Thoughts filed in: Economics


How successful was the 20th century communism experiment?

During the course of the 20th century, virtually every nation in the world was affected, either directly or indirectly, by the "red tide" of communism. Beginning with the Russian revolution in 1917, and ostensibly ending with the close of the Cold War in 1991 (but actually not having any clear end, because several communist regimes remain on the scene to this day), communism was and is the single biggest political and economic phenomenon of modern times.

Communism – or, to be more precise, Marxism – made sweeping promises of a rosy utopian world society: all people are equal; from each according to his ability, to each according to his need; the end of the bourgeoisie, the rise of the proletariat; and the end of poverty. In reality, the nature of the communist societies that emerged during the 20th century was far from this grandiose vision.

Communism obviously was not successful in terms of the most obvious measure: namely, its own longevity. The world's first and its longest-lived communist regime, the Soviet Union, well and truly collapsed. The world's most populous country, the People's Republic of China, is stronger than ever, but effectively remains communist in name only (as does its southern neighbour, Vietnam).

However, this article does not seek to measure communism's success based on the survival rate of particular governments; nor does it seek to analyse (in any great detail) why particular regimes failed (and there's no shortage of other articles that do analyse just that). More important than whether the regimes themselves prospered or met their demise, is their legacy and their long-term impact on the societies that they presided over. So, how successful was the communism experiment, in actually improving the economic, political, and cultural conditions of the populations that experienced it?


The Jobless Games

There is growing concern worldwide about the rise of automation, and about the looming mass unemployment that will logically result from it. In particular, the phenomenon of driverless cars – which will otherwise be one of the coolest and the most beneficial technologies of our time – is virtually guaranteed to relegate to the dustbin of history the "paid human driver", a vocation currently pursued by over 10 million people in the US alone.

Them robots are gonna take our jobs!

Them robots are gonna take our jobs!

Image source: Day of the Robot.

Most discussion of late seems to treat this encroaching joblessness entirely as an economic issue. Families without incomes, spiralling wealth inequality, broken taxation mechanisms. And, consequently, the solutions being proposed are mainly economic ones. For example, a Universal Basic Income to help everyone make ends meet. However, in my opinion, those economic issues are actually relatively easy to address, and as a matter of sheer necessity we will sort them out sooner or later, via a UBI or via whatever else fits the bill.

The more pertinent issue is actually a social and a psychological one. Namely: how will people keep themselves occupied in such a world? How will people nourish their ambitions, feel that they have a purpose in life, and feel that they make a valuable contribution to society? How will we prevent the malaise of despair, depression, and crime from engulfing those who lack gainful enterprise? To borrow the colourful analogy that others have penned: assuming that there's food on the table either way, how do we head towards a Star Trek rather than a Mad Max future?


Money: the ongoing evolution

In this article, I'm going to solve all the monetary problems of the modern world.

Oh, you think that's funny? I'm being serious.

Alright, then. I'm going to try and solve them. Money is a concept, a product and a system that's been undergoing constant refinement since the dawn of civilisation; and, as the world's current financial woes are testament to, it's clear that we still haven't gotten it quite right. That's because getting financial systems right is hard. If it were easy, we'd have done it already.

I'm going to start with some background, discussing the basics such as: what is money, and where does it come from? What is credit? What's the history of money, and of credit? How do central banks operate? How do modern currencies attain value? And then I'm going to move on to the fun stuff: what can we do to improve the system? What's the next step in the ongoing evolution of money and finance?

Disclaimer: I am not an economist or a banker; I have no formal education in economics or finance; and I have no work experience in these fields. I'm just a regular bloke, who's been thinking about these big issues, and reading up on a lot of material, and who would like to share his understandings and his conclusions with the world.


How close is the European Union to being a federation?

There has been considerable debate over the past decade or so, regarding the EU and federalism. Whether the EU is already a federation. Whether the EU is getting closer to being a federation. Whether the EU has the intention of becoming a federation. Just what the heck it means, anyway, to be a federation.

This article is my quick take, regarding the current status of the federal-ness of the EU. Just a simple layman's opinion, on what is of course quite a complex question. Perhaps not an expert analysis; but, hopefully, a simpler and more concise run-down than experts elsewhere have provided.


Argentina: ¿que onda?

A few days ago, Argentina decided to nationalise YPF, which is the largest oil company operating in the country. It's doing this by expropriating almost all of the YPF shares currently owned by Spanish firm Repsol. The move has resulted in Spain — and with it, the entire European Union — condemning Argentina, and threatening to relatiate with trade sanctions.

This is the latest in a long series of decisions that Argentina has made throughout its modern history, all of which have displayed: hot-headed nationalist sentiment; an arrogant and apathetic attitude towards other nations; and utter disregard for diplomatic and economic consequences. As with previous decisions, it's also likely that this one will ultimately cause Argentina more harm than good.

I think it's time to ask: Argentina, why do you keep shooting yourself in the foot? Argentina, are you too stubborn, are you too proud, or are you just plain stupid? Argentina, ¿que onda?


Developing home + developed income = paradise

Modern economics is infinitely bizarre. We all know it. I'm not here to prove it; I'm just here to provide one more example of it — and the example is as follows. You're an educated, middle-class professional: you've lived in a developed country your whole life; and now you've moved to a developing country. Your work is 99% carried out online, and your clients live all over the world. So you move to this less-affluent country, and you continue to work for your customers in the First World. Suddenly, your home is a dirt-cheap developing nation, and your income is in the way of formidable developed-nation currency. The result? Well, I'm no economist — so correct me if I'm wrong — but it would seem that the result must be a paradise existence, where you can live like a king and still spend next to nothing! Could this be the next big thing in employment, that we should expect to see happening over the next few years?


Economics and doomed jobs

There are a great many people in this world — particularly in third-world countries — that spend their entire lives performing jobs that are dangerous, labour-intensive, unhealthy, and altogether better-suited for machines. I've often heard the argument that "it's better that they do what they do, than that they have no job at all". After visiting the hellish mines of Potosí in Bolivia, I disagree with this argument more strongly than ever. I'm now 100% convinced that it's better for jobs as atrocious as this to disappear from the face of the Earth; and that it's better for those affected to become unemployed and to face economic hardship in the short-term, while eventually finding newer and better jobs; than to continue in their doomed and unpleasant occupations forever.