The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
Sources Filter?
 TeasersRussian Reaction Blog
/
California

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS

… It will quickly turn into a Third World dump and beg to be let back into the Trumpenreich.

Seriously, this is the dumbest idea ever.

I mean, go ahead. It’s pretty much a lost cause at this point, the ghost of America’s Christmas future a few more decades down the line. Only half its population are Whites or from high-performing Asian groups (closer to 30% amongst children).

They won’t even have the Facebooks and Twitters to keep them afloat.

Silicon Valley derives much of its power from having unrestricted access to the vast US internal market. But what possible reasons could the tech giants they have for preferring a market of 40 million to one of 280 million?

  • Is it California’s low taxes and pro-business regulations?
  • Its high levels of educational attainment and human capital?
  • Its high credit ratings and fiscal strength?
  • Their strong, genuine commitment to their SJW ideals coupled with California’s wonderful political climate so replete with Black Blocs, Bob Avakian cultists, and “they” Latino nationalists?

Silicon Valley will flee for Boston or Austin faster than you can say “exit.”

And then the Hollywood elites will forget their high principles and decamp to some new nest of degeneracy.

There will be what you could call a restoration of the historical balance. California will drift into Mexico’s sphere of influence, as it was prior to 1847.

Okay, I was exaggerating; it won’t literally be a Third World dump, though GDP per capita will probably fall to something more in line with its human capital (especially once the smart fraction brains drain away), maybe a Greek-like $25,000 / capita instead of the current $60,000. Still, it won’t be a bad place to live in by any major metric, by global standards. I agree with Fred Reed that many Americans tend to have a rather unrealistic view of Mexico, and California will be transitional between the two.

Still, I do think many Californians instinctively understand that their living standards will plummet after Calexit, even those who are very triggered by Trump, so they’ll be doing a lot of “checking out” but very little actual “leaving.”

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: California, Secession 
🔊 Listen RSS

From the rhetoric, you’d think the People’s Republic of Berkeley was a sickle short of Communism.

In reality however the university itself is fairly standard, probably no more radical than any other in the US. I sat in on a political economy class today (full of PE majors who are in general quite leftist) and the professor took a poll. 39% (!) said the banksters deserved a bailout. A stunning 82% would have bailed them out (though granted, not doing so is more of a libertarian – or far left – position than anything else). However, only 12% said that the banksters should have been given bonuses. The feeling against banker bonuses however is so near universal that I don’t think this is much out of the ordinary. (On this point, I have to disagree – the banksters DO deserve their bonuses. If politicians are going to bail you out, with no popular opposition to boot, it is not only justifiable but a moral obligation to take any bonuses you are offered and give the finger to those suckers!).

Also, in response to another question about the nature of the “state of nature”, 7% said man is inherently good and cooperative; 47% the former, but that society corrupts him; and 47% said he was selfish and competitive. Berkeley students are therefore surprisingly realistic. Even a cursory reading of non-politicized anthropology will reveal that – with a few exceptions – primitive societies are extremely violent, competitive, and hierarchical.

And those respondents were for the most part social science people. Engineers and techies at Cal are considerably further to the right. More general freshman opinion polls show that Berkeley students aren’t all that much more radical than the average American population (e.g. opinion on the death penalty is split 50/50). Actually just considering that Berkeley is associated with the likes of John Yoo (the pro-torture lawyer) or Arthur Jensen (the HBD’er) should prove it is no seething, uniformly liberal hotbed. A year ago, the College Republicans organized a “Diversity Bake Sale” in which discounts were given to Hispanics, blacks, and women to protest affirmative action; a liberal attempt to get the university to ban it failed.

The impression I think arises from Cal’s close association with the City of Berkeley which actually is full of politically far left citizens.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
🔊 Listen RSS

My post on Indian IQ (max potential is low to mid 90′s) spawned an interesting analysis by commentator rec1man. It is not very well organized but he does have a ton of useful information that deserves to be highlighted. It’s reprinted in full below interspersed with occasional commentary by myself:

Caste Analysis

75% of the Indian population gets affirmative action quota in India and is genetically low IQ.
25% of the Indian population is upper caste and higher IQ and does not get quota.
Most of the upper caste population has Y-DNA = R1A = Russian / Slavic.

AK: The Slavic max. potential IQ appears to be around 100.

In North India there are 3 levels of quota, each quota level corresponding to a different IQ level:
In North India Upper caste > Other Backward Caste > Dalit – Untouchable – Tribal.

In South India, there are 4 levels of quota:
Brahmin > Dravidian Backward Caste > Dravidian Most Backward caste > Dalit-Untouchable-Tribal.

Upper castes and Brahmins dont get quota. In North India, upper castes and Brahmins are genetically the same of Aryan origin. In South India, the only Aryan origin caste is Brahmin.
The others are Dravidian.

5% of the Indian population is of Oriental race and they dont have a high IQ.

Next vegetarianism = Most upper castes, the higher IQ segment is vegetarian.
The lower castes are non-vegetarian and have lower IQ.

AK: This is interesting. I wonder to what extent (if any) Brahmans can improve their intelligence even further by switching to a meat-based diet? I know that among high-caste Indians adherence to vegetarianism is far from universal. I lived with two of them one. That said, being “non-vegetarian” may not mean that much for most Indians, as most are too poor to regularly afford meat anyway.

Jains are a 100% vegetarian merchant caste and they have beaten the Jews in the diamond trade, even in Tel Aviv.

The world chess champion Vish Anand comes from a vegetarian brahmin family.

AK: As I said, Brahmans appear to be the Jews of India. The most famous Soviet/Russian chess champion, Kasparov, is an Armenian Jew. Actually more than half of the Soviet chess champions were Jews. The most prominent exception was Anatoly Karpov.

In India, a non-vegetarian person is likely a low IQ affirmative action caste
You can check a persons caste rank by simply asking whether they are vegetarian, which implies higher caste

In the Indian Manhattan project team of 18, of which 15 were brahmin and 3 merchants.

AK: Thanks for confirming. :) “(I cannot find the source but I recall reading that almost all members of India’s version of the Manhattan Project were composed of Brahmins).”

Each Indian diaspora is different and has a different caste blend and a different IQ
The lowest level IQ diaspora is the agricultural laborer , 50% Shudra, 50% untouchable
This forms about 95% of the Indian population in South Africa, Fiji, Malaysia, Trinidad, Guyana etc

The Patels and Sikhs are Upper-Shudra / Vaishya and this is 80% of the diaspora in UK
In UK, they outperform whites academically and per Lynn , in the 2nd generation, measured and IQ of 97.

In the USA, 60% of the Indian diaspora is upper caste, and 40% from middle-level castes like Patels and Sikhs.

AK: The mean IQ of Indian immigrants to the US is 112.

Qatar School Rankings

Qatar School Ranking, top 30 schools out of 153

Mean PISA = 500 = IQ 100
SD PISA = 100 = IQ 15

Science, Math, Reading scores

For comparison Shanghai = 575, 600, 566 = 112 IQ

1. Al-Khor Indian Stream, ( GEMS ) = 566, 592, 604 = 113 IQ = Indian Hindu technicians and Engineers of NGL
2. The International School of Choueifat ( SABIS ) = 554, 562, 565 = 109 IQ = Lebanese Xtian
3. Doha College Private ( British Embassy ) = 572, 553, 563 = 109 IQ = UK
4. DPS Modern Indian School ( Delhi Public School Society ) = 552, 538, 563 = 107 IQ = Indian Hindu
5. Qatar Academy ( US educators ) = 540, 547, 562 = 107 IQ
6. American School of Doha, ( US Embassy ) = 553, 546, 559 = 108 IQ
7. Park House English ( UK ) = 568, 528, 552 = 107 IQ
8. Birla Public School = 586, 539, 549 = 108 IQ = Indian Hindu
9. Qatar Intl Private School ( UK ) = 539, 529, 540 = 105 IQ
10. Al Bayan Girls = 481, 464, 516 = Muslim Arab = 98 IQ
11. Cambridge Intl Private School = 531, 484, 514 = 101 IQ
12. Doha Modern Indian School ( Jai Gopal Jindal ) = 554, 525, 514 = 104 IQ = Indian Hindu
13. Al-Khor British Stream ( GEMS ) = 507, 505, 503 = 102 IQ
14. Dukhan English School ( UK ) = 529, 501, 500 = 102 IQ
15. Debakey High School for Health ( USA ) = 492, 467, 493 = 98 IQ
16. Qatar Canadian School = 451, 456, 491 = 95 IQ
17. MES Indian School ( Muslim Education Society ) = 484, 469, 490 = 97 IQ = Indian Muslim
18. Ideal Indian School Girls, ( Muslim ) = 481, 450, 489 = 96 IQ = Indian Muslim
19. Sudanese School = 463, 411, 488 = 93 IQ , remarkably high for black-arab mullatos
20. Al Arqam = 454, 451, 484 = 95 IQ
21. The Gulf English = 468, 448, 482 = 95 IQ
22. Philipine School = 466, 461, 480 = 96 IQ
23. Jordanian School = 446, 422, 472 = 92 IQ
24. Tunisian School = 459, 436, 463 = 93 IQ
25. Lebanese School ( Muslim ) = 444, 501, 463 = 96 IQ
26. Middle East Intl = 484, 452, 461 = 95 IQ
27. Al Andalus = 446, 397, 454 = 90 IQ
28. Ideal Indian School, boys ( Muslim ) = 462, 465, 453 = 94 IQ = Indian Muslim
29. Egyptian School = 463, 435, 434 = 92 IQ
30. American Academy = 462, 434, 434 = 92 IQ

Qatar, 153 school average = 379, 368, 372 = 81 IQ

School -1 and School-13 are both identical, run by GEMS, and solely for children of
employees of NGL

School-1 has Hindu students and School-13 has white students from UK
and the Hindu students are ahead of white students by nearly 1 SD

Indian muslims significantly lag behind Indian Hindus

California performance

In the California 2012 National Merit list, there were 184 Indian winners of which

Brahmin = 112
North Indian Aryan Upper castes = 40
Dravidian Upper castes = 25
Patels ( middle ranking ) = 3
Sikhs ( middle ranking ) = 4

In the US diaspora, Sikhs and Patels despite being 40% of the diaspora, win just 4%.
In the UK, these same Patels and Sikhs are 80% of the Indian diaspora and easily outperform whites academically.

The above data, also shows that sampling has to be very accurate to reflect the various caste IQs.

Future Indian IQ = 93

Calculating Average Indian IQ from PISA

TN raw math PISA score = 351
TN implied IQ = 100 – 1.5 x 15 = 78

HP raw math score = 338
HP implied IQ = 100 – 1.62 x 15 = 76

Indian Avg IQ based on raw PISA = 77

AK: Why only Math, and not also Reading and Science? (including them would bring down average IQ to 75.4).

Next step is to remove the bias caused by the PISA sample having 75% bilingual kids (Tibetan kids facing Hindi PISA exam and Telegu kids facing Tamil PISA exam).

TN mono-lingual = 378
Implied IQ = 500 – 1.22 x 15 = 82

HP mono-lingual = 401
Implied IQ = 500 – 15 = 85

AK: Fair enough – though this adjustment is needed not just in India.

Next there is a 40 point difference between scores for ‘Village’ and scores for ‘Large city’. In HP and TN, the village category is over-represented by a factor of 4. Even worse, in HP, City and Large City are entirely removed from the survey sample.

So adding an urban correction of 20 (half the village-large city difference).

TN semi-urbanised mono-lingual = 378 + 20 = 398
Implied IQ = 85

HP semi-urbanised mono-lingual = 401 + 20 = 421
Implied IQ = 100 – 0.79 x 15 = 88

Current Indian IQ = 86

Next we look to the future as malnutrition is removed. The only Indian kids who go to govt school is for the mid-day meal; if they are not starving they go to private school.

Private schools score 45 more than govt schools and that’s the future as poverty reduces.

AK: Not necessarily as it is richer (on average more cognitively endowed) Indians who are today sending their children to private schools. Disagree with this adjustment.

HP – future – semi-urbanised- mono-lingual = 401 + 20 + 45 = 466

Implied IQ = 95

TN – future – semi-urbanised – mono-lingual = 378 + 20 + 45 = 443

Implied IQ = 91

Future Indian IQ = 93

Given the huge bias in sampling towards over-representing the lower end IQ, by the poverty pimp NGOs, I am certain that none of the CBSE or Cambridge schools
that serve the top 15% are included in the survey.

And they have an entirely different IQ profile and cause an IQ bulge at the top end.

AK: A plausible estimate, with the IQ bulge at the top bringing up average Indian IQ by another point or two. But crucial flaw as far as I can see is the +45 point (+7 IQ points) adjustment, which assumes that the cognitive potential of private and public schoolchildren is essentially equal. That is very unlikely.

Addendum

15% of the Indian population is Muslim, who are also highly inbred, and brainwashed in islamic madrasas, which lowers IQ potential. Another 15% is untouchable and another 10% is tribal.

These 3 groups as a whole have an IQ ceiling , even with nutrition of no more than 85, and these are 40% of the population.

The middle 40%, the Patels and Sikhs, based on UK performance, have an IQ ceiling of about 95.

However, Indians do not have unwed mothers, and Patels and Sikhs are thrifty, have the benefits of extended family and caste networks and save a lot and are a lot richer than whites in UK and Canada and USA.Ori

Averaging the lower 80%, gives an IQ ceiling of 90.

Anything beyond 90 IQ average ceiling, is a bonus and that’s due to the top 20%.

Most PISA type surveys are going to catch the bottom 80%.

The top 20% is extremely urbanised and goes to very good quality private schools. The Orissa TIMMS survey, showed that the 95th percentile was comparable to 95th percentile of Norway and Orissa is a very backward state.

On a system wide level, India is going to behave like 90 IQ ceiling.

On cutting level achievements, the top 20% is extremely world competitive.

Jing’s Counter-argument (8/18)

Orissa’s TIMSS 95% percentile compares favourably to Norway’s because Orissa’s is one of India’s higher scoring states and Norway is oddly enough Europe’s lowest by far. Norway’s 95% percentile was 573 (Orissa’s 577) but this is significantly lower than Bulgaria (611), Serbia (618), and Romania (619). To add some more perspective, neighboring Sweden is 614, Lithuania 628, Estonia 645, and Latvia 625. Russia is at 632, America 635 and England 627. To cap it off Hong Kong is at 691, Japan 697, South Korea 715, Singapore 723, and Taiwan tops the charts at a ridiculous 733.

India’s top 5% would not even make the 50% cutoff in any of the east Asian polities.

All data available here.

Rec1man’s Qatar comparisons are even more irrelevant because he is comparing the absolute HIGHEST ranked schools of high sigma Indian professionals in the country against OECD AVERAGES. Pick out the highest ranked school in Shanghai or the 10th for that matter and compare it against them and you will see just how far the gap is.

The data tables are available online for anyone who cares to delve more deeply into them for the 2009 PISA at the following link.

Selecting the two Indian participating states that (QTN and QHP) with the variable ST19Q01 as the student variable compares how well Indian students did based on the language of the test. Indian students who took the test in a language OTHER than the one spoken at home score higher than the ones who took the test in their native language.

By the way, Richwine’s backward digit span test correlated to a 112 IQ for India’s taken from the GSS survey had a sample size of less than 10 if I recall.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
🔊 Listen RSS

Via Economist:

This makes sense to me. While cannabis is well-known in Russia, attitudes towards it are mostly disparaging where not hostile even in relatively enlightened Moscow. The druggies there tend to be more hardcore anyway. It is a large part of the conversation in the UK – see the debates over what classification it should get – but actually getting hold of it wasn’t easy (I never managed to at any rate, though in fairness I didn’t try; nor did I ever see a weed circle).

In contrast, weed is ubiquitous in the US – well, at least in California. There are books on cannabis horticulture openly sold on the streets (some go on to put this knowledge into practice in secluded inland forest glades). There is the 4/20 Festival in which thousands of people gather round the Bay to smoke weed. While it is illegal in theory in practice it is almost never enforced and one can easily find dealers with product. Indeed one can buy a medical certificate proving that you have an ailment that required treatment with marijuana from a doctor for a small fee.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
🔊 Listen RSS

This is the Karlin Freedom Index for 2012, a political classification system I formulated more than a year ago in response to systemic bias on the part of traditional “freedom indices” such as Freedom House and The Economist Democracy Index (hint: they give massive bonus points for neoliberalism and pro-Western foreign policy orientations).

The explanation: Reconciling democracy with liberalism is really hard: since people are illiberal by nature, there is usually a trade-off between the two. The more frequent result is Semi-Liberal Democracy (describes most “Western” countries), which in turn can degenerate into a full-blown Illiberal Democracy (as did Russia around 1993, or the US and Hungary around 2011). Oligarchy is meant in the sense of rule by a few. It should be noted that some legislation ostensibly enacted to protect the public interest, such as libel laws, surveillance laws and anti-terrorist laws – in practice serve more to undermine liberalism. When they go too far, there appear Semi-Authoritarian states of permanent emergency. In the lower rung, Authoritarianism consolidates all political power unto the state (Semi-Authoritarianism tries to, but isn’t as successful). Totalitarianism extends the political realm over all spheres of life, bringing us into the realm of (Viereck’s) Metapolitics.

Liberal Democracy

  • Iceland – In the wake of its post-financial crisis constitutional reforms, this small country may claim to have the most direct democracy on Earth.
  • Netherlands
  • California (state government)
  • Germany
  • Finland
  • Sweden – Not as high as it might have been due to the politically-motivated prosecution of Assange.
  • Spain
  • Czech Republic


Semi-Liberal Democracy (tends to be corrupted by moneyed interests and/or other influential interest groups)

  • Canada – A good democracy, but a whiff of a downwards trend under Harper. ↓
  • Belgium
  • Italy – Not a personalistic regime once Berlusconi left, but not helped by the fact that an appointed technocrat now runs it.
  • Portugal
  • Australia
  • Brazil – Arbitrary power structures; extra-judicial murders.
  • France – Paternalistic; corporatist surveillance state; discrimination against minorities. ↓
  • Chile
  • Estonia – Has excellent Internet democracy ideas, but is hampered by discrimination against Russophone minorities.
  • Japan – Paternalistic; ultra-high conviction rates; no gun rights; but ceased being an (effectively) one-party state with recent election of DJP. ↑
  • Bulgaria
  • Mexico – Drug cartels challenge to the state may lead to curtailment of freedom. ↓
  • Switzerland – The last canton only gave women the right to vote in the early 1990′s, and the banning of minarets restricts religious freedom.
  • UK – Corporatist surveillance state; repressive libel & PC laws, regulations; no gun rights; strongly trending to Illiberal Democracy. ↓↓
  • India – Strong tradition of debate & power diffusion, marred by caste inequalities, privilege, political cliquishness, bottom-up free speech restrictions.
  • South Korea – Paternalistic; surveillance state; restrictive regulations, freedom of speech restrictions.
  • Poland
  • Indonesia
  • Latvia
  • Colombia – Pursued illiberal policies vs. FARC, but transitioned to a Semi-Liberal Democracy with recent transfer of power. ↑
  • Romania ↓
  • Argentina – New sweeping media laws bring Argentina close to the bottom of the Semi-Liberal Democracy rankings. ↓
  • Ukraine – In “anarchic stasis” since independence; arbitrary power structures; recently trending to Illiberal Democracy. ↓

Illiberal Democracy (tends to feature oligarchies and personalism)

  • USA – Highest prison population; corporatist surveillance state; runs transnational Gulag; increasingly arbitrary power structures; despite strong freedom of speech protections and surviving separation of powers, it can no longer be considered a Semi-Liberal Democracy after its formal legalization of indefinite detention under the NDAA 2012. ↓
  • Armenia
  • Israel – Severe national security-related civil liberties restrictions; growing influence of settler & fundamentalist agendas over the traditional Zionist foundation; severe new NGO laws, and discrimination against Palestinians makes Israel a downwards-trending Illiberal Democracy. ↓
  • Hungary – The recent Constitutional reforms in Hungary have effectively ended separation of powers, constrained the media, and established a basis for indefinite one-party dominance. It is now the only EU member to qualify as an Illiberal Democracy. ↓↓
  • Russia – Super-presidentialism with no real separation of powers; arbitrary power structures; surveillance state; and as recently shown, elections are subject to moderate fraud. However, new reforms (e.g. opening up of the political space), technical measures (e.g. web cameras at polling stations) and permits for opposition protests at the end of 2011 portend an upwards trend. ↑
  • Venezuela – Increasingly illiberal, especially as regards media laws. ↓
  • Thailand
  • Georgia – Arbitrary power structures; opposition protests broken up; main opposition candidate to Saakashvili stripped of Georgian citizenship.
  • Algeria
  • Turkey – Maintains severe restrictions on free speech (a country that has the world’s largest number of imprisoned journalists, many under bizarre conspiracy charges, can’t really be any kind of liberal democracy); ethnic discrimination; arbitrary power structures; paradoxically, both authoritarian & liberal principles strengthening under influence of Gulenists & AKP. ↓

Semi-Authoritarianism (tends to feature permanent states of emergency)

  • Egypt – Despite the revolutionary upheaval, the military retains wide influence and shoots at protesters in Cairo; this cannot be a democratic state of affairs. The future is uncertain. ?
  • Libya
  • Pakistan
  • Singapore – Overt political repression; repressive laws (esp. on libel); surveillance state.
  • Kazakhstan – Overt political repression; Nazarbayev is Caesar.
  • Azerbaijan – Overt political repression; Aliyev is Caesar.
  • Belarus – Elections completely falsified; overt political repression, and getting worse. ↓
  • Iraq – ↓
  • Iran – Overt political repression; though Velayat-e faqih has embedded democratic elements (under formal clerical “guardianship), in recent years, the system is strongly trending to Authoritarianism as the IRGC clan tries to wrestle the old clerics out of power. ↓

Authoritarianism

  • Vietnam
  • China – Overt political repression; no national elections (but exist at village level & in some municipalities); the Internet is restricted by the “Great Firewall”, but print & online getting freer to discuss issues unrelated to a few unacceptable topics (e.g. Communist Party hegemony, Tiananmen, etc); may implement new form of political model of “deliberative dictatorship”; trending towards Semi-Authoritarianism. ↑
  • Cuba – Overt political repression; pervasive Internet & media censorship.
  • Uzbekistan
  • Syria
  • Saudi Arabia – Overt political repression; pervasive censorship; very repressive laws; political Islam permeated everyday life, esp. in regard to women’s rights; one law for the Saud family, another for the rest.

Totalitarianism (the realm of metapolitics)

  • North Korea – Not much to say here.
(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
🔊 Listen RSS

As my series comparing life in Russia, Britain, and the US draws to an end, I rank them based on my own preferences – with the caveat that the perceptions of people of different temperaments, character, and socio-economic status may differ radically. Then I finish off with a brief overview of the main trends in these countries and their prospects for the future.

Life Quality

There is a panoply of life quality indices available on teh interwebs, each more useless and less meaningful than the last. That is because quality of life is highly subjective and will have huge variations across different people and personalities, largely regardless of the weights assigned to particular measures such as “GDP per capita” or “atmospheric pollutants per urban cubic meter” or whatever. But ending with that conclusion, that each country is unique in its own way, lets gather round a circle and sing Kumbaya, yada yada yada, will I imagine leave most readers who have gotten this far unfulfilled, so I’ll spare you that BS and give you my personal rankings. The obvious caveat being that I speak only for myself, and perhaps those with similar character traits to myself.

AK at Tahoe

I would say that the US in general, and California (and the Bay Area) in particular, is the best place out of all those I’ve yet lived in. There are opportunities for personal fulfillment everywhere: sunny beaches, snow-capped mountains, tranquil bays, serene forests, gambling dens, world class colleges and innovative companies, foreigners, rootless cosmopolitans, guns, political and social radicals, environmentalists, lots of people who are high on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, global cuisine…

There are far fewer restrictions than in Britain, and the spice of life is much thicker, but not so thick as to engender the daily anarchy and unpredictability that is life in Russia. I think most Californians appreciate it. But despite it being one of the more bureaucratized and regulated US states, and its finances being in a public mess, and poor public schools and high rates of poverty, nonetheless most Californians still say that they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Though quite a few are now leaving it to seek better economic opportunities in states like Colorado or Texas, it is typically done with the firm intention of going back.

Me at an ancient church in Vladimir, Russia.

Me at an ancient church in Vladimir, Russia.

Russia is second. Unpredictable and chaotic is also EXCITING. What will the day bring? Its daily life remains culturally insular, relatively speaking, but on the other hand its becoming rapidly globalized. Girls are prettier and more open. Intimate conversations about philosophy, politics, the meaning of life, stretch out over many cups of black tea into the early hours of the morning. Russia still has pockets of bucolic idyll (and, let’s not forget, poverty and alcoholism) that have long ceased to exist in the factory-farmed landscape of the US and Britain; albeit, they too, are dying out, as strip malls, fast food joints, brick dachas (as opposed to the old wooden izba), petrol stations and asphalt roads overspread the countryside, as advanced capitalism remakes Russia in its own image.

With it also goes the old way of doing things. “Legal nihilism” doesn’t only suppress citizens and enhance bureaucratic power; it also ENABLES and FREES people, e.g. getting pirated software for pennies, or paying off a policeman for some minor traffic violation. It is insidious, but also convenient. These arrangements are, slowly but surely, coming to an end, as Russia becomes “Westernized” at an unprecedentedly rapid pace (even if, ironically, popular opinion is far less endearing towards the West now than in the 1990′s). This is probably for the better. Some aspects of the old Russia will be missed. But it will forgotten soon after the average Russian could afford to take a high-speed train from Moscow (or Voronezh) to the newly gleaming ski resorts of Sochi, or to buy a car on loans and drive it across modern highways.

Me (right) at Conwy Castle, Wales.

Me (right) at Conwy Castle, Wales.

The UK is a distant third, after both Russia and the US. True, all things considered, it has the best healthcare system (for the average person, if not the rich), is much more transparent, driving is safer, it is to an extent more “civilized”… but it is also far more superficial and boring. It might have a decent welfare state (even if the current government is doing its best to dismantle it) and be relatively uncorrupt and transparent, but then again, the Scandinavian states – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway – are far more so. Plus they have more social rights into the bargain. The Netherlands are both richer and more cosmopolitan. Obviously, it is better to be a low-wage worker than in the other two countries; a British £6.50 / hour wage with free healthcare beats a US $9 / hour wage with a minimal safety net any day of the week, not to mention a Russian $300 / month wage with theoretically free but inadequate healthcare. (But the social states of northern Europe are nonetheless far better; for instance, low-wage Swedes still get $15 / hour, and free healthcare and higher education to boot). There are, roughly speaking, as many restrictions as there are in Russia; but unlike in Russia, they are all actually rigidly enforced. The weather is bleak and rainy, the landscape uninspiring; unlike the US or Russia, there are far fewer natural wonders (though thankfully countries like Spain and France are nearby).

In conclusion, if you are in the working poor, or are a lower middle class who wants a high quality, predictable and safe life, then Britain is the country for you; but the adventurous are most at home in Russia, while the entrepreneurial and upper middle class and rich have the best time of it in the US.

The Winds of Change

Russia in 2011 is an utterly different country from Russia in 2001. Only a decade ago, many Russians were deep in poverty; transactions were in cash, stored beneath bed mattresses or in safes, while in the villages outright barter was common; cell phones and computers were playthings of richer Muscovites; and the (much smaller) car fleet was largely composed of boxy, dusty Ladas with a sprinkling of dark-windowed BMW’s ferrying about oligarchs, bureaucrats and mobsters. Today, credit cards and loan-based purchases have become common in cities throughout Russia, extreme poverty has retreated to the margins, cell phones are universal, and many fairly ordinary families have acquired cars, computers, and Internet service. I would also estimate that corruption (both small-scale and large-scale) and social cohesiveness have improved, though merely from the very bad to just bad.

This brings me to another point. The last time I was in Russia (and Britain) was in 2008; the last time I was there for a substantial period of time was in 2005. So given the rapid pace of change, many of the impressions I have about the place are becoming obsolete. On the other hand, visiting Russia for small periods of time across gaps of several years has allowed me to take “snapshots” of progress in the country, which would not be as easy for someone who lives there permanently due to the “creeping normalcy” effect. Though people’s everyday concerns are dominated things like rising prices and poor government services, when one takes a big picture view, a fast rise in prosperity – which is broadbased across regions and social classes, not just concentrated in Moscow as in the 1990′s – is undeniable. (Though in truth, for the poor, most of these gains are just making up for the impoverishment in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse). Despite the 2008 crisis, the improvements feel like they will be sustained in the years to come.

The overall impression I have of the UK during the period is stagnation. Except for state employees (e.g. academics, doctors) and high-income earners (e.g. bankers), real wages seem to have stagnated. Civil rights and privacy have retreated. It is only in the past decade that Britain has filled the streets and squares of its cities with CCTV cameras. Binge drinking has increased. Though government services, like healthcare, have undoubtedly improved, their future is uncertain. Even during the mid-2000′s boom, the UK ran a deficit; since then, revenues from the depressed housing and financial sectors have plummeted, creating a 13% of GDP budget deficit black hole. Closing it will require more taxes (which the neoliberal Tories are averse to) or a sweeping downsizing of the social state (which is to be replaced by a “Big Society”, a parallel universe in which individuals, charities, and business will run libraries and children’s daycare centers for free). I do not think the UK has good prospects for the next decade.

As I’ve only lived in the US constantly since 2008, I can’t really identify any strong trends in everyday life, though logically they would be closer to Britain’s stagnation than Russia’s recovery. As in the UK, its primary near-term challenge is the unsustainability of its fiscal position. The Republicans are deadset against tax rises, preferring more tax cuts for the rich and the wholesale dismantlement of America’s welfare state; the Democrats don’t want any serious cuts in social spending, and will thus have to keep on borrowing (the military and security agencies are sacred cows that no-one wants to touch). So I see the likelihood of the US resolving its fiscal problems in time to avoid a serious crisis as being very low; what would happen after that is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, I expect things to churn on, with continuing technological innovations; but with stagnant wages and stubbornly high unemployment, and roads falling into further disrepair in the margins (especially in near-bankrupt California).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: California, Convergence, Russia, UK, USA 
No Items Found
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.