Monday, December 07, 2020

The Great Reset

 No, for a change this isn't about my life, which despite reports has not reset just yet (and that's great). No, this is about the world after COVID-19. 

It sounds like a conspiracy theory, doesn't it? Many people think it is. Some believe the virus that causes COVID-19 was deliberately unleashed on the world to create just such an opportunity. Others don't take it that far, but certainly believe that global economic elites are not letting the crisis go to waste. Supposedly the goal is to outlaw private property, institute ubiquitous surveillance,  set up social credit accounts, send the military into cities to implant people with vaccine chips (mmm, crunchy), and of course either murder those who resist or sentence them to life in labour camps. I'm sure chemtrails and Bigfoot are in there somewhere, but I got a little winded running so fast away from all that paranoia. 

The Great Reset is a real thing, not a conspiracy, and it is a product of the World Economic Forum--a very exclusive group of industry and political leaders, economists, and celebrities that meets yearly in Davos, Switzerland. Such a group is bound to attract a certain haze of tinfoil: they're the very group behind Agenda 2030 and the New World Order (also real things that have been heavily distorted and conspiracized). Yet their latest proposal has many backers, including Justin Trudeau...and Joe Biden. (Trudeau has been to Davos twice, prompting howls of outrage from Conservatives. Stephen Harper attended Davos twice as well, prompting...crickets.) 


The WEF frames it as the instigation of something called "stakeholder capitalism". This is different form the "shareholder" capitalism we have now. It's supposedly a good deal more fair, and it incentivizes companies (God help me, the business-speak) to adopt a broader view of "profits". In plain English, it's supposed to make companies care about the environment, climate change, and the host of social ills pervading the planet of late. It's about building eco-friendly infrastructure, and managing the economy better such that there really can be equality of opportunity. 

There is no mention of global surveillance. There is no mention of the abolition of property rights. There is no mention of any of the crap conspiracists have been alleging, not that any of that makes a difference. That said, I'm not quite as nonchalant as the debunkers, who invariably note the World Economic Forum has no political power and thus even if it did want to force some radical reimagining of daily life on the rest of us, it can not compel a single country to do anything at all.

This is true in and of itself. However, one must remember these are business leaders. CEOs of megacorps. They can, and DO, bend governments to their will every day. And I can't help but notice none of the Davos set stands to sacrifice much of anything. In fact, a careful reading suggests they stand to gain. Big surprise. You can broaden your definition of profit all you long as you don't lose a single cent of the kind of profit that matters. 

I am very much against corporations as they exist today. I would like to see them go back to what they were in the early 1800s. Not many people know this, but in America circa 1820, if you wanted to sell stock in your venture, you were required to show how that venture would benefit the common good. A corporation was always a public entity, devoted to its single goal, often a piece of critical infrastructure, and once that goal had been achieved, the corporation was legally obligated to disband.

Ludicrous? Unbelievable? Behold. A lot has changed, hasn't it?

I have my own ideas for a Great Reset. Well, some of them aren't mine: they belong to John Michael Greer.

I'm sure you're sick of the name. I came into a tiny bit of extra money this month and bought two of his works: The Long Descent, which is a seminal work in its field, and the novel-cum-polemic entitled Retrotopia. I think it's important to pay him back for the hours and hours of thought he's gifted me with over the years. 

I had read a stripped down version of the latter already, serialized in his erstwhile blog The Archdruid Report. As a novel, it's poor: the characters don't even have one dimension. As food for thought, it's delicious. 

Retropia is a portrayal of a possible future. Set in a 2065 where the United States has disintegrated into a bunch of smaller nation-states (something I can very easily see happening), it is made clear it's an extrapolation of the world we have. The U.S. went through a bloody second Civil War, and the surviving nation-states had to rebuild pretty much everything from scratch, with varying degrees of non-success.  

One nation, the Lakeland Republic, went its own way, taking its cues not from the Secular Religion of Progress, but from history. 

In this country, which is comprised of most of what is currently called "The Rust Belt":

  •  Consumer banks are run just like public utilities, just as they were in America at one point.
  • Each county is free to determine what level of technology will be subsidized by ratepayers. This is called the tier system: tier five equates to about 1950-level tech (though again, you're free to buy and use whatever you want, if you're willing to pay its costs -- all of them, including some pretty high taxes if your tech is meant to replace human labour -- yourself). Tier 4 is about 1920, and so on, back to tier 1, which is roughly 1830 level. Why would you choose to live in 1830? Taxes are almost nonexistent, for one thing. For another, there is a whole lot of community support. Actually, that last is true in all the tiers. Unions are prominent and human work is valued; businesses understand that happy, well paid employees make happy consumers. 
  • Corporations are, as previously inferred, chartered for a set number of years and a set public purpose. If a company wants to sell stock, it becomes an LLP, a limited liability partnership. The limited partners are only on the hook to the level of their stock holdings; the managing partners' butts are on the line. If a company breaks the law, the CEO is held criminally responsible.
  • Robots are taxed depending on how many employees they displace. It's generally not in a company's financial interest to automate. In other words, employment is encouraged, not raw profit. Neat concept.
  • Education is very different. It's geared not to produce cogs in a machine, but to bring out the best in individual students. Most jobs do not require university-level degrees. There is a strong and comprehensive apprenticeship program for many professions, including most that in our world do require degrees. 
  • As much food and material as possible is sourced and manufactured locally, enforced by trade barriers and tariffs that every country recognized was in its best interest to enact. This again contradicts received wisdom in our culture, and yet it was complete normal everywhere before multinational corporations took over and funnelled all the profits upwards. 
  • Cars exist in the higher tiers, but fuel for them is pricey and tends towards biodiesel. Public transit by bus, trolley and train is commonplace and much-used. Most freight is shipped by rail or canal boat.
  • The military is defensive only, and it's not geared to beat an enemy force, only to bankrupt it. Modern warfare is hellaciously expensive, and history is riddled with examples of well-trained insurgents defeating vastly "superior" technology. 

There are many other differences, but what it all boils down to is a society that looks like 1950s (or 1920s, or 1860s) America, but with something akin to todays set of cultural sensibilities. In the Lakeland Republic, gay marriage is a thing, women are well represented at the highest levels of society, and humans are treated better than machines. It's a world I would live in without hesitation. I'm not sure how well I'd fit into the lower tiers, but tier 4 or 5 sounds freaking ideal. 

Greer's imagined future differs from that of the "Great Reset" mostly because it continues to venerate progress. Progress is all fine and good to a certain point -- I'm nobody's Luddite -- but after a while what's new isn't very much improved, and it becomes absurdly complex, which just layers more and more  hidden costs onto society as a whole. You do not want to tour the factories where your cellphones are manufactured. Nor do you really want to think about the environmental degradation they've wrought, for  which companies have managed to dodge responsibility. 

A world such has Greer imagines is very possible, but not at all plausible. Too many people are far too wedded to the illusion of perpetual progress and the delusion that we are somehow not a part of our environment. The illusion is going to come crashing down, slowly, over the next century or two; the delusion will probably persist long past the point it should be undeniable. The largest of the Easter Island statues was the final one built, with the last of the island's resources. Presumably their gods didn't appreciate their offering. If what you're doing isn't working, do it harder. It's astonishing how common and pervasive that piece of idiocy is. 

As for the World Economic Forum, I don't trust them as far as I can throw them. They are the austerity-pushers. Whenever a country gets in trouble, they swoop in with a conditional loan. The loan is conditional on the recipient country gutting social programs and cutting corporate taxes. Iceland told them to go to hell in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis (just like Greer has the Lakeland Republic do in RETROTOPIA)...and Iceland was the first country to recover from said crisis. 

The proponents of the Great Reset recognize our society is failing. Their solution is to pretend to care about society and the planet...only so far as it doesn't impinge on corporate profits. That's not a 'reset', at all. 

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