25 June 2009

The Economic Wars We Face

I don't write much about war, because strangely enough it doesn't interest me. I also don't know that much about the mechanics of war. (Arguably I don't know that much about most of what I write, but I do try to be accurate and I do try to write about higher politics rather than tittle-tattle, which I am sure cannot be said for some bloggers out there - Guido and Dale are you listening?) I sometimes descend as all bloggers do, into under-researched rant and get bogged down in detail but I do try my best within my time constraints and energy, I promise you that. (You might have guessed this is going to be a reflective post)

Anyway, back on topic, what I do know about war is that essentially it is about the battle for resources - in other words it stems from economics. This is one reason why the EU (and institutions like it - the UN perhaps?) is so important, if we put aside the undemocratic nature of the appointed Commission (appointed at the insistence of nation states), it is essentially a body to sort economic disputes and stop the outbreak of trade wars and military hostilities within Europe - particurlarly involving Germany. In that sense it has been a great success and as the environment and international conflict becomes more difficult we will need the EU and other bodies more and more.

When we look at the environmental problems we face in the future, a lot of time is spent talking about climate change. The Right will rubbish it and the left will talk serious about emissions, energy production and consumption but do very little. I believe climate change is real (not least because I remember as a teenager being knee deep in snow - I don't need an expert to tell me it doesn't snow anymore and that this has happened in just 25 years), but in a way I think we are missing the real environmental problems ahead - that is enviromental degradation caused by over-use of resources rather than a hotter climate. We waste huge amounts of resources - we are literally using up the planet and food stocks from fish to crops are falling. Couple this with the drop in underground fresh water and we can see we are heading for big problems. The 20th century was about wars over oil and energy supplies, the 21st century wars will be about water and food - a far more frightening prospect.

It will start in the developing world with mass starvation - billions will die. The developed world will not be immune to deaths - but generally prices for food and water will soar but remain affordable as we cut back on all our luxury goods. None of this is going to be pretty. But my prediction is that the world population has to come down to about 1 billion from the 9 billion predicted for 2020. We either move to the Left and manage this decline sensibly by redistributing resources or we take the Right-wing view point and scramble for everything we can get. Sadly it seems in times of crisis the Right do quite well. The Left-wing perspective requires long-term thinking, the Right-wing perspective just requires the bigger guns. We will see what happens. I am not optimistic.


  1. "military hostilities within Europe - particurlarly involving Germany. In that sense it has been a great success"

    Do you honestly think that Germany would have risen for another war in Europe without the EU? It was a nifty way to allow Germany to pay reparations without being slapped in the face with them but beyond that?

    "I believe climate change is real"

    I don't think anyone, (bar the truely odd), disbelieve in climate change. The arguments are to the extent, how much of a problem that is and particularly the causes. I do love how the computer models couldn't cope with the financial system, (a valid claim from the left), but when it comes to modeling the far more complex climate they are treated as gospel.

    As for the environmental problems you suggest being the real issues of contention, I largely agree but with a bit more hope for progress. Much of the worlds poor still use pre-industrial farming methods. Agricultural industrialisation will bring great benefits as it goes truly worldwide. That will hopefully help bring about the only decisive factor for reducing population, making people richer.

  2. Germans up for war? I don't know, it sounds fanciful now the Germans seem pretty docile but who knows.

    I am not saying the EU is the sole reason that Europe has remained fairly war-free - but it has certainly contributed to a co-operative spirit amongst the nations. The EU needs to be stronger not weaker in my opinion and of course it needs to be democratic. I think it would be if nations invested power in the EU parliament rather than leave it to the Commission which is appointed by goverments. The Council of Ministers from the nation states has too much power.

  3. I think the EU is beyond repair. Each bodged attempt to fix things just makes it worse and I have no interest in being part of an United States of Europe, (the logical conclusion of "ever closer union").

    Bring it down and for those things that are sensibly done at a pan European level, bring in a new structure. I know there are risks with this approach but frankly the current set up is so bad that few alternatives are worse.

  4. "Ever closer union" has been a dead duck for many years, at least since the first enlargements. Hardly anyone involved has seriously advocated a United States of Europe since the time of Jean Monnet. The EU is certainly in a fix, but abolishing it is no kind of an answer. Recommended reading: John Palmer at http://www.politika.lv/en/topics/world_politics/16097/ .

    As for climate change, it doesn't make any difference what we think about computer modelling, the facts and figures are there to see in the sea levels that are already demonstrably rising steadily. The question is, what are we going to do about that in time to stop the waters closing in over London (for instance).