Bangalore, May 2022 the 21st
Thank you so much to the India Foundation for this kind invitation to share ideas in this Forum. It is a great honor for me to address such an important meeting about the digital economy, the future of global platforms and the new world paradigm. Let me share with you some non-aligned ideas. They are the ideas of a French citizen still proud of a country which was few decades ago a non-aligned country, close to India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other Indo-Pacific, Asian and African countries.
1 – Digital economy is putting upside down all what we know about free market society and liberal democracy.
My first point will be about politics and power. We have to take back control from Big techs and billionaire’s money.
Digital economy is no more about the economy, it is about power, private censorship, woke capital, and the destruction of national identity, localism and religious faith.
The Hindu society and the french society as well are not facing the challenge of Nation’s building or State’s building, they are facing a « mind’s building » system. Meta is the name of a private company. Metaverse is the project of this company to change the world. Who gave such power to this private company ? Who are these who dare change the world and our lives ? Facebook and Instagram, its main competitor, which it conveniently owns, have suspended the accounts of an elected President. I don’t accept to give a private company such political power against democracy. I don’t accept they take control over the mind of my children and grandchildren, even for the sake of global connectivity. If our societies are not reining in big techs, big techs will rein in our societies. Digital technologies could be our best friends, digital religion is for sure our worst enemy. Main internet providers have invented their markets, they have created their own territories, and they decided the game, the laws and the rules on these territories, out of any public concern. They make themselves sovereigns, without public responsibility and clear accountability. And our European States are too weak and too plugged on US providers to rule the Net as a common good for the public interest.
My second point will be about the growing divide between wealth and progress, due to financialization and digitalization. As Julius Krein wrote in American Affairs ( Fall 2021), « we create value of nothing ». There is no more links between » market value », shareholder absolute power, and what a national economy is for – to produce goods and services for the people. Just think about Apple ; the global revenue of the firm don’t move for the last six years ( 2015-2021), but market valuation jumped six times, mainly because 350 billion dollars of buybacks given to shareholders!
Financialization put an end to any link between asset values and growth, between market value and human progress. In fact, the wealth of the new robber barrons of the digital economy drives us on the way of an under development process, both in EU and mainly, in the US – just have a look at the US decaying infrastructures ! Billionaires mobilises social media to destroy the public debate, to silent any fact or idea that don’t comply with their interests, they benefit from the « woke » culture, when vocal minorities prevail over silent majority, when the nobodies prevail over citizens. They substitute the individual of nowhere to the national citizen. They dont want anything like « hindutva » ou « la culture française » to prevail. And they want to make migrants from any of us. This is not the way we wish. We have to reconcile market value, growth and progress, with new indexes, new accounting standards, and extended responsability of companies for any wrongdoings. Limited responsability for shareholders doesn’t mean unlimited irresponsibility for private companies!
Third, we must restore the markets as common goods. This is the end of the free market economy as we know it. In fact, open market economy passed away for a while, since private companies has started to accumulate the attributes of sovereignty.
Digital economy creates monopolies, because the law of diminishing returns no more applies to them – in fact, Facebook, Google or Amazon are beneficiaries of increasing returns, what means that the digital economy is un itself a monopolistic economy – and because there is no limits to their expansion in the virtual world. Who could see Google, Microsoft or Facebook as competitors on an open market ? They didn’t enter an existing market, they have created their own market. Their revenues didn’t proceed from customer’s choice or better performance, they proceed from the toolboxes they set up on their territory, they benefit from « user’s data » capture, the new gold of the digital era. They are not sellers, they act as sovereigns against any attempt to rule them.
The revenues of digital economy have little to do with economic value or progress. Digital economy creates a cash crop. It incentivized companies with no assets, no investments, no workers, just tollboxes and a portfolio of intellectual property rights ( IPR) to manage. The rigged financial markets as we have them destroyed competition, forbid innovation, and close doors before newcomers in capital intensive activities; the only model they value is digital, virtual, and extractive. It comes to the point where virtual things are destroying real things – nature, industries, life itself. It is excellent to have 5 G, it is also excellent to have toilets, clean air and safe water.
And this is our common challenge. I was told India will have more than one hundred unicorns this year – young companies valued at more than one billion dollars on the stock market. Unicorns for sure make a lot of money, but none of them is building cars, water pipes or nuclear powerplant. None of them build roads, trains or infrastructures. We have to rediscover that real-world matters. Even in the Metaverse dream world, we need safe water, clean air and food more than datas. Just try to eat your smartphone or to drink flows of datats ! Internet is performing well to send money on an e-account, but for what purpose if there is no food to buy on the market and no water on the tap?
These attractive start-ups create money. They dont create value. They dont distribute wealth around, and many perceive unlimited rents. That is the real figure of the digital and financial economy; new feudalism perceiving a toll on any move on the earth, privatizing water, air, life itself, the modern figure of loan sharks.
So, the priority of our democracies is to take back control from the big techs on information, on datas, on trades, on censorship—if we don’t, they will take control of our democracies. And it is to reassess public control over the stock market as a common good. The formula for the future is ; the more competition inside a regulated market, the more protection against unregulated actors and markets.
2 – What about global platforms ?
The net was an open and free space, dedicated only to improving social life. For most of the West propaganda, the « digital iron curtain » is the deplorable Russian or Chinese exceptions to free, global, and democratic Internet flows of communications.
It is no more the case. The Ukrainian crisis puts an end to free flows of information, to give place to unlimited propaganda, both on the US-Nato and the Russian side. In few days, since the invasion of eastern Ukraine, unlimited access to uncontrolled platforms came to be the exception. State censorship and state-controlled access quickly became the norm.
We are living the end of the Internet as we knew it – free, global, open. Polls reveals an uncomfortable truth. As Gladden Pappin has quoted in an important paper ( The Post liberal Order, 10 of March, 2022), in the 2010’s, Americans expected their social life to be improved by the internet, in 2018 they were 58% to feel that social media hurt democracy and impoverish their social life.
Infowar about Ukraine could be the turning point and the end of global platforms as we know them. First of all, the generally accepted idea that » Ukraine has won the infowar » pushes the USA and the European Union to dangerous conclusions—especially when they believe their own lies about Ukraine as a role model and Zelensky as the responsible leader of an existing Nation state- in fact, one of the most heavily corrupted and fake state in the world. Second, European Union’s Nations soon will feel uncomfortable to be trapped in the American sector, West Berlin like, with no exit in sight. Nowadays, the Iron curtain on the Net separates the West from the outside world – and submit the European Nations to the American truth. Just have a look at the votes in the general assembly of the United Nation Organization ; Nations representing two-third of the world population either opposed or abstain to sanction Russia, but the only admitted commentary on European platforms is ; that Russia is isolated! The lesson for the future is crystal clear. Those who stand on the American side are not to be comfortable in the next future. To be plugged on american platforms is at own risks – and we, the Europeans, will pay the price.
We are living a dangerous weaponizations of the economy, from money to trade and the Net ; intolerance and bigotry are the surprising figures of what we still call ; « liberal democracies ». Meta Platform operating Facebook and Instagram moved to block RT and Sputnik on its European and UK services. It is not delivering a service to customers, it is exercising a sovereign authority against the freedom of choice of citizens – and the freedom of speech. It is a part of the infowar fight by net monopolies, not a reasonable choice by a private company operating for its customers and shareholders. Twitter, Linkedin, and many others, are co-belligerents in the coming war, as they will be in any war to come against the opponents to US unilateralism. The weaponizations of the Internet puts an end to any « free global network » illusion. Dreams of global connectivity have crashed. Global propaganda took place. What happens to Russian social media could happen tomorrow to many others – India, China, or France, if at least France keeps alive its non aligned diplomatic tradition. Each Nation has to think twice ; what is their degree of comfort to live in the American sector cloud, under the law of American censors ?
The future of the Internet will look in some ways as you did it in India; humane, centric digitalization. A strong governement, strong institutions, and a strong will to build the internet as a common good, achieved tremendous successes in giving banking accounts for poor people, delivering free medical services, prohibiting private censorship in favor of a state control of divisive, religious or anti-national propaganda… Just to say so, we have to learn from India, how to balance over regulation in favor of just regulation with strong government. Our communities have to take back control of the Internet if we are to keep up with political freedom. We are facing digital totalitarianism and the end of liberalism as we know it. The future of the Internet is local, community oriented and value-driven. We have to build the French community platforms, as you buildt the Hindutva platforms. Each Nation has to think about the new, multipolar internet where communities, from Nations states to extended families, regain control and power on the information they get, the relations they choose, and the wars they fight.
3 – What about the European Union, the euro, and the coming back of history ?
The current state of the European Union is the direct product of the benevolent insurance given by Nato and the US army; don’t mind about your safety, just rebuild and partner. This is not the way to political freedom or sovereignty.
For the last 70 years, the USA were a consistent and effective ally, not a blind partner ; in the 73-74′, Henry Kissinger broke down a strong attempt by the European Community under French leadership to assert an independent foreign policy, using the oil crisis to reaffirm the strong leadership of US interests over Europe.
In 2022, we are living the same forced realignment of the EU under strict US control provided under NATO flag, against Nordstream2 and any move to strategic independence. Close to the Thucydide’s trap, and the shock of Empires, there is little space for non-aligned countries. E U finance by the billions of dollars US arms and military systems for Ukraine. EU will face soon a major crisis for food, for energy and for supply chains ; sanctions against Russia are mainly sanctions against Europeans.
I m not sure the Union as we know it will survive. Few months ago, there was a general agreement not to admit any more Nation in the Union before a reset of institutions, democratic processes and strategic autonomy. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has had strong words about NATO being « brain dead », and he was wishing to achieve strategic autonomy for Europe. Just words for a long past dream ! If Ukraine is to enter the EU without any compliance and reforms of its corrupted and puppet State, this will put an end to any European ambition, and maybe more, to the idea of the European Union itself. As Paul Valéry foresaw in the thirties, Europe is close to be governed by an American gauleiter !
What is at stake now is not some eastern part of Ukraine, Ukraine itself, or a new peace agreement with Russia. It is the coming of a multipolar world. The US unilateralism is at stake, and new rules for good neighbourhood between free Nations, based on mutual respect. Two forces are clashing about Ukraine.
The first one, I call it US unilateralism, states that all men are the same, and concludes that laws, norms and institutions are to be the same everywhere – of course, the US army and a US court will enforce them. As once said Tony Blair, « when they know us, every man on earth wants to be one of us ! » Globalization through digitalization and transhumanism gave the economic incentives to the project of one world, one government, one elite in power.
The second one, I coined it « humane ecology », recognize diversity of laws, social patterns, institutions, as the treasure of humanity, and the direct product of collective freedom – the freedom of people to make their laws on their territory and to keep their borders. Hindutva is a jewel in this treasure, as are Christianity, Jewishness, Buddhism, or animism. Let me have a wish for these Murya and Gonds people I visited few years ago at the heart of Chattisgarh. I spend days with them. I learned a lot from them. They make a living in complete equilibrium with nature. God bless them, and save them from the ugly devils of greed and individualism ! We will survive because every man doesn’t want to be an American citizen !
I dont know what will happen in this « special operation » of Russia in Ukraine. It was provoked unequivocally by NATO, its repeated lies and its military agression against Russia buffer zone and the Russian-speaking populations of eastern Ukraine. I just say what Mearsheimer, Kissinger or James Baker have repeated many times ; don’t push Ukraine to Nato! Just respect Russia, hold your ground and keep it at a safe distance, as did so successfully JF Kennedy with Nikita Kroutchev in the Cuba missiles crisis of 1963 !
I fear more the disastrous consequences of the mistakes made by the US government. First, by seizing the 300 billions of dollar reserve of the Russian central bank, without preventing the Federal reserve Board ; second, by seizing properties legally acquired by so-called « oligarchs », without any contradictory inquiry or any judgment. If I were a central banker in India, or anywhere in the world, or if I were an Indian billionaire, I will leave immediately the US dollar, the American and British territory, and never come back. The weaponizations of the US dollar and the demise of property rights are major blows against the rule of law, the sacredness of private property, human rights, and other export products from the West to the Rest of the world.
This matters a lot ; it is not against western values and principles that the Rest challenges the US and the EU, it is for the sake of these values and principles. Are Russians « untermencshen », as the Nazis said ? Millions of people have found a safe heaven in the United States or Great Britain because they respect property rights, and individual freedom and guarantee access to a sound judiciary system. When destroying these safe heavens, USA and Great Britain are destroying the core basis of their attractivity. What happens to India if India doesn’t comply to orders given by the Quad, this alliance for undefined goals, with very define masters ?
So, what to do ?
We have to assert firmly the non-sense of « westernization », as we are, as I am, a French citizen from the Eurasian continent.
We have to rebuild international conversation, these official or unofficial places to share ideas, to fight misunderstandings and misinformation. We have to build good strategic neighbourood forums, as I tried to do with the Identity and Democracy Foundation in Paris and Brussels, as you succeed so well with this India Ideas Forum.
We have to help the great American people to get rid of the financial and digital mafia that destroyed American democracy and put America on the way of underdevelopment. The American people is our friend and long term ally. And we have to do something for them, to find peacefully their place in a multipolar world and to focus more on their so many internal problems.
We have to fight any attempt of digital giants to put our democracies under control, and we must establish checks and balances against the invisible grip of algorithms and provide censorship.
And we have to come to a multilateral system, based not only on alliances and trade agreements but on reciprocal intelligence and respect. We must recognize diversity as the treasure of humanity, the fruit of political freedom, and the condition for good strategic neighborhood. A new monetary system based on commodities and gold could be of great help against the destruction of value by so rigged financial markets.
When I call for national spirit in European Nations, to restore localism in our territories, when you ask for Hindutva in Bharat mata India, we speak the same language. We speak for civilization, because there is not civilization if there are not civilizations (Claude Levi Strauss). Civilizations proceeds from citizens holding their ground, keeping a certain degree of separation between each other, and cherishing their own identity above anything else. We are watching now the insurrection of diversity, of the men of somewhere, from their faith and their spirit, as you did in India, as I hope we will achieve soon in France and across European Nations.
Hervé Juvin, for the India Foundation, Bangalore, the 21st of may, 2022