people, are twice discontented: first, as people, they have to pay for the elite, adjust to new less than pleasant working and living conditions; second, as ruler, they are seeing their power dwindling. Furthermore, fear and anxiety starts spreading as understanding either lacks or appears by bursts, soon to be muted while meaninglessness settles.

The situation is increasingly unsustainable and leads Everstate to its loss.

As the people and the nation start taking actions to express their discontent and see their goals met, their representatives begin considering changing the situation as continuing delivering security to citizens is the only way for them to still govern thus to remain in power.

But what can be done? And by whom?

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* The inspiration for this paragraph comes from the 2008 food riots, as well as from the winter and spring protests and rebellions that occurred in the Middle East and North Africa. For a very interesting article on Egypt suggesting very early a different interpretation, read, for example, Walter Armbrust: “A revolution against neoliberalism? If rebellion results in a retrenchment of neoliberalism, millions will feel cheated,” Al Jazeera English, 24 Feb 2011, This article first appeared on Jadaliyya.
garden of delights by Bosch

2012 EVT: Ideological Stakes in an Outdated Worldview (The Chronicles of Everstate)

Last week’s summaryIn 2012 EVT, Everstate (the ideal-type corresponding to our very real countries created to foresee the future of the modern nation-state) knows a rising dissatisfaction of its population. The increasing incapacity of the political authorities to deliver the security citizens seek increases the risks to the legitimacy of the whole system. The first two phenomena driving Everstatan political authorities’ incapacity to deliver security are a deepening budget deficit and an increasing need for liquidity, and a related creeping appropriation of resources while the strength of central public power weakens to the profit of various elite groups. The first of this group is the lenders’ nexus. The second type of elite groups is developing strongholds focused on those resources needed by Everstate and is exemplified by an extreme form of outsourcing, crystallized by the company Novstate.

(The reader can click on each picture to see a larger version in a new tab).

An outdated worlview leads to misunderstanding and disconnect

As discontent settles in Everstate, with its corollary of slowly rising tension, widening scope of grievances, and creeping feeling of injustice, while people continue, in vain, to seek security, Everstatans try to give meaning to their hardship, to understand what is happening to them and why. Meanwhile, Everstate’s governing bodies also look for ways to solve the various problems they face, which demand understanding the situation.

increasingly dysfunctional models (normative and socio-political) s3

Such quests mean that the current normative models held in Everstate, and, more broadly, in the liberal order to which Everstate belongs are increasingly dysfunctional and outdated. Indeed, should they be adapted, they would provide the right framework for both efficient and satisfactory actions and meaning. Whilst now, nothing makes sense anymore and the situation worsens almost on a daily basis. The economy is growing inefficient; the political authorities’ actions repeatedly fail to ensure security; discontent increases; the formal bureaucracy of the state apparatus is questioned at many level, including by the bureaucracy itself; the state infrastructure seems to be now unable to fulfill its functions ; appropriation of public resources and power grows. Those are signals or symptoms that something is amiss in the models followed.
But then, if this is the case why has a new model not already emerged? What is happening and why?

Actually, Everstate and its fellow countries have now to face one of the toughest challenges, if not the hardest, that may confront a society. They are facing the intrinsic difficulty that goes with the need to change the various models that frame their lives and related institutions.

Currently, there is only one major model of socio-political order that frames the organisation and behaviour of most countries in the world, including Everstate: the modern nation-state, focused on the sole improvement of citizens’ material well-being, in its liberal democratic version. Other variations, such as Communism, have failed as the Cold War showed, and lessons have been learned from others’ experiences. Nothing else is available. Thus, if there is a need for change, then something new must be created, which is very difficult indeed.

normative beliefs step 3First, ideological stakes are at work. The model of socio-political order is at once grounded in the past and in increasingly deeper systems of beliefs, themselves constructed historically.*

The first layer is a system of norms or beliefs, which can be seen as an ideology (a set of ideas), and quite akin to a religious system of beliefs, with all the sacred connotations and emotional attachment that may go with it. It will also contain the culture and mores of a specific society or country.  It evolves slowly with time. From this level are derived, for example, the legal concepts applied in each country.

This layer is then included in and interacting with normative beliefs that act at systemic level and are constructed out of interactions between different systems of beliefs and actors. Here are worked out norms that rule the lives of all actors in the world, such as, for example, the existence of states that are territorial, sovereign, independent, the importance of modernisation (being modern), a norm that was constructed and imposed upon the world starting from the end of the nineteenth century.**

Then, one finds the deepest level of norms that may be called paradigmatic and will contain those values that are most crucial, deepest and most fundamental.  For example, at this level may be located fundamental ideas about life and death, about the place of human beings in the universe, about the evolution of the universe, about fundamental ethics, etc.

Each layer of norms results form past evolution and past norms and has emerged out of collective efforts to face past historical situations. Each layer evolves at a different speed and the deeper it is, the more difficult to change it, the more threatening any potential change, and the more chattering the experience of changing it, at both collective and individual level. However, as the more superficial level – the socio-political model in its specific Everstatan guise – is embedded within the others and includes elements of them, then any change similarly involves dread.

Besides the human cognitive difficulty in revising models in front of new evidences***, ideological stakes to keep the model of socio-political order are thus strong considering the difficulties and consequences of altering it. Finally, as those models are normative, questioning them generates a fear to be cast away by the group, with all the internalised dread related to the impossibility to survive alone if one were excluded from the group. Thus, new evidences that could question models are either not seen or consciously and unconsciously dismissed. The likelihood to see this denial happening increases with the depth of the set of beliefs that is touched.

universities, knowledge institutionsThe knowledge and understanding institutions  act as guarantor of the ideological and normative system. As such, and according to the norms they uphold and represent, they also provide legitimacy to the governing bodies within society. They tend, at least initially and according to their specific normative position, to further forbid questions and to stop the emergence of new ideas and new models. Meanwhile, prompted by the rising disconnect between reality and the norms and the dysfunction and hardship it generates, a demand for another understanding, one that would be adapted to  the current reality, is voiced increasingly loudly, and lends strength to the rise of alternative purveyors of knowledge or to a major renewal within traditional ones.

Considering where Everstate stands historically and normatively, the knowledge and understanding institutions are mainly located within the academia, especially those departments where the latest models of socio-political order have been designed and upheld: economics departments and business schools, with the support of some of the most liberal and economically minded political science studies, as well as some divisions focusing more exclusively on technology and applied science.

Everstate has very good quality universities and those last 60 years they have provided increasingly recognised scientific knowledge and understanding, notably in the areas of main normative concern, such as economics, business and technology. They have educated generations of civil servants and also play the role of think tank. The analyses thus provided are widely recognised throughout the country as being explanatory and providing good advice to the ruling institutions, contributing thus to good governance and sanctifying the legitimacy of the state. Those universities are enmeshed in the global academic network and Everstate scholars travel extensively and can be heard in international workshop, while they contribute to global knowledge.

Interestingly in Everstate, the scientific institution cannot be seen as a single body anymore, that would, as a single actor, protect all norms. The organisation in disciplines that took place over the last centuries, and that played in the hands of those upholding a modernising and materialistic division of the world, giving power to a few, also contains within itself the seeds of a potential renewal. Indeed, as demand for a new adequate understanding increases, if norms must be revised, if some beliefs must be discarded, then the separation in disciplines means that the complete demise of  science is not necessary, only part of it will have to be revised or even discarded. This also means that in the near future battles are likely to be played within universities, in Everstate but also at global level.

Some churches, at least those which  adapted to the more materialistic part of modern life, can also help upholding norms. However, as Everstatans are relatively uninterested in religion, churches’ influence is so far marginal. One notices, nonetheless, a revival of some religions as citizens look for meaning and understanding, an understanding that mainstream beliefs do not bring anymore. It is thus likely that churches will play an increasingly important role in the years to come, notably if sciences cannot be renewed when needed.

International institutions, such as the IMF, the World Bank or the United Nations agencies, being born of the latest systemic norms and to sustain them, also contribute to enforce their universal, orthodox character. The latest born global institution is private, a powerful global association of companies that influences even heads of states. It upholds all the norms related to business. Efforts towards further or different regional and global governance  let expect the appearance of new actors at this level and of coming related normative battles. Any attempt to question or change the norms upheld by those organisations will be fiercely combated.

To complete the structure, we find professionals trained in those institutions and having thus acquired those skills that are so crucial to the functioning of this system created for past conditions also act as guardians of the norm. For example, business consultants or high level executives coming from the corporate world, notably in areas linked to finance, act as unquestioned and unquestionable gurus. Novstate, considering its hybrid character is particularly active in the normative field, from the specific funding of research programs within universities and think tanks to full use of its friend networks, notably within mainstream media.

To be continued

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* The organisation in four layers of norms and beliefs is only sketched here as a hypothesis. Each of them may be constructed as a complex system and more research would be valuable on their interactions, the way they are born and evolve.

** See notably, Bull, H., The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, (London: MacMillan,1979); Bull, H. and A.Watson, The Expansion of International Society, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984); Gong, G. W., The Standard of ‘Civilization’ in International Society, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), Lavoix, Helene, ‘Nationalism’ and ‘genocide’ : the construction of nation-ness, authority, and opposition – the case of Cambodia (1861-1979) – PhD Thesis – School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), 2005; for modernisation, see, among others  Giddens, Anthony, The Consequences of Modernity, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990).

*** Richard Heuer, Jr., Psychology of Intelligence AnalysisCenter for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 1999, defines cognitive biases as “mental errors caused by our simplified information processing strategies” stemming “from subconscious mental procedures for processing information. A cognitive bias is a mental error that is consistent and predictable.” Chapter 9. At work here among other biases would be the bias known as the “Persistence of impressions based on discredited evidence (difficulty to discard the initial causal model created). – also called Belief persistence after evidential discrediting” Anderson, Craig A., Mark R. Lepper, and Lee Ross. “Perseverance of Social Theories: The Role of Explanation in the Persistence of Discredited Information.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1980, Vol. 39, No.6, 1037-1049.

 

garden of delights by Bosch

2012 EVT: the Power of Novstate (The Chronicles of Everstate)

Last week’s summaryIn 2012 EVT, the deepening chronic budget deficit and the rising need for liquidity of Everstate (the ideal-type corresponding to our very real countries created to foresee the future of the modern nation-state) give an increasing power to the lenders elite group, allowing for new forms of appropriation of public power. Everstate sinks into a vicious circle.

(The reader can click on each picture to see a larger version in a new tab).

On the difficulty of cooperating with elite groups

The second phenomenon driving Everstatan political authorities’ incapacity to deliver security is a related creeping new appropriation of public resources and a weakening of the strength of central public power to the profit of various elite groups, the first of which was the lenders’ nexus. As many needs beyond liquidity remain, Everstate’s rulers (the modern state, the elected governing bodies and the nation) have no other choice than to turn to those who hold the resources needed, the elite. The need for cooperation with the elite is increased because the new pressures on Everstate mean that new staff is necessary for governance.

Meanwhile, the intensification of the various kinds of pressures implies a renewed need for manpower, which has been so far used by various elite groups (manpower includes here military, police and civilians part of the monopoly of violence of the state; staff includes all other civil servants). For example, the strengthening of cyber threats and the new cyber security field, as Everstate wants to preserve its monopoly of violence, implies that IT specialists and experts that were up until now mainly working for IT multinational groups are now also needed and recruited by the state. Similarly, all military techniques impact the need for manpower of the state. Meanwhile, the capability of the governing bodies to meet this need affects the performance and the size of the army.

Because elite groups seek to protect and increase their power, status and resources, this need for cooperation with the elite has led and is still leading to series of negotiations between Everstate’s government and Parliament on the one hand, and the elite on the other. The result of those negotiations impacts directly the army’s size and performance, the formal bureaucracy of the state, as well as, of course, the various ways to appropriate public power.

Since the 1990s EVT, Everstate has regularly lost to its elite, notably through an extreme form of the phenomenon known as outsourcing. Although, for a state to contract private firms and experts is not a new phenomenon, and is indeed necessary,a delicate balance must be maintained. In Everstate, outsourcing started taking a new dimension during the 1990s. Entire areas directly related to governance are now in the hands of private firms, notably the powerful Everstatan Company Novstate, specialised in strategy and technology consulting. Year after year, Novstate is awarded the same contracts, which end up being seen as almost proprietary, and wins new ones. Yet, a legal bid system to compete for and be awarded public markets exists and is respected. Even the direct security apparatus of Everstate is not anymore fully public, as a few private companies, Everstatan and international, play there an increasingly crucial role, from multi-involvement in the army, which is challenged by its reduced size, to various security functions such as logistics or the screening done at airports.

Everstate’s formal state bureaucracy is powerless to struggle against this new type of appropriation of public power unless it should be seen, as many Everstatans believe as “achieving an efficiency that can only be obtained with private management.”. Indeed, first, this bureaucracy was created and established to face bygone conditions. Then, as it became progressively impacted by outsourcing and as the overall power of the ruling bodies of Everstate weakened, it came to see outsourcing as the norm, even as the sign of a renovated and forward looking bureaucracy. This was even more the case as some of the nation’s representatives, politicians, and political appointees, on the one hand, some of the senior level civil servants, on the other, increasingly often joined those outsourcing companies. By entering this system, they legitimate this extreme form of outsourcing as they are still endowed with the status of their previous position when they make their choice. In this way, those entering the extreme outsourcing system keep their previous status as they continue participating in the country’s governance, while they gain new status, resources and privileges by joining the private sector. As such, they constitute a specific elite group.

Meanwhile, as the same people keep the same functions without allowing for the usual generational change to play its role, entire age classes of younger Everstatans, despite their high level of education are neither incorporated within the political authorities apparatus, nor even, fairly, within the outsourcing one. Volunteering and unpaid internships are promoted and almost the only way new highly educated youth can access to experience and work, even if this increasingly leads only to other internships. As a result, a crucial element of the upward social mobility in Everstate is stalled. In the meantime, the formal modern bureaucracy that had characterized Everstate for so long is nothing else than starting to disappear, even if it keeps its name and pretence.

As renewal and rejuvenation are blocked, outsourcing companies that are also meant to be in touch with new ideas and the evolution of society cannot anymore play this role. How could it be otherwise as Everstatan elite groups that have achieved power are certainly not ready to accept to see any of their privileges diminishing? Any idea that could imply, really or apparently, a loss of relevance would be relenting of the possibility to disappear as elite groups and this, they cannot accept. On the contrary, they are building ever-larger and stronger strongholds based on those resources that gave them, initially, their elite status. For example, Novstate does not only advise governance bodies but also supplies governance services, often in areas where there are also advisors, as it unites in its network of “friends’ companies” – a new business concept derived from social networking – small security firms, quasi armies, high tech start ups, biotech laboratories, etc.

Hence, any new negotiation between the governing bodies and the elite groups is a rush for more appropriation of public power and enlarges the elite groups’ strongholds.

Meanwhile, these struggles for the benefit of exclusive groups just add further pressures on the overall society.

Everstate is in a situation similar to what happened with liquidity, but with different elite groups, even if sometimes connections exist between groups notably through “friends networks.” If the ruler’s power continues to grow weaker than the elite’s power, then the elite will go on appropriating part of public power in a manner that is only hidden by the existing socio-political model and by the way it gets around the still existing norm on the separation between public and private. As a result, the new resources extracted will most likely remain insufficient, with consequences on the state’s infrastructure, on governance and on the army’s size and performance thus on the monopoly of violence of the ruler (the nation, the government and assemblies and the state that assists the former in their tasks), as well as on budget deficit.

Negotiating in such increasingly difficult conditions with elite groups  only leads to an appropriation of public property, to a further weakening of the central power and thus to an increased power of elite groups, in a vicious circle. Yet, no other option seems to be available.

As a result, the dissatisfaction of the population increases. The very legitimacy of Everstate’s system has already started suffering. If nothing changes the risks to legitimacy will only increase.

To be continued