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No Road Map For Avoiding The Future

Politics / Social Issues Jul 25, 2014 - 11:07 AM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


The Future Beckons – The Future Threatens
Talk about “road maps”, for example the decades-long roadmap for solving the Israel-Palestine conflict reveals several things. These roadmaps lead to nowhere and have lost all credibility. However, one important hidden role of these roadmaps is likely their proven ability to do nothing, waste time, and delay – but not avoid - the future.

Therefore and inevitably we get pent-up frustrated change. When it happens we get a “break in series” and one analogy is as follows. Stack up enough agents of change and throw them down on the floor like a flask of mercury – but dont be surprised that the change which happens is inchoate. This means unpredictable and uncertain, not fully developed, and often a (bad) surprise.

Changing from a known future to the exact opposite – which is an unknown non-future - is part and parcel of a general retreat from rationality in our western society, and increasingly worldwide. This is future avoidance but not future prevention.

Already more than 20 years ago, US historian Francis Fukuyama enjoyed massive book sales and huge media exposure for his theory that “history is dead”. Later he denied it or in theocratic terms “recanted”, but the elite and media support he got was a telltale sign that western fear of the future is real. If history is dead, there is No Future.

No Future was a key one-liner of Britain's Margaret Thatcher, in and from the early 1980s when she fervently promoted the New Economy, which itself is a product and agent of unknowing, as I define this threat to civilization in  my coming book on the subject. Previous metrics and parameters of the economy – like national accounts and balanced budgets – were decreed to be bunk, like History. They were“unimportant and unrelated” to the supposed economic revolution that was under way.

Any “harmful economic numbers” could henceforth be unknown, not just denied. They were rearview data due to a long cold winter, in the US, or a warm winter, in Europe..They were exceptional or they were statistical blips.  They had no sense. With reality out of the way, the heroic task of talking up equities could roll on.

Give Us More Time
Ten years after Mrs Thatcher quivered with passion announcing there is No Future, Fukuyama published his theory which gave a major role to the New Economy as an agent in his claimed process of “historicide” or the death of history. His theory was a useful intellectual prop for the already-waning “economic revolution” started by politicians such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Obviously if we have no past and no future and inhabit the Eternal Present, there will be plenty of time for us to work miracles, and remove any need for historical justification of the New Economy.

Defenders and promoters of “new liberalism” or neoliberalism claimed they were operating a strict “economic agenda”. This was completely false. They most certainly included a social, moral and ideological agenda, at the same time. From the start there was a “metaphysical domain” involving complicated things like ontology and epistemology.

It was impossible to explain and communicate this “moral agenda” using mass politics and mass communication because they are unlike philosophy and science. Mass politics and communication are never subjected to a clear separation of the metaphysical and ideological domain, called “values”, from the empirical fact-based domain, called “knowledge”.

Of course these two domains exist and co-exist but wilfully confusing the two epitomizes the mental salad of neoliberalism, its mostly undefined “New Economy” and almost totally undefined “New Society”.

Over time, and 30 years is more than enough to prove a defective “great new trick for the economy” does not work, the overlay or superstructure of rigged markets “creating value” interacts with the underlay of rigged social and metaphysical paradigms. The split personality of western society and its culture has deepened and widened for at least the past 30 years. We have mass schizophrenia.

Stretching the Logic
Until well into the 18th century in Europe social philosophy, moral values and the pursuit of meaning were treated as part and parcel of what were later called the empirical sciences. They were lumped together as “natural philosophy”. Fact-based science and the central concerns of metaphysics including ontology and cosmology, were recognized as different and separate. Moral problems, for example, could at best only be partly-resolved by fact-based empirical science.

As we know, western society simultaneously purports to be “knowledge based”, while its political systems and social philosophy are claimed to be “value based”. This a dangerous mix-and-mingle when a defective ideology takes hold. In fact today, the two are blenderized, meat mincer style. The meat-type patty (with a few percent minced worm meat in the case of McDonalds burgers!) that comes down the tube is dangerous, or even toxic. Certainly for society.

The “value based goals”, such as creating wealth mutated to pumping up equity indexes, as a surrogate, and replaced the main or exclusive “knowledge based” parameter of economic performance, measured by economic data. This data was declared by 1980s neolibs to be unimportant and unrelated, or even invalid for the post-1980s new economic revolution! 

Facts were no longer wanted on board – unless they were Good Facts. Politely called “quantitative negligence” or “numerical incontinence” this already shows the very shaky logic underpinning the “revolution”. It also shows why simple mass credulity, called “confidence”, is paramount in a society operating a Ponzi scheme rather than an economy, with a political system mutating towards a sort of theocracy. Or a police state. Or more likely treading the dangerous path towards a non-society....

As counted from a 1980s start, the evident economic, political, moral, ideological and other weaknesses of the putative “new economic revolution” became very clear. Therefore the future became a logical early victim, collateral or not, of this unknowing process.

There is no future. There is only an eternal present (in which equity value grow every day) but this new and strange logic, as Fukuyama himself later admitted, is firstly absurd and secondly cannot be infinitely stretched. Long-term macroeconomic changes reflected by globalization, the economic growth of non-western former colonies of the west, the drift to multipolarity as these former colonies and “former second rank nations” produced and acquired modern weapons, including nuclear, and built up their armed forces, the massive culture changes occurring inside the western democracies sapping popular or mass confidence in the elites - all of this eroded the shaky edifice of No Future.

The Sorceror's Apprentice
By 2008 and the supposed “Lehman Bros moment” - in fact a global financial crisis - we mutated from the End of History to No Economic Future.

The problem is the 1980s political and ideological fantasy called No Future, following the post-2008 crisis, is now the reality of No Economic Future. Perhaps only in political self-defence, we can surmise that well before the turn of the century western elites and their approved intellectuals seconded by the mainstream media, had pushed hard on “the panic button” to save their skins and had elevated unknowing to the highest level. The results were a (bad) surprise.

Whatever the upstream causes, we have to return to Goethe's parable of 1797, of the Sorceror's Apprentice, to understand what happened. Goethe's parable draws on myths as ancient as those of Pandora's Box and the Sisyphus Complex and like its ancient forbears warns us “Don't mess around with what you don't know”.

In other words bad surprises tend to be recurrent – not good surprises. Originally perhaps only an attempt to avoid or delay the future and “protect the pyramid of power”, the process multiplied itself and ran away out of control.

Accelerated by the later Internet revolution, the process became ever more like the Goethe fable. The urgency, for the western elites of the 1980s and 1990s was to smother and douse the fires of troubling empirical knowledge proving that the New Economy was a flop from the moment it started, and a disaster for society. The waning geopolitical power and military dominance of the “mature western democracies” were other unwelcome reminders that History was on the march. Showpiece set battles like the 1991 Liberation of Kuwait – with more than 100 000 Iraqi civilian deaths – are now almost certainly a thing of the past. There will be resistance and it will be bloody.

Internet at first seemed a key ally in the elite self-defence action. It saturated the public with round-the-clock idiocy as well as news, views and opinions. But then it ran amok like Goethe's parable, through “high gain positive feedback”. The unknowing process was self-amplifying and ran out of control.

Intellectual Chaos
Even in the 1980s, the deliberate act of unknowing in western society had already created intellectual chaos, as well as a moral vacuum. This was described by American writer Charles Johnson in his 1986 short-story collection 'The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Tales and Conjurations' where he used the image of a bag of broken glass or mercury deliberately thrown down, causing a chaotic mix in which liberationist as well as reactionary and random violence strands multiply simultaneously in a context of social confusion, and out of control.

Non-local entanglement in quantum physics means change unexpectedly shifting from one domain (eg. subatomic) to large-scale molecular on a  simultaneous basis. This happens not just rapidly, measured in nanoseconds, but simultaneously. Exactly why this breakout happens, is not yet known.

Today we have exactly that at the geopolitical level. Simultaneous breakout tells us what has happened in Syria-Iraq as the Islamic insurrection spills across formal-only national boundaries separating nations which basically no longer exist. Similar breakouts operate elsewhere, and are obviously very hard to predict and hard to manage.

We therefore have a Sorceror's Apprentice fable for our times. What started out with the early 1980s elite quest to steamroll a new economy and ramrod a new pseudo-society into place - where belief supplants knowledge and credulity replaces conviction – broke out to spheres as widespread as morals, international relations and geopolitical change. Like that fable, it also underlines that the likely best description of this general unknowing process is chaos-type.

One tentative conclusion we could make is that society, in what we can call a random walk manner, is trying to find its way back from the brink. After three decades of “deconstructing society”, there is now a countervailing but either probably or certainly chaotic set of opposite processes under way.

How this nexus resolves itself and with what level of political violence is not for us to say – we can only surmize and theorize on the likely outcome.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2014 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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