Posted 8 февраля 2023,, 09:25

Published 8 февраля 2023,, 09:25

Modified 8 февраля 2023,, 11:42

Updated 8 февраля 2023,, 11:42

The Crisis of Greatness: why states have stopped coping with global problems

The Crisis of Greatness: why states have stopped coping with global problems

8 февраля 2023, 09:25
Even the leading countries of the world are at a dead end, finding themselves in a more or less serious situation that requires tough and non-trivial solutions.

Some analysts explain the catastrophic consequences of various kinds of misfortunes in the modern world, be it military conflicts, epidemics, earthquakes or floods, by the total weakening of state power. Economist and popular blogger Vasily Topolev, for example, is sure that the amazing helplessness of the state has become the main surprise of the last three years.

Even the most powerful states don't know what to do

Take the Russian Federation, which for many years tried to cosplay the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union simultaneously with "only two allies - the army and the navy," but in fact it turned out ... well, what happened.


But here is Turkey, which also for many years portrayed at the same time almost a new Ottoman Empire, designed to unite the lands that were once under the rule of the Brilliant Porte, and at the same time - the center of the entire Turkic world, stretching all the way to the Altai. But an earthquake occurs - and the houses built by Erdogan's friends are collapsing by the hundreds, no one disassembles the rubble for days, and a fire rages for days in the port of Iskenderun, which there is really no one to extinguish.

Okay, but here's the United States. An epidemic begins. It would seem that the fight against epidemics is one of the basic, most ancient functions of the state, along with the conduct of wars and the punishment of murderers, robbers and thieves. And how does the state react to the epidemic? Different states are ready to declare war on each other almost because of masks. The governor of the main state - New York - makes an ingenious decision to settle the sick in nursing homes next to the elderly, who are dying like flies from the new virus. Meanwhile, the president is seriously discussing on Twitter whether sick people should eat pills to remove worms from horses. The chief virologist of the country contradicts himself in every speech. It's a mess, chaos, the economy is collapsing, inflation is starting, and hundreds of thousands of people are dying at the same time.

But here is China. Insanely cruel quarantines are being introduced here in response to the epidemic for three years. And when it becomes clear that it is impossible to live indefinitely with quarantines, they are simply... quietly cancel without doing anything to prepare for cancellation. The Chinese, who have been brainwashed for three years about a monstrously deadly virus, because of which workers have to sleep in factories, and the sick have to brew apartment doors, run to hospitals in panic at the first sneeze. Young people without obesity, diabetes, lung and heart diseases, that is, people for whom the probability of dying from the current strain of corona tends to zero, instead of sitting at home and drinking hot tea, are crammed into the emergency departments like herrings in a barrel, and sit there for days (!). Doctors do not have there is no time for those who really need help, and the departments themselves turn into biological laboratories, where sneezing people manage to infect each other with everything in the world.

Or England. The economic crisis has come to England. Energy prices have risen sharply - this is one time. Money from Russian oligarchs and Qatari sheikhs stopped flowing into the country in a wide river - that's two. Inflation has forced central banks around the world to raise rates, because of this, the prices of financial assets have fallen, and London, sharing with New York the first place in the list of world financial centers, is feverish - that's three. The severance of trade ties with Europe after leaving the European Union is four.

There is nothing unique about the crisis. The first classic economic crisis happened in England two centuries ago, and since then the country has experienced a dozen of these crises (see Kindleberger's book). In general, we know what to do to combat the crisis. And then the new premier Liz Truss comes and offers an ingenious plan: let's save costs, but sharply reduce taxes, because business will immediately be attracted to our country and soon we will become the Singapore of Europe! In response to the ingenious plan, Treasury bond prices are peaking, falling at a pace that until recently seemed impossible for British government securities.

Back in the first half of the XX century, everything was exactly the opposite

Then the giant potential of the state became a surprise.

Before the First World War, it was believed that the war could last no longer than a year - then the warring countries would finally run out of money. Even in 1916, Keynes himself wrote panicked reports that Britain had resources left for only a few months of warfare. The French generals before the war believed that the main military operations would be conducted by the regular peacetime army (600 thousand), and the mobilized ones would be used for secondary tasks. As a result, the war went on for four years and three months, and France and Germany mobilized almost a fifth of their population - almost seven and more than thirteen million, respectively.

In World War II, the USSR and Germany were able to increase the output of military products at a furious pace - despite the fact that the Union lost the lion's share of industrial potential in the first months of the war, and Germany, cut off from foreign markets, was mercilessly bombed. Finally, the nuclear and space races that followed after the war finally convinced everyone of the almost unlimited possibilities of States.

And now the impression from reading the news is that the states have generally stopped coping with at least some unexpected tasks and challenges. Of course, each specific case can be explained, you can tell why you can't mix everything into one pile and all that. But I'm talking about the impression: helplessness, inability to make plans and follow them, chaos and mess.

Previously, they fought just for greatness, and now for its return

Two explanations were offered at once.


The first one is this. All the leaders listed in the post above act inside the narrative, for them the scenery is more important than the content of the play. Erdogan is reviving the Ottoman Empire along with the Seljuk Empire. Putin seems to dream of building a kind of new Soviet Union, only with superprivileges for the elite. Liz Truss tried to copy Thatcher not only in rhetoric, but even in clothes and gestures. Trump is playing on the feelings of American old people who dream of returning to the good old America, ideally in the semi-mythical times of the early Eisenhower, when the power of the United States seemed limitless, the future was cloudless, and even Europeans envied the prosperity of the American family, and no Chinese took away our work. What Xi Jinping wants is more difficult to say, but it seems that he wants a country of perfect bureaucracy, as from ancient treatises - such a giant Singapore, in which there is even more state and even less freedom.

But Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler, Stalin, Roosevelt, Hirohito and others did not want anything like that. They weren't going to do anything great again. They were fighting for dominance-in the world, or at least in a significant part of it. The scenery was important to the extent that it could increase the actual efficiency of the system.

There is no forest visible behind the trees

The second explanation is directly opposite to the first, and it comes from - yes, yes, don't twist your face - from Nasim Taleb.

He coined the twisted term "transparent Orwellization".

The abundance of data, information signals and all sorts of big data make many shortcomings of systems transparent, forcing you not to see the systems themselves and how they work.

This is what is called "not seeing the forest behind the trees." Data is collected everywhere and from everywhere, thousands and thousands of bloggers occupy the place of several national newspapers, and economists, sociologists, political scientists, historians are like uncut dogs, and they, these dogs, publish research and build theories that all contradict one another.

However, two seemingly contradictory hypotheses can be combined. When there is so much information that the overall picture ceases to be visible behind its abundance, it becomes simply impossible to try to improve the overall efficiency of the system. And then a simple and understandable narrative takes the place of efficiency - to return everything back. "Necessary" information is selected and driven into this narrative, "unnecessary" is eliminated.