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Monday, 31 December 2012

The End of the Year ...

Despite the hype put about by the terminally Apocalyptic, which includes those of various religious persuasions as well as none, the world continues on its way through the solar system and the galaxy. Predictions made twelve years ago that 'snow would be unknown by 2010' have also been proved unsound by the weather which continues to do what it does, and none of the cities predicted to be underwater by now are either, though some others have suffered flooding of a more temporary sort.

New York suffered badly from the combination of a storm surge and high spring tides plus an infrastructure not designed, maintained or built to deal with it. Far from the sea levels having risen exponentially, the combination of a four metre surge on top of a two metre tide (roughly 18 feet to the unmetricated) was bound to have an impact on an island which normally deals with a maximum tidal surge of less than half that. "Sandy" was no longer a hurricane when it came ashore either, but it did hit a particularly densely populated area, so the surprise is that there wasn't more damage and more deaths. What is shocking is that there are still, apparently, people without electricity and proper water supply and living in tents, caravans and other temporary shelters.

As I write, most of Europe is very wet, but snowless, while the US is experiencing massive snow storms. The Arctic sea ice levels, dramatically reduced by a two week cyclonic storm in the Arctic earlier this year, has bounced back equally dramatically and many of the less hysteric climate scientists are speaking about how an ice free Arctic drives the snow, ice and freeze bearing 'jet streams' southward over North America and Europe - borne out by the snow falls in Russia and Eastern European and Asiatic areas. We had a taste of this in late October and early November ourselves, but, for the moment we have rain and wind, which, when it does snow, means we'll have ice underlying it.

The economic situation seems to be in stasis at the moment. It isn't getting any better, it could get worse, and the politicians seem unable to figure out what, if anything, they should attempt to fix it. Since everything they've done so far seems only to have made things worse, perhaps they should try the alternative - and do nothing. There do seem to be two problems here in the western democracies, the first being that our political classes think they own the money supply and can distribute it as they wish, the second is that the people who really control the money supply, have been selling off the silver in the west and investing the proceeds where there are fewer calls upon their incomes and less restricttion on their activities. The US, the EU, UK and all the "western" economies are struggling. We have no real industrial capacity any longer and what we do have is almost entirely "foreign owned." Germany is an exception, but it is a 'qualified' exception.

Look through the shareholder lists of many of the UKs 'Flagship' companies and you quickly discover they are owned by 'offshore' interests. Any given company is, in effect, a shell, a facade if you prefer, and its 'value' and production is often illusory. If the 'capital' is held somewhere other than the country of operation, those operations can be switched to somewhere else in the blink of an eye - and it does happen far more frequently than most realise. This is a part of the weakness of all major western economies at present.

The rising economies in the world have yet to really hit their stride, but they are there and it will not be long before they knock a number of the current Top Ten off their spots. My prediction is that India will soon be well up that list, perhaps reaching the Number 2 spot within a couple of years. China is already there, but the dark horse is Brazil. No one seems to have noticed the industrial development and the sheer economic expansion of that big country in South America most associate only with the Amazon rain forest and the Greenpeace/Friends of the Earth campaigns to stop the clearance of the frest for cattle ranching to feed MacDonald's with burger patties.

I suspect that, if we were to have a prediction for an "end of the world" scenario it should be quite simply the eclipse of the Western Democratic economies by the new super powers - China, India and Brazil. History suggests we have burned ourselves out, our political classes and their hanger's-on have weakened our concepts of justice, economic endeavour, nationhood and entreprise to the point we are so afraid of our own shadows, we can no longer compete.

We stand on the brink of a new year. It may bring some solutions to some of the problems left by the Cold War and it may exacerbate others. It may see a small recovery of western economies and it may bring some new solutions to the questions of our dependence on imported oil, gas and power to keep our civilisation alive - but equally, it may not. To a very large extent it is no longer in our hands, or even in the hands of our political classes. We can but wait and see.

As we wait, may I wish all my readers a good celebration of the year past, and everything they hope for themselves and their families in the year ahead.

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