Daily Balajisms - Inverted century
From third world to first. From first world to third.
Balaji Srinivasan thinks that 21st century is not just the Asian century, but the inverted century – many countries that had a rough 20th century will have a great 21st century and vice-versa. Because they have learnt their hard lessons and have them in living memory.
But the Western countries had decades of relative stability, so they got civilizational diabetes, thinks Balaji. Fiat crisis may wake Western progressives from their obsession with first-world problems, because they might soon face third-world problems, like financial repression. A digital lockdown is coming, thinks Balaji.
Lee Kwan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, wrote a book From Third World to First, inspiring many people around the world. Singapore’s zero-to-one story is remarkable. Balaji divides countries and cities into the ascending world, like Singapore, and the declining world, like San Francisco.
So we see the exact opposite story, from one to zero and from first world to third, being written by local politicians and life itself – in cities like San Francisco after Covid. With drugs and crime on the streets and office buildings being sold for 80% less compared to 2019. Cell phone activity is just 31% of the pre-pandemic levels.
Balaji says that LKY will be probably remembered as the greatest peace time political leader of the 20th century. Interestingly, Slavoj Žižek, who has quite a different ideology, thinks the same – there will be LKY monuments built even 100 years from now, he says.
Singapore became an inspiration for Deng Xiaoping, who experimented with special economic zones and gradually brought capitalism to China. Balaji says Deng kept the frontend, but swapped the backend – the flag and symbols remained the same, but a moral innovation of “profit is good” occurred on the backend.
This is a useful metaphor, because sometimes the regime can swap frontend but the backend remains. The same corrupt elites can just change colors but might be driven by the same set of premises and objectives.
This is related to the question: What is democracy? Balaji thinks that Democracy is a slippery concept, and can stand for opposite things at the same time, just like Christianity. It is “turn the other cheek” and also “I have not come to bring peace, but sword”.
Democracy is therefore what Democratic party in the US says it is, thinks Balaji. Internal sanctions and freezing accounts of Canadian truckers? Twitter Files and shadow-banning of heterodox thinkers, like Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford professor? It’s all democracy, if Democratic Party says so.
Balaji sees a realignment from Red vs Blue into Orange vs Green. The Democratic Party was under the influence of wokeism, a network ideology, but is pivoting back into somewhat center-left statism and dollar nationalism. On the other hand, Republicans will be much more influenced by a network ideology of bitcoin maximalism, in coming months and years, thinks Balaji.
Blue America will face the ABC of economic apocalypse, says Balaji – AI, bitcoin and China. AI will take blue checks’ jobs, and make them into new blue collars. Bitcoin will be a de facto reserve currency and global government, and China will be projecting power abroad, since the US lost in Afghanistan in 2021. After the British and the Soviets, it is again Great Game over – this time for the US.