We take the view that there are inalienable human rights and that it is the duty of each state to protect them. Human rights cover Personal Protection, Personal Freedom and Economic Freedom. Particularly the right to economic freedom is heavily contested by many communists and socialists. However, we consider it both a basic human right and an economic necessity. History shows that countries where economic freedom prevails generate much higher wealth and better living conditions than countries where economic freedom is suppressed. This does not only apply to the top 10 percent of the population but also for those at the bottom of the income scale. To be sure human rights are not limitless. They end where equal rights of other human beings begin and the state has to guarantee that as well.
If you think that Personal Protection is given in every Western democracy please think again. Terrorist attacks as well as man-made environmental disasters are on the rise. In addition, equal treatment under law is more a slogan than reality. Whereas the large majority of the population is fully subject to existing rules and regulations the Rich and influential seem to get away with a lot (including rape and murder). Big corporations seem to live in a legal world of their own as hardly any individuals have the financial resources to go to court against them. Many laws have been written in a way that protect ethical misbehavior of the ruling elite. It also needs to be noted that the right for a fair trial and protection from torture has been curtailed. The fact that alleged “terrorists” were illegally kept and tortured by the U.S. government in Guantanamo with the full knowledge and even tacit support of most Western countries is not only a shocking example of the mindset of our governments but also a harbinger of the future. We strongly condemn all kinds of terrorism but every person charged with a crime must have the right to a fair and open trial as well as custody without torture.
Personal Freedom is severely under threat. Governments and Big Tech work closely together to reduce our privacy. They defend their actions as being part of the “War on Terror” and as necessary to prevent further terrorist attacks but it is likely that they also have other sinister intentions. Boosted by the latest developments in artificial intelligence as well as the rapid spread of CCTVs, drones and other high-tech devices, mass surveillance on the street and in public buildings is already a fact of life. If you take a short-haul flight you are nowadays likely to spend more time on the ground for body search and document checks than in the air. And thanks to smartphones and smart home devices such Amazon Echo, Goggle Home and Apple HomePod Tech companies (and thereby the government) have the tools to monitor your behavior at home.
Apart from growing surveillance there is also an ongoing effort to prevent people from accessing unmanipulated information and expressing their own views. Despite the internet it is increasingly difficult to find truly independent news sources. The mass media has largely given up free and investigative journalism. Instead their reporting is determined by the personal views of a small number of very rich owners and/or companies that provide large advertisement revenue. The same applies to the search engines. Almost everyone relies on them without knowing the algorithms used and despite the fact that most links on the first page are paid for and often not even relate to your search terms. It is a shocking example of the complete disregard for human rights that a quasi-monopoly such as Google has not been forced to disclose its algorithms and to allow users to decide the main search variables themselves.
Nowadays a lot of information is controlled by the Tech powerhouses Google/YouTube, Facebook/Instagram and Twitter. They determine what you can read, hear and see and what you can share. If they don’t like you or your contribution, they just close your account. And governments are actively supporting this. Thanks to recent legislation social media companies determine independently without involvement of the public or proper legal proceedings what news is “fake” and what isn’t. It is undoubtedly reassuring that highly controversial characters such as Mark Zuckerberg can decide what you are allowed to know about and share. Very soon many people will believe again that the earth is flat and governments are there “by the grace of god”.
We are certainly strong advocates of technological progress but only if prudent regulation prevents companies and the state from exploiting it to the detriment of the population. Currently there is regulation, but the regulation is either inadequate or makes things even worse. This is not surprising as Big Government and Big Tech depend on each other.
Economic freedoms are also under threat. Of course, not for the really wealthy who have inserted enough fine print and footnotes into our legislation that they hardly pay taxes and can keep most of their assets in special trusts. But the rest of the population, especially the middle class, is confronted with gradual expropriation through taxation, inflation and in some countries even negative interest rates. To ensure that no payment can be made without their knowledge and that the benefits of negative interest rates can be bestowed upon the whole population, governments have taken the first steps to ban cash. They justify their “War on Cash” as indispensable to combat money laundering as well as the financing of terrorism and other illegal activities. That most of this is already done electronically with the willful support of commercial banks is of course not mentioned. Be assured that just in a few years it will be very difficult if not impossible to use cash. Governments, financial institutions and Big Tech will then decide what you can do with your money.
The suppression of human rights is soaring in almost every country even though the degree and speed differ. To get a better picture let’s take a closer look at what is happening in the three most important regions of the world: USA, Europe and China.
On the surface the USA looks like the role model for Western societies: The average American household has never been richer and the democratic system is well entrenched. However, a closer look at the facts reveals a very different picture. Income inequality has reached the highest level in over 50 years and 61% of household’s don’t have enough savings to pay for a USD 1,000 emergency expense. While the poor and the middle class are drowning in debt the Top 5% and especially the Top 0.1% are enjoying unparalleled income and wealth. Federal debt alone is at USD 22.7 trillion or 106 % of GDP and certain to explode further thanks to the USD 1.1. trillion deficit that is planned for 2019. The democratic system has become very undemocratic over the years. The military-industrial complex, Big Tech and a few super rich families are controlling Congress, the judiciary and the Fed through their army of lobbyist. As most middle to higher government employees rotate between public and private sector positions, they are unlikely to threaten their future job prospects by displeasing the ruling elite.
As debt and income inequality are growing so is pressure within society. The government is responding with more suppression and surveillance. Economic freedom is more and more undermined. Civil asset forfeiture is one example. It is a legal process in which law enforcement officers take assets from people alleged (but not proven) to be involved in illegal activity without prior legal process and even without the requirement to legally charge the owner afterwards. Of course, you can file a lawsuit against it but this is a lengthy and costly process that most people just can’t afford. Cars have been forfeited because the driver was carrying too much cash or driving too fast. Suspects have been coerced or even tortured until they agreed to sign over their assets. Homes have been seized because the owner still owed a few dollars in property tax. Civil forfeiture has become a multibillion dollar “industry” that some dubious elements in the police force and bureaucracy have used for their own benefit.
Police forces are equipped and operate like an army. They have raided houses of ordinary citizens as if they had to attack the production base of a drug lord thereby severely injuring innocent people and terrifying children. Government agencies can freeze your account with a simple phone call to your bank and they can also cancel your passport if you owe just a few dollars in taxes. The Land of the Free is well on its way to becoming a police state and banana republic.
The situation in Europe is equally precarious. Even though civil liberties are still better protected than in the USA there is a clearly defined downward trend. Europe has to deal with two main challenges. First there is the Euro, the common currency of 19 EU countries. Its political creators envisaged that the Euro would promote travel and trade within Europe and thereby be a main driver of integration. Instead of conflicts and wars as in the past there would be lasting peace and prosperity. This is certainly a wonderful idea that we fully embrace. But as many concepts contrived by politicians before, the Euro was severely flawed from the start. The exchange rates between the joining currencies and the Euro were politically determined and did not follow market principles. Some countries like Greece were allowed to join even though they provided fake data and did not meet the minimum requirements. There is no proper coordination of fiscal policy and no proper set-up to regulate private banks. Consequently, the common currency has led to a severe crisis in some countries while contributing to bubbles in others. Instead of creating stability and prosperity the Euro is nowadays a main driver of conflicts that threatens to break the EU apart. Recent developments such as in Italy are just an appetizer. Expect a lot more to happen.
A second main threat to Europe comes from immigrants. If you think that the USA, Canada or Australia have an immigration issue, be assured that the magnitude of the situation in Europe is far greater. Other countries screen potential immigrants and allow only those to enter that meet their requirements. The illegal immigrants that enter the USA via the Mexican border share at least a common cultural background. Not so in Europe. Most countries have no well-designed immigration policy and many illegal immigrants from Africa and the Middle East bring with them a very different culture and religion. The European refugee crisis of 2015 was just the beginning and is going to resume at a larger scale in the coming years. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated “We can manage this” she sent an open invitation to millions of poor people in Africa and the Middle East to come to Europe and enjoy the welfare state.
Whereas the population in Europe is stagnant or shrinking there is explosive population growth in many countries in Africa and the Middle East. The number of desperate young men and women who were born in poverty, received only basic education and have only limited or no chance to get a stable job is rapidly expanding. Who can blame them for looking at other regions that seem to offer better prospects for life? Once the influx of illegal immigrants really starts the overextended welfare systems in Europe will crash and governments will be forced to implement very stringent measures. Already today you are accused of “hate speech” if you point out the dangers of virtually uncontrolled immigration by presenting the facts in a purely analytical way. Expect freedom of speech to be curtailed further with other personal and economic freedoms to follow. Let’s hope that European people will eventually wake up to defend humanistic and liberal values that their ancestors have struggled to achieve since the age of the enlightenment.
A lot of people marvel about the Chinese economic miracle. China has indeed grown remarkably over the past 30 years and large parts of the population have been hauled out of poverty. What many people don’t know is that China’s growth is to a large extend based on debt. According to the Institute of International Finance (IFF) China’s total government, corporate and household debt had reached 303% of GPD in the first quarter of 2019 and continues to rise. Admittedly the Chinese government was a lot smarter than its Western counterparts as it used debt to invest in infrastructure and education instead of public welfare and consumption. Nevertheless, the current level of debt is unsustainable. The only question is whether there will be a soft or a hard landing.
China’s ruling Communist Party is fully aware of the looming crisis and has therefore implemented a Social Credit System to subdue the population and fight future unrest. If you found George Orwell’s “1984” terrifying, then you better stop reading now. The Social Credit System which is based on mass surveillance and big data analysis aims to give every citizen a score based on his or her social behavior. A unified system using a secret algorithm is expected to be in place by 2020. Being a party member, participating in party activities and toeing the party line will obviously increase your personal score. Searching for forbidden words on the internet, participating in anti-government meetings, having friends with low credit scores, getting driving tickets or paying debt late will likely reduce your score. Citizens with a high credit score will have many benefits such as easy access to credit cards, personal loans, university education, jobs, elderly care services and a better positioning on dating sites. On the other hand, people with low credit scores will face severe repercussions. So far 17 million “discredited” people were prevented from buying plane tickets and over 5 million were disallowed from purchasing train tickets.
Based on what history teaches us we can anticipate a sequence of events that is likely to unfold in the future. Once the economy plunges into the next major recession job losses are bound to spike. Growing demand for unemployment payments will overwhelm the already failing social security systems and governments will have no choice but to reduce benefits and increase taxes. To counter the ensuing wave in crime and social unrest administrations will increase their monitoring of the population. Pervasive mass surveillance backed by artificial intelligence and marketed as necessary to “protect the people” will become a fact of life. New technologies will be used to assess (assumed) threats and prevent (future) crime.
To boost the crashing economy central banks will expand hitherto unsuccessful monetary experiments such as negative interest rates, public debt monetization as well as the purchase of bonds and stocks from private companies. Helicopter money and a ban on cash is likely to follow. Protective measures such as higher import tariffs and capital controls will be added. The election of populist governments with dictatorial tendencies will make things even worse. Elimination of many or even most personal and economic freedoms can’t be ruled out.
Not all countries will be affected equally. Some will become unlivable such as Venezuela and Zimbabwe today. Others will hopefully retain some quality of life with a minimum level of human rights’ protection. If you want to maintain most of your current personal and economic freedom you must be prepared to pack your bag anytime and move to another country. Having money outside your home country is a necessary requirement for this except if you are single, in your twenties or thirties and have specific skills that are in high demand abroad. Having secured a second passport, a foreign permanent residence or at least the right to travel and stay in a foreign country for several months is also important. Don’t think that visa free travelling will be as widespread as it is today. Once a global crisis gets under way countries will start to shut down their borders to foreigners.
History is full of examples of people who did not see the signs of change and had to suffer the consequences. Don’t be fooled by the present calm, be ready to act if the situation deteriorates. Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
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