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“Energy Shortages Could Threaten Social Cohesion”: Germany Warns Against Ban On Energy Imports From Russia

“Energy Shortages Could Threaten Social Cohesion”: Germany Warns Against Ban On Energy Imports From Russia

At a time when US officials are saying virtually every day that the US is in “active discussions” to ban Russian oil imports, Germany’s economy minister said that while he regrets the country is still dependent on imports from Moscow, he warned against a comprehensive ban on energy imports from Russia.

As Dutesche Welle reports, “Germany is currently still dependent on Russian fossil fuels”, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Thursday; he spoke out against a ban on energy imports from Russia in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I would not advocate an embargo on Russian imports of fossil fuels. I would even oppose it,” he said after meeting German business leaders. “We need these energy supplies to maintain the price stability and energy security in Germany,” Habeck added, warning that “a shortage in supply could threaten social cohesion in Germany.”

Habeck stressed Germany “must free ourselves” from imports of Russia’s gas, coal, and oil.  In February, Germany stopped the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. It has since joined other European nations in introducing a raft of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Berlin even overturned its longstanding practice of blocking weapons exports to conflict zones.

Habeck, however, said Germany has already begun to feel the effects of those decisions.

“The impact of the sanctions and of the war on all sectors of the economy is so strong that we can fear a big impact,” Habeck said. The minister said any hopes that Europe’s largest economy would return to post-pandemic levels later this year were dashed.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Social Cohesion Is Vital, and We’re Losing It

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An American flag in front of a damaged school area in Dayton, Ohio on May 28, 2019. (Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images)

Social Cohesion Is Vital, and We’re Losing It

As with climate change, inequality, and our other collective problems, solutions will entail confronting and reining in power—whether the power of wealth, of outsized political representation, or of social media companies.

The United States is tumbling toward socio-political crisis. Here are just a few of the distress signals recently visible:

  • The insurrection at the US Capitol building (January 6, 2021).
  • Rapidly increasing numbers of death threats against politicians—including threats from fellow politicians.
  • A majority of followers of one of the two main political parties telling pollsters that they would approve of violence as a means to political power (for the population as a whole, one in three now say that political violence can be justified, up from one in six in 2010).
  • A state governor planning to set up a militia, answerable only to himself.
  • Continual demonization by members of both major political parties of their opponents as “unamerican.”
  • US generals warning that disaffected military personnel may lead another insurrection in 2024.
  • Threats to “primary” elected leaders (i.e., to challenge them in primary elections with candidates more extreme and doctrinaire), leading to ever-further radicalization and polarization of the political positions of policy makers.
  • The proliferation of weapons (there are now 120.5 guns in the US for every 100 people).

We’ve all seen this basic movie plot before—in “failed states” in the modern world, and in declining civilizations throughout history—and it seldom ends well.

For a society to succeed, people must cooperate. They must trust government leaders, who in turn must work together, at least partly for the benefit of the society as a whole…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Death of Democracy in a Byzantine Labyrinth

The Death of Democracy in a Byzantine Labyrinth

The project of European Union, and its single currency experiment, were politically an attempt to unite fractious nations in order to put an end to a history of horribly destructive conflict. Economically, the goals were to scale up governance in Europe, to transition from the national to the transnational level in order to wield more power as a larger trading block. As such it was very much in line with the global trend of the last thirty years towards scaling up almost everything. However, as we have observed before, such expansions are inherently fragile and self-limiting:

This in-built need to expand, sometimes to the scale of an imperium in the search for new territory, means that the process is grounded in ponzi dynamics. Expansion stops when no new territories can be subsumed, and contraction will follow as the society consumes its internal natural capital….

….A foundational ingredient in determining effective organizational scale is trust – the glue holding societies together. At small scale, trust is personal, and group acceptance is limited to those who are known well enough to be trusted. For societies to scale up, trust must transcend the personal and be grounded instead in an institutional framework governing interactions between individuals, between the people and different polities, between different layers of governance (municipal, provincial, regional, national), and between states on the international stage.

This institutional framework takes time to scale up and relies on public trust for its political legitimacy. That trust depends on the general perception that the function of the governing institutions serves the public good, and that the rules are sufficiently transparent and predictably applied to all. This is the definition of the rule of law. Of course the ideal does not exist, but better and worse approximations do at each scale in question.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

 

 

Look Who’s Dragging Down the Global Economy Though No One Is Allowed to Say it

Look Who’s Dragging Down the Global Economy Though No One Is Allowed to Say it

“A bit of inequality is good as it creates incentives for hard work and rewards entrepreneurship,” explained Mohamed El-Erian, Chief Economic Advisor of Allianz and former CEO of PIMCO. “Lots of inequality is bad, disenfranchises segments of society, and erodes the social fabric,” he said, joining the chorus of voices that have been lamenting income and wealth inequality as an economic problem.

But none of these voices dare to mention the cause – though they all know it. And we just got numerical confirmation.

Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of abject poverty over the last two decades, mostly in Asia. In that respect, inequality has been reduced. But on a national level, “you get a different picture,” El-Erian said in the interview published on Monday:

Whether in the US, Brazil or China: there has been a significant increase in both income and wealth inequality, and so much so that it is now affecting access to equal opportunities. The minute you start talking about opportunities, you start making it a much deeper problem and harder to solve.

“Social cohesion is at risk,” said Allianz Chief Economist Michael Heise in the same interview. “That is a danger for industrialized and developing countries alike. In recent times we have seen social upheavals and conflicts where poverty played a major role.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

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