Tag Archives: Novstate

Garden_delights-4

2013 – 2018 EVT – Unforeseen Outrage: Privatising the Commons (Panglossy)

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. Alarmed by the rising difficulties and widespread discontent, the governing authorities decide to do something when new elections start, which begins the second scenario, Panglossy. The new Everstatan government, dependent upon past thinking, decides that a return to economic efficiency through growth is the key to the crisis. The first years, however, fail to bring back growth; the power of the lenders’ nexus and induced appropriation of public power continue unabated as the regulation of the international financial system does not progress. The initial efforts to fund growth through infrastructure investments show minimal and disappointing impacts. Worse still, the implementation of the ISSIGE flagship project on air quality by the consortium Novair triggers a nationwide wave of outrage as the struggle against air pollution is monetized.

(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/methodological note at the bottom of the post – see credits for the images in the references)

The monetization of the struggle against air pollution is perceived by Everstatans as nothing else than the privatization of air.  It generates such a strong reaction and mobilization because it creates a feeling of injustice, actually moral outrage, as it impacts and upsets all layers of beliefs of Everstate’s population (see Ideological Stakes in an Outdated Worldview).

by Tim Evanson

Most fundamentally, monetizing air is at once an appropriation of an essential element that has so far belonged by right to each living being by the simple fact of it being alive, and a desecration, both going against the deepest human beliefs as shown by symbolism, as air is an image often found in many cosmological, religious and philosophical myths, books and systems. Air is one of the four (or five if we include aether) elements of classical thought. It can be found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Bon (Tibetan philosophy), in the Japanese traditions, and more recently in medieval Western alchemy. If it is not present per se in the Chinese elements, breathing, notably in Qi Gong, is seen as fundamental. In the Bible, the “breath of life” is God’s power to create and give life to man (Genesis 2:7). Air and breath go thus beyond one religion to reach something that can be seen as archetypal, following Jung. It is the very relation to the Mystery of life (Mystery meaning “a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand”), life’s origin, beauty, and continuation or termination, that is being upset by Novstate-Air.

At the normative level, more superficial although also crucial, the monetization of air is one more attempt at privatizing the commons, at transforming the public good into public goods that can then be transferred to the private, sold and bought in the name of any ideology, as recently denounced again, among others by Reich. This process is also known as commodification, for example the commodification of water or the commodification of nature. Indeed, in the real world, the latest failure of the 2012 Rio+20 summit (Montbiot, June 2012) is not lost on the private sector and, among other impacts, open the door even more widely to an all-out commodification, as underlined by a recent article in MarketWatch:

“So while it is a sad time for the planet from a policy perspective, the private sector has just been handed a golden opportunity.” Kostigen, 29 June 2012

The privatisation of the commons started in England, as early as the 12th and 13th century, then accelerated with the rise of capitalism – and modernization – through the centuries-long struggle over the right to use common land to graze livestock, which ended up with generalised enclosure and the disappearance of the commons. History shows that privatization leads to protests and revolts (e.g. Hardin 1968, Moore, 1966).

“In the case of the enclosure of the common lands, which was going on from about 1600 to 1850, the land-grabbers did not even have the excuse of being foreign conquerors; they were quite frankly taking the heritage of their own countrymen, upon no sort of pretext except that they had the power to do so.” Orwell, 1944

If, as underlined by Hardin, we must also be conscious of “The Tragedy of the Commons,” with air pollution as a perfect example, and one that he singles out, commodification and monetization of the air, paid only by consumers, may not be the best solution, even if this solution has worked beforehand for other commons. Indeed, the ideological battle that is actually taking place questions now this approach, and could very well emphasize that as, modernity, it is part of an outdated order.

One could also argue that Everstatans felt directly threatened too, as air, actually oxygen, is one of the most basic, fundamental elements for living beings on earth since the Great Oxidation Event, because cellular respiration depends on it. Being deprived of air means death within a few minutes for the strongest. However, historical facts and research, including the direst political phenomenon that is genocide, have shown that direct threat to life alone does not lead to rebellion or even to escalation, whilst feeling of injustice and moral outrage, in specific conditions, do.*

The Everstatan government and elite are surprised by the moral outrage that spreads because of their position within the ideological battle that is taking place. Moreover, during the last decades of economic, materialistic, technocratic, politician supremacy, they have forgotten the most fundamental political dynamics, or, if they know and understand, they do not care because they believe that those who will have to deal with the most violent side of political processes are not them but future generations. The analogy they used to create Novstate-Air and the monetization of air, the commodification of water, also plays into their inability to foresee Everstatans’ reaction. Privatizing water has so far not created such a moral outrage. Thus why should air be any different? Does the acquiescence to water’s monetization show that the air revolt will be short-lived and soon forgotten if Novstate-Air, backed up by the government, remains firm?

To be continued…

Research and methodological note

This post (and the next one) and the way the scenario narrative unfolds suggest that what the elite does, more precisely the way public power is appropriated matters. Here, however detailed our model (see Creating the model part 1 & 2) may appear, especially when it is described in number of variables used (compare with the 2 to 8/10 variables that are most often suggested as ideal for foresight), the means and processes of appropriation are not detailed.

The question is: should we translate those processes in terms of our model and add them to it, to the price of complicating the model even further, or should we, as I have done here, add further understanding only through the narrative, keeping the model as guidance?

The answer depends upon the degree of automation of the system and of the composition of the foresight team. The more automated the foresight system (let’s imagine it is computer run and can generate automated foresight scenarios through text-generation) , the more important to continuously expand the model, when some processes appear to have been underdeveloped as here. This begs the question of detecting such underdevelopments. The more diverse, knowledgeable and well-educated the team of foresight analysts, the more the model can be kept as such, being used as guidance.

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References

* Among others, Sambanis, Nicholas, “Using Case Studies to Expand the Theory of Civil War,” (World Bank, CPR Working Papers, Social Development Department Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network, Paper No. 5, May 2003); James C. Scott and Benedict J. Tria Kerkviliet, Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance in South-East Asia, ed.  (London: Frank Cass & Co.; 1986); Scott, James C., Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, (New haven: Yale University Press, 1990) and Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985); Moore, Barrington, Injustice: Social bases of Obedience and Revolt, (London: Macmillan, 1978); Jeff Goodwin, James M. Jasper, Francesca Polletta, Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).

Hardin, Garrett, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science 13 December 1968: Vol. 162 no. 3859 pp. 1243-1248 DOI: 10.1126/science.162.3859.124.

Kostigen, Thomas, “Rio+20 was a win for social investors,” MarketWatch, June 29, 2012.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Mystery.

Monbiot, George, “After Rio, we know. Governments have given up on the planet: The post-summit pledge was an admission of defeat against consumer capitalism. But we can still salvage the natural world,” Guardian.co.uk, Monday 25 June 2012.

Moore, Barrington, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World, (Beacon Press, 1993, 1966).

Orwell, George, “As I Please” column, Tribune, 18 August 1944. in Alex Peak blog.

Reich, Robert, “The Decline of Public Good,” 4, January 2012.

Images

Clerestory window – North Nave – National Cathedral – DC by Tim Evanson [CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons: The center pane depicts God (upper portion) breathing the breath of life into man (bottom portion). It is the breath of God which leads to creative inspiration (center portion).
A group of dissenters in Norfolk during Robert Kett’s rebellion of 1549 in Samuel Wale engraving of Robert Kett beneath the oak of reformation – 1785, via Wikimedia Commons.
Garden_delights-1 3 part 2 2014

2018 – 2023 EVT – A Polity in Shambles (Mamominarch)

Post updated 10 May 2012. 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 implement the Mamominarch programme of drastic reduction of state’s spending over five years through devolution, privatisation and outsourcing. By 2018 EVT, besides a generalised rising insecurity for most Everstatans, the now fragile state cannot efficiently manage the complex catastrophes that start hitting Everstate in May. Further pressures and perceptions of the way they are answered lead to radicalisation and polarisation along three lines: local independence with direct membership to the Regional Unionwith now a battle over Trueland – renewal of a strong central Everstate, and, finally, continuing support to the Mamominarch system.

(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, including assessed global impact of scenario on development).

As the Renewers ask for the resignation of Everstate’s government and the end of the Mamominarch system, the government is almost ready to give in. It is, indeed, confronted to an intractable situation, without hardly any means of action and thus completely overwhelmed. However, the traditional elite groups cannot accept to see the end of the Mamominarch system, which would also mean the end of their power. As their coercive power is, actually, now truly in the hands of Novstate, they thus start a series of discussions with Novstate’s CEO and its board of directors. The process is eased by the fact that many of the most powerful people in Everstate are also part of Novstate’s board of directors. Their objective of the elite is to convince Novstate to repress as harshly as necessary the Movement for the Renewal of Everstate. The various movements for independence are seen as less of a threat as they are not united and could probably be handled through some measures of autonomy. The international situation seems to be as favourable as possible to endeavour any kind of represssion as the international society is busy with other pressing matters.

The Renewers, strong of the support the IT world grants them, and wary of the old elite groups’ responses, manage to enter the communication’s and IT systems of Novstate and of the old classical parties. They almost instantaneously start spreading records of the discussions held between Novstate and the elite, underlying the violence of the elite groups, which does not fit well with the still pregnant norms of peace, democracy and respect of human rights. Novstate becomes worried to lose its international standing and thus its lucrative contracts. Furthermore, Novstate reflects that it will still sell the same contracts and services to the Renewers, if those are coming to power, as they will have no other choice. Novstate, thus, abandons the old elite groups that brought it to power, and changes its board of directors.

In the meantime, taking advantage of the situation, both domestic and international, the leaders of the Movement for the Independence of Trueland declare independence unilaterally, if a referendum to be organised soon confirms this wish. A few cities follow immediately. The Renewers are taken by surprise and can only bow to the future results of the referendum. Only the Movement for the Independence of the Whole Trueland – the  Continental South-East – not only strongly protests, but also refuses to acknowledge what it considers as treachery and spoliation. Knowing that it cannot count on Novstate, it ends all its contracts with the company and its friends businesses, and decides to start creating its own army and police forces. In the meantime, groups of hastily created militia carry small incursions in the New Trueland territory, burning a house here, stealing weapons from understaffed small police stations there, and declaring each time that they fight for the Whole Trueland and against traitors.

The international society cannot do anything, as it is involved elsewhere. Moreover, it does not want to handle the problem, as its members meet problems that are very similar to those faced by Everstate, although under different guises and at different stages according to the path each country has chosen. The Regional Union, so dependent upon the power of its members on the one hand, having seen its own resources dwindle with the repeated crises, cannot either afford to get involved. It merely acknowledges the decisions taken and hopes for the best.

A low-level intensity conflict settles in the South-East of Everstate, while, elsewhere, the situation of ordinary citizens has not improved, on the contrary. All energies and power had to be used to start reconfiguring the political system, condition sine qua non for a stabilizing situation, as the old system and its offspring, Mamominarch, repeatedly showed their inability to ensure security.

Thus ends the Mamominarch system, while the potential new model of socio-political order that should follow is still only potentially emerging and, hence, unclear. This new system will not only have to tackle the problems that existed in 2012 EVT, but also cope with the aftermath of Mamominarch. The heightened tension, and the uncertainty generated by the political upheaval first, and, second, the novelty, have frightened most economic agents, notably foreigners, and economy is at its worst. Everstate has also to face the loss of part of its territory, related income and resources, while it has to accommodate those Western refugees that were still in the South-East when the latest political turmoil exploded and were thus expelled, as well as all those who did not want to live under the new Independences. In summary, security needs have multiplied and now must be tackled anew.

Compared with what could have happened had other decisions been taken in 2012 EVT, is the aftermath of Mamominarch a too heavy liability that will delay, if not obliterate, any chance to create and implement a new functioning system, or an opportunity, as the old has already been partly discarded?

To start answering this question, let us now examine the second scenario that could have taken place in 2012 EVT, Panglossy.

To be continued….

Further Research

It would be particularly interesting to construct many similar models for other real and ideal-type countries, to map their interactions and assess impacts for the International Society and for any type of Regional Union. The evolution of each country would also influence the international and systemic level. This would allow us anticipating much better various scenarios including variables related to international pressures on the country analysed (here Everstate) and consequences, thus identifying better the cone of plausibility, or assessing other futures on issues of interest.

For example, if we use the Chronicles of Everstate and Mamominarch to evaluate impacts in terms of International Development, then we can deduce what follows. If, in the current and foreseeable global conditions, donour countries embark on a “programme of drastic reduction of state’s spending over five years,” then, in the medium term,

  • Those states will fragilise;
  • A large part of their population will become increasingly vulnerable, with rising malnutrition and generalised adverse impacts on the Human Development Indices, swelling progressively the mass of the global poor.
  • Those countries’ aid and cooperation programmes and related contributions will dwindle, if not disappear, according to cases.
  • In turn, assuming the current system is not changed, all international organisations will be impacted and see a drastic lowering of their budget. More particularly, it will be impossible for affected donour countries to respect pledges; IDA money risks to plummet, as member states contributions will be lowered.
  • All MDGs will consequently be adversely affected.
Garden_delights-1 3 part 2 2014

2018 – 2023 EVT – Escalation (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 implement the Mamominarch programme of drastic reduction of state’s spending. By 2018 EVT, the result is involution, with a rising insecurity for most Everstatans. The now fragile state cannot efficiently manage the complex catastrophes that start hitting Everstate in May. As a result, tension rises relatively uniformly while grievances increase heterogeneously. Inability to answer this multiform situation leads to a new political mobilisation, besides the classical old parties, proponents of Mamominarch: movements for local independence and direct membership in the Regional Union, including a powerful Movement for the Independence of the Trueland on the one hand, and a Movement for the Renewal of Everstate on the other.

(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).

News of the terrorist attack on Novcybio International abroad, which had first gone viral among Renewers, lead to a sudden awareness that Everstate could be impacted. What if some of the last genetically modified seeds received by Novcybio Everstate for testing that have already been planted include the dangerous gene engineered by the terrorists? How can Everstatans know? What if, one day, terrorists were to conduct such an attack directly in Everstate?

In August, as soon as Novcybio International had become aware of the threat, its security service had immediately acted, while its PR team started a reassuring campaign, explaining that everything was under control, that the police force had recovered the stolen deadly pathogens and that all potentially dangerous seeds had been identified, and most of them traced and recalled. Now, only a few of them are still missing, but Novcybio International headquarters’ security is working hand in hand with its branches and the authorities of the various countries potentially impacted. Unfortunately, Everstate is on the list of those countries. Soon, Everstate’s central government, the local authorities of the Continental South-East and Novcybio Everstate issue a joint statement asserting that the incriminated seeds have been found, that none of them has thus been planted and that they have now been destroyed.

However, investigations carried out by Renewers point out that one month elapsed between the terrorist attack on Novcybio International and the Everstatan joint statement. The Movement thus accuses the involved actors of complacency, which threatens the security of all Everstatans. This, added to the fresh memories all Everstatans have of the way the complex catastrophes of the Spring were mishandled, implies that few Everstatans fully believe the official joint-statement. People ask for evidence and for the resignation of all political actors involved. Rumours start spreading. This is an impact of the degraded legitimacy presiding over Everstate. The local authorities, seeing their authority imperilled and their power threatened, start distancing themselves from the central authorities, accusing them of inefficiency and saying they did not provide all necessary help. They turn to the Regional Union to ask for further test and control of Novcybio Everstate.

They also try to join the Movement for the Independence of the Trueland, arguing that Trueland covers the whole South-East, and not solely its maritime façade. However, the Truelanders’ leaders reject the idea, as they see the Novcybio affair and the continuing rumors as one more reason to distance themselves from the rest of the country, for the security of real Truelanders. The local authorities of the Continental South-East, as their position is directly threatened on the one hand, as they feel rejected and cornered on the other, then become even more virulent than other proponents of the various local movements for independence, while also starting a campaign explaining that the Trueland cannot be divided between a maritime and continental part.

By StMH (Own work), GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One night Novcybio Everstate is burnt to the ground with the test crops planted on its land. Immediately, the Regional Union and various countries appeal to Everstate’s central government to put its house in order, while Novcybio International asks for compensation. When central officers are sent to the site of the arson to investigate, they are denied entry by angry citizens. As they ask for police support, local authorities refuse it, arguing that they will deal with the problem, which does not concern in any way central authorities.

Everstate’s central political authorities should answer to this direct denial of their power by imposing their will, sending the army if need be. However, considering the highly tense situation, they hesitate, afraid of the consequences. Furthermore, Novstate, which provides both some of the police forces of the Continental South-East and many of the Everstatan armed forces, does not favour seeing its men fighting each other.

The new episode of the global financial crisis that starts in October lessens the international political pressure put on Everstate to remedy to its internal disorder. Other countries, as well as the Regional Union, are now focused on other more important matters. For Everstate, the new general break on liquidity that ensues, as the country is still as dependent as ever on international borrowing, means that it must face new difficulties to pay its remaining central civilian and military staff. Local authorities are also impacted, however in various ways according to the situation of each city and region. Everstate does not participate in the international discussions trying to deal with the global financial disorder, except through Novstate, which is present along other powerful private sector’s representatives.

Italian sphere of influence in Turkey according to the agreements of 1917 in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne by Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When a new conflict starts in the Middle East, Everstate, which used to be an important player in this region, is not even invited to the summits that take place to try bringing back peace. The Renewers then judge that the country is falling apart, has lost a tremendous amount of crucial international influence and is falling prey to parochial problems that not only do not address the initial real challenges and pressures that endanger the lives of all Everstatans, but, on the contrary, aggravate them. The Renewers thus ask for a resignation of Everstate’s government and for the end of the Mamominarch system.

To be continued

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.

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?

——–
* 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.

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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

———-

* 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.

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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