E-letter: Fossil of the future

The progress of mankind throughout history has been a mirror of mankind’s heartbeat, itself. You can almost hear it: consolidate, diversify. Consolidate, diversify. Consolidate/diversify. Societies were consolidated under emperors and kings, religions under popes and prophets, industries under magnates and megacorps…. And then they shatter into states, synods and competitors.

Kerry Knudsen

Our own industries have been subject to punishing consolidation in the past 20 years. In my case, magazines and media have devolved into a dozen or so big hands. In yours, the “big guys” have bought up much of the available resources, and now we are looking at the franchising of installation and repair.

We are too close to the action to make a proper judgement of “good/not good,” or “fair/not fair.” Time will be the judge. But one does wonder whether the heartbeat will continue, or whether everything will amalgamate into one sedimentary fossil and freeze in time. “Here,” some future socio-paleontologist will ruminate, “is where diversity as an economic law ended.”

 

Or not. I had the privilege to travel to Ireland recently, and struck up a conversation with a cabbie there. Uber had promised me a ride, but canceled it after 12 minutes. So much for consolidation; I got a conventional hack.

The big economic concern in Ireland is the upcoming exit of the UK from the European Union. In terms of strife, Ireland has it all: Catholics and Protestants, EU and UK, North and South, gentry and workers. You can pretty much pick your strife.

In fact, my driver was a great example of how Brits, or Sassenachs, are received in Ireland. According to him, his fare before me was composed of two Brits. The one in the back was Dumb, he said, and the one in the jump seat, where I now sat, was Dumber. “They kept calling me Paddy,” he said. “Irishmen don’t like to be called Paddy, which is why they do it. Anybody can see, though,” he said, “that my name is right there on my licence. And it’s not Paddy.”

Then, suspiciously, he looked at me and asked if I am American. “Canadian,” I said. “Thank God,” he said, “If you were American, I’d say, ‘I’m sorry.’” Then he laughed.

I hid my true identity from him, as my heritage is Nordic. The N word. My forebears allegedly cruised the Irish coasts on the odd weekend, looking to pick up chicks, for which they have never been forgiven.

Of course, since those days the economic classes in North America consolidated, and the Sassenachs more or less monopolized the chicks, leaving Nords as another disenfranchised class.

 

Let’s see … the EU.

According to my driver, whose name is NOT Paddy, the upcoming exit of the UK from the EU is going to leave a bare, wide-open, unregulated border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Irish, said my driver, have already exacted a promise from the Brits that the border will remain open. This is a good thing for such companies as CombiLift, which was the company I was there to see, since they draw their labour force from the area around them, and they are only a few kilometers from the border with Northern Ireland.

According to Padd …. er, my hack, there will be huge, unknown consequences from Brexit. For one thing, he said, thousands of pensioners have moved to Spain for the weather and other reasons. I don’t know what Irishmen call Spaniards.

All these pensioners, he said, are there based on their EU pension and EU health care. “Think about that,” he said. “When Brexit happens, the UK drops its EU benefits and all those old folks in Spain will either have to move back or pay their own health care. And they can’t.”

Clearly, whether you are in a mode of consolidation or diversification, the realm of unintended consequences is wide and deep.

 

Speaking of consequences, I won’t bore everybody with the stuff going on in Ontario, except to mention that it is clear the consolidation of resources seems to have reached a tipping point in Toronto, in Ottawa and in Washington. The limpets have attached themselves to the multi-trillion-dollar income streams we send to our respective capitols, and they don’t seem willing to let go.

Ontario’s former premier, Dalton McGuinty, appears to have moved to the States in a whirl of misspent billions surrounding a couple of hydro plants. David Livingston, his former chief of staff, got caught destroying a few e-mails, got convicted and got sentenced to 12 months’ probation.

Being a curious sort, I wonder who he deleted them for, what he’s being paid for taking the fall and whether you or I could manage probation for hiding a billion or two in the name of consolidation.

No sense bringing up Hillary’s e-mail assassinations at this point. It is simply clear that this kind of wholesale manipulation of public trusts is pandemic and is happening just as surely in your province or territory as in mine.

The question is, between them getting away with it and us getting fleeced, who is Dumber?

Maybe. Just maybe, the border of Northern Ireland will end up in the socio-paleontologists book as being the beginning of a new diversification.

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