Post Apathy Digest - March 2022
China defeats poverty, Russia invades Ukraine, governments adopt cryptocurrencies, and more in the latest Digest
The monthly Post Apathy Digest is back with another curated list of my reading over the past few months.
I’ll be (re)using Substack for my newsletters. I’ve cycled through several platforms at this point and none offer the simplicity of Substack for publishing newsletters straight to your inbox. They’ve set a new standard.
My archives & workshop will continue to function as it is, and you can find this and other Post Apathy essays and newsletters there. You can also follow the Post Apathy bot on Twitter to see live updates of content to the archives.
The Latest from Post Apathy
America is an Old Country - America is often treated as a young and brash nation, and in many ways it is. But it also happens to be one of the most stable and enduring political orders of the modern world, surpassing even ‘ancient’ nations like China, India, and otherwise.
Why Democracy Fails in the Arab World - I take a ‘complex systems’ approach to the Arab Spring, looking at why it failed because of the lack of elite patronage and democratic ‘social technologies’ - among other reasons. Arab introspection has been poor and relying solely on social media and ‘grassroots activism’ is a sure way to ensure failure.
How China Defeated Poverty - A deep dive into China’s moonshot project to eliminate extreme poverty in the country. The government’s campaign is probably one of the most successful in human history. The article provocatively suggests that eradicating poverty is not only more important to political liberty but the former often comes at the expense of the latter. A provoking thought.
Culture & Society
Why the Culture Wins - A fantastic essay on the fictional Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks, looking at ‘the Culture’, an amorphous entity that grows for the sake of growth. In a world where technological development has solved the basic questions of human existence like subsistence and crime, the Culture exists solely to spread and assimilate other cultures. The author juxtaposes the parasitical Culture against the ‘Idirans’ who are an empire with hierarchy and beliefs, i.e. an empire of meaning. This juxtaposition is an analogy for the cultural conflict today between value systems and vapid consumer-capitalist culture.
How Bitcoin Strengthens the State - Instead of a decentralised internet, Bitcoin is helping governments like El Salvador and Russia develop greater control over their citizen’s finances and deal with western sanctions. In Afghanistan, people have adopted Bitcoin in a bottom-up fashion to deal with the consequences of an American blockade of the country’s funding and trade.
This is a good read alongside an earlier Palladium article on the inevitable centralisation of the internet.
A Listian Perspective - A primer on the economic thought of Friedrich List, long a favourite of mine and a common guest in my writing. The inextricability of economics from power and the emphasis on productive powers over exchange of value and consumption are two of List’s greatest ideas.
Turkey is an interesting case study in the Listian awakening. Various ‘unorthodox’ economic policies from devaluing the Turkish Lira to promoting an export-oriented economy can be explained as a muddled attempt to free Turkey from the cycles of consumption and debt that ‘orthodox economics’ has subjected it to, in favour of a production-focused economy.
Russia & Ukraine
Compiling resources on Russia has been extraordinarily difficult. Nearly everything on social media is either unverified or straight-up misinformation. Remarkably, the ‘Ukrainian side’ has been overwhelmingly dominant in producing disinformation, with Russian narratives lurking in the dark (either in Russian cyberspace or Telegram groups). Nevertheless, I’ve compiled several articles that look at the strategic perspective of the conflict and its ramifications for the world order:
Fog of War - A Leftist perspective identifying uncompromising brinkmanship by both America and Russia as the reason for war in Ukraine. America had been intransigent towards Russian attempts to integrate more closely into the western alliance after the collapse of the USSR, perhaps knowing no other way to keep Europe in its imperial sphere than to keep the Russian bogeyman alive. The war is likely to further weaken and impoverish Europe and integrate it more closely into the American empire.
Pausing at the Precipice - The swiftness and severity of Western sanctions was a shock to the world, but could also be a miscalculation on the part of the western alliance. Driven by a moral imperative, formal diplomatic processes in western governments are being bypassed and creating a highly uncertain political environment.
Putin’s Bet - The Russian military is more capable than it appears (Bismarck Analysis has published several briefs on the modernisation of the Russian armed forces) and its invasion of Ukraine could yet achieve the outcomes Putin has been hoping for: the creation of a land bridge from Donbas to the Crimea, and a puppet government in Kiev.
The End of Dollar Hegemony? - The author argues that western sanctions against Russia signal the end of the Bretton Woods system and that Russia will weather the storm better than the West assumes. The negative effect of global instability on American consumers in reducing their spending power and quality of life could be catastrophic.
Why John Mearsheimer Blames the U.S. for the Crisis in Ukraine - John Mearsheimer is interviewed by the New Yorker. In a lecture dating to 2015, Mearsheimer applied his theory of offensive realism to criticise America in provoking Russia and predicted that there would be a greater conflict in Ukraine in the coming years. Although he has received heavy criticism across the western political spectrum, one basic fact remains - he was right.
Leave your comments below. I’d love to read your perspectives on current affairs or a particular article you’ve found in this Digest. Feel free to share the Digest with others, and if you haven’t already, subscribe so you can continue to receive them in your inbox.