Cyreenik Says

March 2018 issues

The Venezuela Mystery: Who is benefiting?

In Venezuela, who is benefiting?

The Bolivarian Revolution, started by Hugo Chavez in 1999 and continued to this day by his successor Nicolás Maduro, has been running Venezuela's economy into the ground. This 22 Mar 18 WSJ article, Venezuela’s Maduro, Clinging to Power, Uses Hunger as an Election Weapon The country is an economic basket case, but the Socialist rulers keep winning votes by selectively controlling the food supply by Ryan Dube, Kejal Vyas and Anatoly Kurmanaev, reports that inflation is now running at 13000% and the economy is falling apart so fast it will soon be half the size it was five years ago.

Ouch! Which brings up this mystery I am talking about: if things are going so badly, who is benefiting? Who likes this condition so much that they want it to continue, as they have wanted for the last two decades?

The article describes "the poor" as supporting this because the government gives them food -- the rulers have trashed the money and the economy but the poor are getting food, so for them what's to complain about? Another group that may be happy with the current state of affairs are the social justice warrior types who are happy to see the current rulers "sticking it to The Man", such as the capitalists and their cronies who run the oil industry.

These groups may be happy, but it is only part of the answer. Another part, the mystery, is who are the people, the rulers, that are running this situation and getting more satisfaction doing so than they would get if the economy were thriving in a conventional fashion?

If the situation in Venezuela is going to be changed for the better, as in going back to a more normal form of economic growth, these are the people, these serious benefactors, who need to be identified by journalists and their activities described.

Which to choose: democracy or autocracy?

News this month is that China and Russia have both chosen to go with long term leaders rather than periodic switching to new ones. In addition, China has formally abandoned term limits.

Not too surprising, but why has this happened? Why have they chosen autocracy over democracy?

Autocracy is supported by tradition and instinctive thinking. It is the classic form of government used by Agricultural Age societies -- a leader gets into power and stays there until he dies, and then he is often replaced by a son. This pattern is upset only when the leader proves to be so incompetent that an ambitious rival can overthrow him.

One of the social revolutions of the American Revolution of the 1770's was to replace this system with routinely elected representatives, and those representatives self imposed term limits of typically around ten years.

Why did this system evolve in the North America of the 1770's?

This was a time of rapid technological and social change in North America. Mastering the intricacies of using steam power, building and manning factories, and taming an unconquered wilderness were some of the big new challenges facing those coming to colonize North America. In this environment experimenting with lots of fresh ideas helped coping. This is why democracy and term limits were such a good fit.

This 2010's trend away from democracy and term limits back to autocracy would seem to indicate that experimenting with fresh ideas is not seen as so valuable in Russian and Chinese government circles these days, or in the circles of those supporting these governments.

This 26 Apr 18 WSJ article, China’s Challenge to Democracy The democratic cause is on the defensive today, and China’s pragmatic authoritarianism now offers a serious rival model, based on economic progress and national dignity by David Runciman, discusses this issue. It points out how China's autocracy has changed over the last forty years and become much more viable.

From the article, "Yet today, barely two decades into the 21st century, the contest has been renewed. It is no longer a clash of ideologies, as during the Cold War. Western democracy is now confronted by a form of authoritarianism that is far more pragmatic than its communist predecessors. A new generation of autocrats, most notably in China, have sought to learn the lessons of the 20th century just like everyone else. They too are in the business of trying to offer results plus respect. It is the familiar package, only now it comes in a nondemocratic form."

Forecasting how driverless cars will be owned and used

Driverless cars are going to be bringing big changes to car use and ownership. This is something I've been forecasting for about five years now. The big change I've been forecasting is Uber-style use of driverless cars, as in, call one up on a personal communication system, get in, ride to the destination, get out, and both the passenger and the car go their separate ways. These Uber-style cars will be just part of a wider mix of cyber owned and run vehicles which will be moving people and cargo from place to place all over the world.

The newer twist that I have been forecasting for about six months now is that cars will divide into two categories: the above mentioned Uber-style, and those that become objects of personal expression. This latter sort will be privately owned, as 2010's cars are, and will be real fancy compared to 2010's cars. They will be objects of personal expression, much as horses, art and violins are in the 2010's.

These car styles will be quite different. The Uber-style will be utilitarian in design and functional in looks. The personally owned cars will be fancy looking and equipped with lots of options. It will be quite easy to pick out one from the other as they drive down the street. Harley-Davidson motorcycles are an example of personal expression vehicles that have been with us for decades.

This is my current forecast for the future of cars. I am not alone in this forecasting. This 5 Mar 18 Economist article, Why driverless cars will mostly be shared, not owned, talks about how car ownership will change as driverless cars become common.

From the article, "WHEN will you be able to buy a driverless car that will work anywhere? This commonly asked question contains three assumptions: that autonomous vehicles (AVs) will resemble cars; that people will buy them; and that they will be capable of working on all roads in all conditions. All three of those assumptions may be wrong."



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