If you’re like me, you probably find the Transportation Security Administration deeply irritating. But it’s also an institution whose time may have come. Back in the old days of ship travel, and even into the early decades of air travel, things were not as easy and seamless as they were in 2019. A cursory health examination was once a routine part of any long journey. There’s a distinct chance we may be returning to that era. I’ve certainly been somebody who has chafed at restrictions on travel in the past. Some of you might react to today’s video with indignation. It’s certainly not a very “More Freedom” thing to suggest that somewhat more strict restrictions on travel might be necessary.
But it’s not actually all that unprecedented or strange. A big part of building state capacity in the 19th century was around issues of public health. The modern state was, in part, built around sacrificing liberty in the name of sanitation and disease mitigation. The thing was government was almost too successful at this. People have forgotten how important the public health function was. I am grateful to the Prelinger archives for the clip I used in this video. If you are interested, you can check out the video description on YouTube for a link. It shows just how normal heightened public health procedures were at our ports and airports, not all that long ago…
Multi-polarity doesn’t have to be a disaster. It certainly could be. As competition between the US and China has ramped up over the past year or so, the focus has been on violent possibilities, and the US defense department has led the charge. That’s certainly the point of the exercise. China is being turned into an enemy so we can sell weapons. The competition now looks to me to be inevitable. But, as this video entreats, we can change the tone of that competition.
We can change the frame from war to friendly competition. The last cold war had horrific consequences, but it had positive ramifications as well. If we act proactively we can optimize the mix of the next competition for positivity rather than horror. This may sound ridiculous, but it’s not. The tone of the New Cold War will determine whether or not it kills us.
This one is part sequel, part explanation. A couple weeks back I published a video entitled “Washington, DC Has Won The War In Syria”. One of my central points was the thought that while the US government had met many of its messed up priorities, the US people and the world and general had in fact lost. It became clear from the comments that this did not get across.
So I put together the video I’m uploading with this post. I think it answers criticisms, but it also does more with that. It reckons with the larger consequences of the Syrian war for geopolitics, and the prospects of world peace and prosperity in general. It starts specific and gets very very general. Syria is a depressing issue, and my weariness with its unrelenting horror may come across in this video. But I try to end on a hopeful note.
Nobody has anything nice to say about Turkey anymore. That’s a shame. If there’s a news story it’s about Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the ways he’s taking new powers, purging and repressing. That’s all very important stuff, but I think it’s missing the forest for one particularly tall tree. I lived in Turkey for five years, and I’ve been thinking about the country for a while. There are some basics that the doomsayers are avoiding. This video presents what sort of functions as my Grand Unified Theory of Turkey Optimism. Islam is important, Erdogan is important, and the economy is important. But what is most important is Urbanization.
This theory can actually be applied to the politics of a lot of countries, not least the United States of America. The tension between rural and urban populations is a universal, whether we’re talking about China’s Hukou issues, or the 2016 US election. Thailand is another country that pops to mind. We’re all, as a planet, still going through a pretty insane process of transition. Our parents or great-grandparents were mostly farmers, and now we’re mostly urban dwellers. That’s going to keep having an impact for centuries to come. I hope this video helps you think through these issues a bit more.