Tag Archives: The Economist

History Is Now

The Sum Total of Human Experience For 2000 Years

A little while ago the Economist put up this chart in their Daily Chart section. I’ve been meaning to blog it but life has a way of getting in the way of blogging. It’s a chart of summing up the years lived and the economic output of humanity for the last 2000 years.

SOME people recite history from above, recording the grand deeds of great men. Others tell history from below, arguing that one person’s life is just as much a part of mankind’s story as another’s. If people do make history, as this democratic view suggests, then two people make twice as much history as one. Since there are almost 7 billion people alive today, it follows that they are making seven times as much history as the 1 billion alive in 1811. The chart below shows a population-weighted history of the past two millennia. By this reckoning, over 28% of all the history made since the birth of Christ was made in the 20th century. Measured in years lived, the present century, which is only ten years old, is already “longer” than the whole of the 17th century. This century has made an even bigger contribution to economic history. Over 23% of all the goods and services made since 1AD were produced from 2001 to 2010, according to an updated version of Angus Maddison’s figures.

For a moment, I want people to consider what this means. That 28% of human history and experience was lived in the 20th Century tells us that whatever was important leading up to the 20th Century, things that were just as important happened in the 20th century. Add in the 23% from the last 11 years of the 21st Century and basically, the last 111 years account for 51% of the sum total of human experience for the last 2000 years.

If you look at that gentle slope to the left of the 20th century, that includes the Empire phase of the of the Roman Empire minus the first 49 years which fell before 1AD, the various empires in the Middle East and Persia, the multitude of Chinese Dynasties since the latter Han Dynasty, and so on. The cultural output probably correlates with economic output as a proxy, so what this all suggests is that everybody from (just randomly, no relative importance implied) Tacitus and Suetonius and Zhuge Liang and St Thomas Aquinas and Renee Descartes and Johann Sebastian Bach, and Constantine and Napoleon, all fall into 49% to the left of the 20th Century.

In turn, if you had a detailed understanding of the 20th Century and the 11years of this century, you’d actually be on top of 51% (and growing in proportion) of human history since 1AD. This doesn’t immediately relegate the classics of any field to the dust bin, but it puts it all into a different perspective.

There was a study done in Germany that pointed to 1970 as the year classical education ended. That is to say, it was the year in which the teaching of classics was no longer the mainstay of education, that increasingly vocational education pushed aside the classical education. If you look at this chart, you can see why. The push of modernity was directly the push of the massive demographic that arose in the 20th century. It is possible more people were lost to war and violence than any other time in history in the 20th Century, and even then it managed to produce so many life-hours and economic output and by extension, cultural output.

In turn, what has happened since 1970 sheds a lot of light on this shift. The move from modernism to post-modernist philosophy was probably an attempt to accommodate this giant shift where overnight the classical teachings that formed the cultural framework became obsolete. Indeed, more humans have read the classics, listened to classical music alone in the last 111years, while things like cinema as a form of expression grew into maturity and needed to be discussed. Pop music of various shades supplanted the ‘importance’ of classical music and contemporary art keeps on rewriting the frontiers of expression at an ever more frantic pace.

The best book that in fact offers an insight into this might be ‘Future Shock’ by Alvin Toffler, because what is described in that book is precisely what this chart has shown, and the implications keep reaching out. I don’t mean to praise the book, but rereading it today would offer confirmation that indeed the future is not only now, so is history.

One of the important take away messages from the chart is that what we are doing right now, is just as important as what happened before. Your poem, your short story, your film, your song is no less important than anything that preceded it. It’s just that nobody has had the time to find your work unless you have become a celebrity. Not being famous and best-selling does not preclude you from being a valued contributor to the human experience. Be encouraged in knowing that what you are doing is meaningful. Go forth and create, secure in the knowledge that what you are doing is just as important as what came before. It’s counter-intuitive, but history is in the making, right now as we speak, and you are doing it.

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The Lost Decade

On The Same Track

For 17 years after the property bubble burst in Japan in 1991, most of the OECD critics have been on a hand-wringing about the Japanese economy. They’re putting out stimulus measures that won’t help, they’re adding massive debt, they’re not expanding domestic consumption (read buying American crap over their own) they’re losing their competitiveness to other Asian Nations, and so on.

During the 1990s when I was there, the economy seemed to be moving along at lower margins and tighter budgets. Sometimes industry sectors would see short booms, like computers and mobile phones as they were introduced to the market, but pretty soon the market would saturate and it would not really flow on to other areas. In short, there didn’t seem to be an immediate fix, while the whole economy wasn’t going to just fold. It’s been interesting watching Japan try to address the problems.

Well, it looks like America is now headed in the same direction.

WASHINGTON – Heavy government stimulus spending and near-zero interest rates did little to end a “lost decade” of stagnation and mushrooming debt in Japan. Some economists and lawmakers say the U.S. may wind up following the same trajectory.

Despite early signs of recovery and a strong U.S. stock market rally, fears persist that the failure to generate new jobs or ignite more consumer spending could drag the economy back into recession, or result in a protracted Japan-like period of poor economic and stock-market performance.

Japan is President Barack Obama’s first stop on a tour of Asia beginning Friday — and the gloomy world economy will be high on the agenda. Both Japan, beginning in the 1990s, and the U.S., in the most recent economic crisis, had credit and housing bubbles and both engaged in huge amounts of overborrowing leading up to sharp economic downturns. And both used historically low interest rates and government stimulus spending to try to lift their economies out of the ditch — with questionable results in Japan.

“It seems to me we are on the exact same path that the Japanese took in their `lost decade’ — of running up huge government debts, of not stimulating growth and at the end of the decade having this massive debt,” said Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, senior Republican on Congress’ Joint Economic Committee.

Others cite differences in the American and Japanese economies and business cultures to argue that things here are different and less susceptible to a prolonged period of economic lethargy. While the debate rages, both sides agree Japan’s painful experience offers the U.S. a lesson of how attempts at stimulus can go horribly wrong.

The manifestations are different and the way money flows through the system is different but what’s alarmingly similar is the way the US economy has had to embrace the near-zero interest rate while spending lots of money in stimulus packages. Then, there is the issue of production – Japan held on to a lot of production through the last 17 years, and now we’re finding the production they held on to is helping them hold on to what they have as an economic strength.

Whereas big Japanese electronics companies such as Panasonic, Sharp and Sony have been losing market share to rivals from China, South Korea and Taiwan, these smaller, less well known Japanese firms continue to dominate niches upon which the global technology industry depends. The Japanese even have a term for them: chuken kigyo (strong, medium-sized firms). It doesn’t matter if the brand on the casing says Apple, Nokia or Samsung: the innards are stuffed with Japanese wares. According to an official at Apple, the company depends on Japanese firms for vital components because few suppliers elsewhere can live up to its rigorous standards.

“They may not be the sexiest products, but you can’t make a semiconductor chip or an LCD panel without them,” says Alberto Moel, an expert on high-tech manufacturing with Monitor Group, a consulting firm, in Tokyo. Japanese companies serve more than 70% of the worldwide market in at least 30 technology sectors worth more than $1 billion apiece, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). They range from certain films to diffuse light used in LCD screens (where they have the whole of a market worth more than ¥270 billion, or $3 billion) to multilayer ceramic capacitors that regulate the current in electrical equipment (77% of ¥540 billion).

Japan’s technological prowess is a reminder of the country’s industrial strength at a time when it is struggling to overcome nearly two decades of economic stagnation and is poised to lose its place as the world’s second-largest economy to China. It is also an answer to decades of criticism by Western management experts who breathlessly argued that the country’s business culture, from a rigid labour market to weak shareholder rights, was holding companies back. Corporate Japan must have been doing something right after all.

Of course, some foreign companies can boast similar supremacy in global markets. Microsoft’s Windows operating system is on more than 90% of the world’s 1 billion or so personal computers, of which around 80% are powered by Intel chips. And chips designed by ARM, a British firm, dominate the market for application processors, which run software on smart-phones. Germany’s Mittelstand, the closest Western equivalent of the chuken kigyo, also boasts many smallish world-beaters. In much the same way as the Mittelstand, Japan’s chuken kigyo is not simply a part of the national economy, but the core of its industrial structure. It enables the country’s bigger, well-known electronics firms to exist, as well as meeting foreigners’ essential needs. Strikingly, doubts are growing about Japanese companies’ ability to maintain their enviable position—but for now their grip remains mostly firm

The problem the US economy has is that it has moved so much of its production capacity off shore so it is hard to see where the industrial capacity is going to come from to power the growth required to pay off the debt. The upshot of all this is that America might be forced to walk the path Japan has explored for the last 17 years, and in some ways it might go even longer. We may not see a strong US economy until way after Barack Obama’s second term is over.

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News That’s Fit To Punt 02/11/09

Film Industry As Venture Capital Project

In case you’re wondering why film projects fail in the market, here is a quick answer: they fail because the risks are high as well as the rewards. In that sense, each production vehicle is like a venture capital vehicle. If they were high reward low risk, there’d be a lot more of it happening. It’s the nature of high risk that the majority fail, but you stand to make a mint when you get a hit. Which is to say, it’s a little bit like venture capital.

Here’s something to consider from The Economist about Venture Capital:

Too many politicians treat entrepreneurship as yet another gravy train. Norway squandered much of its oil wealth investing in new businesses that were founded by the relatives of politicians and bureaucrats. Policymakers are also lax when it comes to designing venture funds. They try to insulate them from risk or allow public investments to crowd out private ones. The Canadian government’s experiment with venture capital failed because the Canadian Labor Fund Program had so much money that it frightened off private venture capitalists, while earning mediocre returns itself. New Zealand’s government, in contrast, did much better because it invested public money in private funds.

Mr Lerner points out that two foolish tendencies are particularly hard to resist when politicians are struggling with high unemployment. The first is the temptation to spread the wealth around to every region and interest group. France’s attempt to transform Brittany from one of its more backward regions into a hive of high-tech activity failed dismally for an obvious reason: entrepreneurial firms cluster in particular places. The second is a suspicion of foreign investors. The Japanese government lavished money on start-ups in the 1990s but was reluctant to embrace foreign venture capitalists. Japan now has one of the rich world’s weakest venture-capital markets.

Levantine wiles
The country that has led the world in promoting entrepreneurship has also done the most to plug itself into global markets. The Israeli government’s venture-capital fund, which was founded in 1992 with $100m of public money, was designed to attract foreign venture capital and, just as importantly, expertise. The government let foreigners decide what to invest in, and then stumped up a hefty share of the money required. Foreign venture capital poured into the country, high-tech companies boomed, domestic venture capitalists learned from their foreign counterparts and the government felt able to sell off the fund after just five years.

Last year Israel, a country of just over 7m people, attracted as much venture capital as France and Germany combined. Israel has more start-ups per head than any other country (a total of 3,850, or one for every 1,844 Israelis), and more companies listed on the NASDAQ exchange, a hub for fledgling technology firms, than China and India combined. It may not have the same comforting ring as “the Swedish model” or “the polder model”, but when it comes to promoting entrepreneurship, “the Israeli model” is the one to emulate.

That seems to indicate that if there genuinely is talent in Australia, then the government *should* necessarily let Hollywood invest in Australia freely and put their own cash into it, after Hollywood has picked which projects they want to make. So instead of having Screen Australia, you would invite development people from Hollywood to pick projects they want to make. When they pick the projects, then the Australian Government’s film fun would directly invest in the films as a partner.

This would take out the current idiocy of Screen Australia getting itself involved with development and creative input. The point is, Screen Australia *can’t* know what the market place is demanding, what is going to sell, what the other projects in development are and how it impacts what is in Australia. Of course, it won’t happen because

  • it makes too much sense
  • it would seriously put those film bureaucrats out of work
  • too many Yank-hating nationalists would reject the idea
  • too many Commercialism-hating communists and socialists would reject the idea

Yet, that’s the logical step if they want Australian creative content on the big screen. We just can’t do it any more on a world scale. We may as well face up to that reality, even if it hurts. At the same time, it would be exactly the same free market that everybody in America has to toil under. And that would be all the Australian film producers an directors and writers would want – an equal footing, fair shot.

All the same,  it might be the case that Australia is simply too far away from the cultural hub of cinema, and that no amount of investment will help. In any case, it’s celar whatever Screen Australia’s doing, ain’t working. Try this:

Film Crew Victoria Closes Up Shop

One of the three crew agencies in Victoria are shutting up shop according to Screen Hub.

Film Crew Victoria, one of the state’s three crew agencies, has announced that it will close its business on 13 November, potentially leaving crew without representation. Principal Michelle Wells cited “the current economic climate, declining membership rates, unpredictable production levels, tight cash flows, increasing operational costs…” as being behind the decision to close.

She told Screen Hub that the decision to close was “heartbreaking, you feel that you’re letting people down”, but that the agency was no longer financially viable.

Barry Woodhouse from Picture People Crew Agency said that “It’s quite a blow really, a lot of people are going to be left hanging.” The situation is potentially more acute because Picture People specialises in corporate and television, leaving only one Victorian agent, Freelancers Promotions, covering feature film and general production.

He agreed with Michelle Wells that production – even in television – was down in Victoria. “FremantleMedia has been doing a lot out of Sydney, Melbourne has been sort of kept in the dark.” The television production that Melbourne was seeing was smaller. “They’re not throwing big budgets at them, we’re talking three man crews, a lot of my crew are working on these things, they’re very plain, there’s not a lot of budget.”

Yeah, sounds like the industry is really thriving… Not.

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Creative Destruction

My old man is an old Economics grad. The latest guy with a Theory of Everything at the time he finished university was Joseph Schumpeter. And the way it was understood at that time was that there was Marx, Keynes and Schumpeter. That’s how important his writings were received way back before Milton Friedman or ‘Trickledown economics’ and Michael Miliken and junk bonds and Liar’s Poker and mortgage bonds and ‘Greed is Good’ and Global Fried Chickens, was this Austrian dude who wanted Capitalism to be understood in the right context.

Schumpeter? I can hear you ask. Joseph Schumpeter in a nutshell is the theorist who started offering ideas after the capitalist system got under way and delivered so much, so quickly.

Considering just how much Marxist criticism has abounded and how Keynes and Bretton Woods set the frame work for 60years of relative prosperity, it’s sort of weird to find not many people are talking Schumpeter.

The Economist is, and they’ve started a column with his name.

Joseph Schumpeter was one of the few intellectuals who saw business straight. He regarded business people as unsung heroes: men and women who create new enterprises through the sheer force of their wills and imaginations, and, in so doing, are responsible for the most benign development in human history, the spread of mass affluence. “Queen Elizabeth [I] owned silk stockings,” he once observed. “The capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within the reach of factory girls in return for steadily decreasing amounts of effort…The capitalist process, not by coincidence but by virtue of its mechanism, progressively raises the standard of life of the masses.” But Schumpeter knew far too much about the history of business to be a cheerleader. He recognised that business people are often ruthless monomaniacs, obsessed by their dreams of building “private kingdoms” and willing to do anything to crush their rivals.

Schumpeter’s ability to see business straight would be reason enough to name our new business column after him. But this ability rested on a broader philosophy of capitalism. He argued that innovation is at the heart of economic progress. It gives new businesses a chance to replace old ones, but it also dooms those new businesses to fail unless they can keep on innovating (or find a powerful government patron). In his most famous phrase he likened capitalism to a “perennial gale of creative destruction”.

For Schumpeter the people who kept this gale blowing were entrepreneurs. He was responsible for popularising the word itself, and for identifying the entrepreneur’s central function: of moving resources, however painfully, to areas where they can be used more productively. But he also recognised that big businesses can be as innovative as small ones, and that entrepreneurs can arise from middle management as well as college dorm-rooms.

Schumpeter was born in 1883, a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian empire. During the 18 years he spent at Harvard he never learned to drive and took the subway that links Cambridge to Boston only once. Obsessed by the idea of being a gentleman, he spent an hour every morning dressing himself. Yet his writing has an astonishingly contemporary ring; indeed, he seems to have felt the future in his bones. The gale of creative destruction blew ever harder after his death in 1950, particularly after the stagflation of the 1970s. Corporate raiders and financial engineers tore apart underperforming companies. Governments relaxed their hold on the economy. The venture-capital industry exploded, the computer industry boomed and corporate lifespans shortened dramatically. In 1956-81 an average of 24 firms dropped out of the Fortune 500 list every year. In 1982-2006 that number jumped to 40. Larry Summers, Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser, argues that Schumpeter may prove to be the most important economist of the 21st century.

I read Schumpeter in the late 90s, just to try and understand where the hell my old man was coming from when he radically championed free trade. He’s still a fierce free trade advocate, and I have to admit that on the whole I am firmly on the side of it rather than against it. And if that perplexes you, then I recommend you go and read some Schumpeter.

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Why The Economist Is Cool (Sometimes)

Maybe It’s Just This Lexington Dude

Here’s something very droll and funny.

Obama Derangement SyndromeA recent Pew poll showed that public opinion about Mr Obama is sharply divided along party lines. Some 88% of Democrats approve of the job that he is doing compared with only 27% of Republicans. The approval gap between the two parties is actually bigger than it was for George Bush in April 2001. Bush loyalists, led by Karl Rove, have duly over-interpreted this poll in order to soften their former boss’s reputation as America’s most divisive president. Today’s Republican base is significantly smaller than the Democratic base was in 2001, so surviving Republicans are more likely to have hard-core views. But there are nevertheless enough people out there who dislike the president to constitute a significant force in political life.

As The Economist went to press, the bestselling book in the United States was Mark Levin’s “Liberty and Tyranny”. Mr Levin frequently denounces Mr Obama on his radio show as an exponent of the second of those two qualities. The new sensation in the world of cable is Fox News’s Glenn Beck, who has already attracted 2.2m regular viewers since his show was launched in January. Mr Beck recently apologised to his viewers for saying that Mr Obama’s America is on the path to “socialism” when it is really on the march to fascism. Media Matters, a left-wing organisation that monitors the media, reports that, since the inauguration, “there have been over 3,000 references to socialism, fascism or communism” in describing the president.

Rush Limbaugh claims that he has seen an uptick in his audience since he announced that he hopes that Mr Obama fails. He has no time for the idea that all Americans should wish their president well (“We are being told that we have to hope Obama succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles…because his father was black”). Mr Limbaugh is not the ankle-grabbing type. He has also added Robert Mugabe to the list of people to whom Mr Obama can be likened.

Why are some people so angry? For all his emollient manner and talk of “post partisanship”, Mr Obama is just as much an embodiment of liberal America as Mr Bush was of conservative America—an Ivy League-educated lawyer who became a community organiser before launching a political career in one of America’s most cosmopolitan and corrupt big cities, Chicago. Mr Obama almost lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton because of his lack of rapport with white working-class voters. In the general election he did worse than Michael Dukakis in the Appalachian states of Kentucky and West Virginia.

Not only did the cartoon crack me up, the notion that Obama is Fascist coming from the fat, white guys on the right… I mean, come on. It’s not as if the last 8 years under George W Bush was liberalism Heaven for fuck’s sake.

Lexington sure makes it sound tragic, but then he has this other article that elicits a laugh too.

The writers of the Onion are unencumbered by any obvious party loyalty. To fit in, you have to hate everything around you, muses Joe Randazzo, the editor. Hence the headline that greeted Mr Obama’s election victory: “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job”. The Onion News Network, an online video venture, did a segment entitled “Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters to Realise How Empty Their Lives Are”. The camera showed pitiful young campaign volunteers lying comatose on a couch or wandering aimlessly through a park. “Who will take care of these people?” asked the anchor. “We really don’t know. Many have already driven away their friends and family with months of endless praise for Obama’s latest speech and constant reminders to vote,” said the breathless correspondent on the scene. “That does sound annoying,” said the anchor.

The Onion lampooned previous presidents, of course. No prizes for guessing who inspired the headline “New President Feels Nation’s Pain, Breasts”, or who regaled dinner guests with an impromptu oration on Virgil’s minor works. What sets the Onion apart, however, is that Mr Obama has not blunted its barbs at all. On the contrary, the way more serious journalists fawn over the new president offers an irresistible target. “Media Having Trouble Finding Right Angle on Obama’s Double Homicide”, the Onion reported last month. “‘I know there’s a story in there somewhere’,” said the editor of Newsweek, after Mr Obama brutally murdered a suburban couple. The Onion is better at spotting good yarns, which is why, despite the recession, it is prospering. The main threats it faces are that its staff might grow up—or that the earnest papers it parodies may go out of business.

Pretty cool.

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What Were You Thinking, Economist?

The GWB Legacy
Okay, hopefully this is the very last entry about President George Walker Bush. The man was undisputedly a disastrous President and if you asked me back in 2000, I would have (and probably did) told you so. Not for partisan reasons, but basically for humanist reasons. So before he sets off into the sunset I want to set something straight, because I found this article in the Economist this week.

Few people would have predicted this litany of disasters when Mr Bush ran for the presidency in 2000. True, the 2000 election was likely to be divisive because of the peculiar arithmetic of the outcome (Mr Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore by 500,000 votes, then won a disputed recount in Florida by a few hundred). But for most people Mr Bush was a pretty acceptable choice, and certainly not a crusader-in-waiting.

He came across as an affable chap, particularly when compared with his uptight rival. Frank Bruni, who covered his election campaign for the New York Times, wrote in 2002 that “the Bush I knew was part scamp and part bumbler, a timeless fraternity boy and heedless cutup, a weekday gym rat and weekend napster.” And the then governor of Texas presented himself as a centrist—a new kind of “compassionate conservative”, a “uniter rather than a divider”, an advocate of a “humble” and restrained foreign policy. The Economist liked this mixture enough to endorse him in 2000.

Ya’know, I like the Economist magazine. As somebody who is not really trained as an economist, what the  magazine provides is a concise, succinct, insight into how the economy is working from week to week, month to month. It’s a little more than small-l liberal in its outlook, but I do like it for its rational tone. Reason, after all should lead us to enlightenment. All the same, the guys who write and edit the Economist are conservative types who one imagines went to very nice private schools.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that the Economist endorsed Mr. Bush back in 2000. GWB was their guy because ostensibly, they didn’t pick up just strident the undercurrent of his rhetoric was sounding. The smart boffins at the Economist allowed themselves to be persuaded that GWB was all right because he was for Free Trade and seemed affable enough. It’s a classic case of not being able to see the forest for the trees.

GWB was no centrist. A Born Again Christian is not a centrist in any context. A man who gets up and says the Creationists have a right to teach Intelligent Design at schools is not a centrist. Here’s some more from the article:

The fruit of all this can be seen in the three most notable characteristics of the Bush presidency: partisanship, politicisation and incompetence. Mr Bush was the most partisan president in living memory. He was content to be president of half the country—a leader who fused his roles of head of state and leader of his party. He devoted his presidency to feeding the Republican coalition that elected him.

The most important legislation of his first year in office was a $1.35 trillion tax cut that handed an extra $53,000 to the top 1% of earners. At his farewell press conference on January 12th Mr Bush called his tax cuts the “right course of action”, as if they were an unpopular but heroic decision. They weren’t. The budget was in surplus in 2000, and both Mr Bush’s main Republican rival, John McCain, and his Democratic opponent, Mr Gore, also wanted to cut taxes, but by less, so as to pay down more debt and shore up Social Security (public pensions). Mr Bush’s much larger tax cut reflected his, and his party’s, belief that lower taxes restrain the size of government, empower individuals and are good for both growth and Republican prospects.

Mr Bush sold his first tax cut, in 2001, as recession insurance. He did the same in 2003; and though the budget surplus was gone by then, he upped the ante by also lowering taxes on capital gains and dividends. Lower taxes on capital boost investment, but, as one former senior administration official says, that thought was secondary: “It was a political winner that happened to coincide with good economics.” Lower taxes on capital had the potential to bolster a growing “investor class” that tended to vote Republican.

Relentless partisanship led to the politicisation of almost everything Mr Bush did. He used his first televised address to justify putting strict limits on federal funding for stem-cell research, and used the first veto of his presidency to prevent the expansion of that funding. He appointed two “strict constructionist” judges to the Supreme Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, turned his back on the Kyoto protocol, dismissed several international treaties, particularly the anti-ballistic-missile treaty, loosened regulations on firearms and campaigned against gay marriage. His energy policy was written by Mr Cheney with the help of a handful of cronies from the energy industry. His lacklustre attorney-general Alberto Gonzales, who was forced to resign in disgrace, was only the most visible of an army of over-promoted, ideologically vetted homunculi.

It’s a little late calling those dolts homunculi now. Having lived through the idiotic, reactionary, self-lauding, self-satisfied, ideologically-motivated, morally-stunted, ethically-challenged double-speaking, double-dealing gobbledegook chicanery that was the Conservative decade of George W. Bush and John Howard, I would dearly like to tell these boffins at the Economist that sometimes you can judge a guy by his beliefs, and that is all you need to know in order to make that judgment call. The hyper-partisan, crusading, anti-intellectual President who appointed a pack of idiots to important positions was always on the cards given his beliefs.

It’s not that I’m saying his religion is wrong or that religion is wrong. It’s just that George W. Bush was one guy you knew who could never get above his religion, because he was a born again Christian. If the Economist is a little uncomfortable about how all this turned out, I hope they realise it’s been torture fo those of us who knew exactly the kind of stupidity was likely to come out of having such a lazy mind in the Oval Office, going into it in 2000.

But you know, next week there’ll be a new President in the White House, and there will be a new issue of the Economist and I’m bloody well likely to read that one too. The world keeps turning.

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