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Friday, September 30, 2011

The British Empire: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?



A Steampunk Vision of the New World Order


It is, in the end, rather odd that the significant English-speaking nations are not united, especially given their proven talent for creating federations. You will laugh, of course. The idea of a united Anglosphere died with the United Empire movement in the 1920s, didn't it? Instead, we all broke up into independent states.

I imagine, though, the preference for independence may have had something to do with always having the good fortune to have one of our number at our back as the world's leading nation. This so, there was little need to unite, and some advantage to complete self-government.

Suppose, though, that China does get close to surpassing the US in economic or military power. What then? Might things then look a little different? Just as Europe, after centuries of fierce fighting, saw the wisdom of unity over being superceded by Russia and America?

Speaking of which, of course, there is also the awkward fact that Britain has already committed itself to a different union, the EU. But then, isn't the EU starting to look a little frayed? Some are actuallty speaking of it coming apart over the current sovereign debt crisis. Even if it does not, if the rest of the English-speaking world began to coalesce, could Britain stand to be left on the sidelines?

So why not a grand federation, with an Imperial Parliament, after all? It might have been impractical in the 1920s. Improved transportation and communicatrions make it much more doable now. As with the EU, members might retain most sovereignty, but speak with one voice on trade, in defense, and in foreign affairs.

I theorize four qualifications for membership in this federation, with prospective members needing to meet three of the four.

First, English should be either the majority language or the de facto lingua franca. This for the sake of social cohesion. It more or less automatically implies some shared culture: a shared legal tradition, some shared history.

Second, the nation should be a functioning democracy with respect for basic human rights. We want to avoid a dictator's club, for all the reasons the United Nations is ineffective. Moreover, given this requirement, the union could serve as a guarantee of democracy and human rights for all member citizens.

Third, the nation should be an island or peninsula. This is important for defensibility, with the assumption that the union would be primarily a sea power. Otherwise, a military union might get itself into commitments it could not afford to keep.

I would add a fourth qualification, personally: that a majority of the citizens of any member state should be declared monotheists. I think this is important as a guarantee of shared values, without which the federation as a whole would lack direction, principle, or cohesion, and is the practical bare minimum in this regard.

Who would be in the federation? Britain, of course: if it could be teased out of the EU. Ireland too, on the same condition. Just as the EU protects it from undue influence from the UK, so would this alternative. Australia and New Zealand plainly qualify. The USA fits, but for not being a peninsula. Canada, with or without Quebec; an assortment of Caribbean islands, from the Bahamas to Trinidad. It looks to me as though the Philippines could get in, and ought to be welcome. Singapore seems to qualify as well. India looks like a marginal possibility.

A pretty formidable nation, if it were fully coordinated. One on which the sun might never set.

I hold out for Detroit as capital. Defensible, on the border with Canada, and lots of cheap real estate.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How to Fix the Economy


Okay, we're all doomed. This current crisis over sovereign debt is not caused by the 2008 crash, and it is not just a cyclical downturn. The offal is hitting the ventilating system. Because of declining birth rates and growing government, we have rached the point of unsustainability, just as forecast by Ibn Khaldun, the founder of social science, four centuries ago. Government has outgrown the ability of the economy to support it. We cannot just keep borrowing money—there is a limit to the number of lenders and the amount of capital that can be soaked up, and it is being taken from more productive uses. We cannot just boost taxes—doing so will simply depress the economy further. The only option is to boost the non-government economy by cutting government.

Here's how.

  1. Outlaw strikes in the public sector.
  2. Set public sector pay rates automatically as a set percentage below the average rate for comparable pay in the private sector.
  3. Rescind current pension rates in the public sector in the same way.

This will fix the specific problem that has most directly gotten us into the current situation. Strikes in the public sector are simply a blank cheque written out to public employees. If the current incumbents in the public sector do not like this, no problem. There is a backlog of unemployed. Fire them all and hire anew.

But there is a lot more we can do. The cost of education, for example, has been spiralling out of control, while the results obtained, by most measures, have been holding steady or declining. Here's how to fix it by actually spending less money:

  1. Go to a full voucher system to introduce competition to the market.
  2. Eliminate any legal requirement for teacher certification. With the market able to decide, there is no need, and this works only as a restraint on trade.
  3. Remove any kind of government subsidy for the social sciences or the teaching of the social sciences at any level. They have had a couple of hundred years to show verifiable results, and have failed. They are conceptually in violation of human rights. Time to stop spending public money on them.

Health care is even more an area of spiralling costs. Here are a few simple ways to save:

  1. Allow pharmacists to dispense without prescription. This automatically eliminates a huge number of unnecessary doctor visits, and is more in accord with basic human rights. Pharmacists are knowledgeable enough to advise in many cases.
  2. Introduce a nominal user fee or deductible to discourage frivolous doctor visits.
  3. Introduce competition by allowing private, for-profit care providers.
  4. De-fund abortion.

Deregulation is the one obvious way to boost economic activity without spending more government money. A few simple ideas:

  1. Remove all limitations on employers hiring whomever they choose. This is a human right in any case, the right of free association, ends unjust discrimination, would boost efficiency throughout the economy, and would do away with a large bureaucratic structure.
  2. Remove all laws regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Again, this eliminates a vast bureaucracy and a vast extra expense for most enterprises. Sexual harassment laws in their application are plainly sexually biased, and so produce systematic injustice. And they accomplish nothing of significance: if one is sexually harassed, one has the obvious remedy of finding a different job.
  3. Go to a flat tax. Simplifying the tax code ends efficiency-destroying distortions in the free market and eliminates the need for enterprises to hire expensive expertise in order to play the system. It makes the future predictable, and so makes investing more secure. It would also eliminate another huge government bureaucracy.
  4. Remove all restrictions on foreign investment. Investment is good.


It is perhaps too late to fix the demographic problem in the near term; but we need to give more support to the family in any case in order to allow it to replace government as the essential social structure.

One simple measure: strictly limit the liability for alimony or child support in case of divorce. This will remove an actual disincentive for wealthy people to marry and have children, and an actual incentive for some to divorce.