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GIS Statements

Iconoclasm and moral hypocrisy

GIS Statement by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein

Modern-day iconoclasts are removing objects and symbols of Western civilization as part of moralistic campaigns. By doing so, they are falsifying history and attacking the very foundation of democracy.

So-called “cancel culture,” born from social media’s practice of banning nonconformists, is supported by lots of organizations and spreading in Western societies (source: GIS)

Iconoclast is a Greek word for a person destroying a picture. Its use goes back to Byzantine Emperor Leo III (717-741), who banned religious images. Today’s iconoclasts are fanatics destroying objects of historical heritage for political or religious reasons.

In March 2001, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar ordered the blowing up of two monumental 6th-century statues of Buddha in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley. This barbaric act of religious zealotry shocked the world and was rightly condemned. Today, however, many would refrain from criticizing such gestures for fear of offending the religious sensitivities of Islamists. The Bamiyan Buddhas’ destruction is unforgivable. The statues, sculpted in 507 and 544, predated Islam. At the time, Buddhism was the prevailing religion in the area.

‘Cancel culture’

In 1966, Mao Zedong launched a brutal and radical mass-scale operation in China to reshape the country’s perception of history. During a decade known as the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Communist Party murdered hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed countless historical monuments and works of art. Iconoclasm, an expression of fanaticism, also exists today. Europeans and Americans tend to associate the phenomenon with the uncivilized past and faraway radical movements such as the Taliban or Maoists.

Such a ‘history’ can be considered a form of intellectual iconoclasm
Many in the West forget that past events and cultural heritage must be understood within their historical framework, not judged by the norms, standards and beliefs of today. Unfortunately, our approach to the past has become increasingly judgmental: it mixes a hypocritical “benefit of hindsight” attitude with moral arrogance in assessing the events and personalities of bygone eras. Such a “history” becomes a political tool. It can be considered a form of intellectual iconoclasm.
A significant number of Western historians no longer analyze the past in its historical context. They would rather judge it using moral standards set by themselves. The intellectual base for this practice eerily resembles that applied by the Taliban in the bombing of the Buddha statues. For example, Europe’s historical secularism has been overinflated, prompting excessive criticism of the continent’s Christian heritage. The opposition to including a reference to God in the European constitution was iconoclastic in its radicalism. The more Europe denies its Christian past, the more radical groups will entrench themselves. Xenophobia can quickly become the norm and laicism could degenerate into fundamentalism and intolerance.

Eradicating heritage, regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with it, tends to polarize societies. The so-called “cancel culture,” born from social media’s practice of banning nonconformists, is supported by lots of organizations and spreading in Western societies. The past is doctored or censored according to today’s view of what is proper and what is not.

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Iconoclasm and moral hypocrisy

Disastrous economic and social ideas are making a comeback

GIS* Statement by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein

It is hardly a coincidence that a new monument of Karl Marx, the creator of socialist philosophy, was erected with great pomp in the city of his birth in 2018. Marxist thinking has been undergoing a renaissance for all sorts of wrong reasons, including in academic and political circles. Beware, as socialism has produced only poverty, oppression and genocide.

Trier, May 5, 2018: the ceremony of unveiling the statue of Karl Marx made by sculptor Wu Weishan and gifted to the philosopher’s city of birth by the People’s Republic of China (source: dpa)

Socialism has repeatedly, consistently and without exception, proven a failure. The Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev, Venezuela of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, or Pol Pot’s bloody experiment in Cambodia are striking examples of the disaster this system inevitably brings on countries that embrace it. Another socialist experiment is now taking place in China. On the one hand, it is about trying to improve the material well-being of Chinese people, on the other – introducing total control by the ruling party.

What is socialism? Basically, it is a doctrine that uses the lofty notions of equality and solidarity to impose an oppressive system that is anathema to these. Equality, being alien to human nature, is incompatible with freedom. The pursuit of equality invariably leads to fascism-like solutions. A free society, as opposed to a socialist one, lets people pursue opportunities of their choice as long as it does not harm others. This is also the basis of free-market competition. These are the ingredients of systems characterized by cohesion, prosperity and fruitful progress.

Systemic brutality and intimidation

Socialist systems come in a variety. The most extreme forms existed during Stalin’s purges in the Soviet Union, in Albania under Enver Hoxha and Pol Pot’s social engineering in Cambodia, and in China during the decade-long Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong. In the Soviet system, property rights were eliminated. In today’s China, some entrepreneurship and private property are allowed. However, the state has the power to confiscate it at will and individual freedom is subjected to the arbitrary designs of the ruling bureaucracy.

A striking characteristic of all these states is the rulers’ brutal intolerance of freedom of opinion and the system’s critics.

Given socialism’s track record, it is surprising that Marxist-Leninist ideas are seeing a comeback lately – although, this time around, they have been repackaged. Increasing numbers of NGOs, politicians, media outlets and universities come out in support of the socialist and totalitarian renaissance as green movements in which environmental and climate issues are misused to camouflage neo-Marxist policy “solutions.” Tellingly, these groups and organizations display sharp intolerance to any disagreement with their doctrine.
This doctrinaire attitude is on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic. Some universities in Europe no longer seem concentrated on propagating knowledge, open debate and understanding; the focus on campuses has shifted to what are considered the correct opinions. Many NGOs attack those not toeing their lines, assailing the plurality of opinion and ignoring fact-based arguments. What we are witnessing looks like poorly camouflaged attempts to impose authoritarian norms. Intolerance in society is increasing by the day.

Populist politicians of all ilk – and political parties especially – like to ride the wave of denouncing economic and social inequality. They willfully ignore the well-established fact that general prosperity cannot be reached while enforcing strict equality on society. They also omit the experience-born truth that poverty is effectively eliminated in a healthy, market-driven economy, not through the redistribution of wealth. Such schemes are not sustainable: as Margaret Thatcher famously observed, “The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Why do they do it?

A number of economists – motivated either by ignorance of their discipline’s basics, stubborn righteousness or ideological fanaticism – present social inequality as the root cause of today’s economic and social problems. In the United States, even seasoned political veterans active in the electoral campaign subscribe to this damaging doctrine.

The revival of old totalitarian temptation also takes place in the open. While one sees many old monuments removed from public places or vandalized, a new statue of Karl Marx has been added to the many already standing in the world. Even the then-president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, attended the 2018 celebrations of the philosopher’s 200th anniversary and the unveiling of the hulking 4.4-meter bronze figure in Trier, his birthplace.

No one seemed to care that Marx was the father of an ideology that murdered untold millions in the 20th century. If that estimate seems high, please add the victims of Stalin’s sweeping purges – including the state-induced hunger (Holodomor) in Ukraine – the mass executions in China during Mao’s Long March and Cultural Revolution, and the genocide in Cambodia, to name just the most tragic crimes committed in the name of socialism.

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Disastrous economic and social ideas are making a comeback


*GIS is a global intelligence service providing independent, analytical, fact-based reports from a team of experts around the world. We also provide bespoke geopolitical consultancy services to businesses to support their international investment decisions. Our clients have access to expert insights in the fields of geopolitics, economics, defense, security and energy. Our experts provide scenarios on significant geopolitical events and trends. They use their knowledge to analyze the big picture and provide valuable recommendations of what is likely to happen next, in a way which informs long-term decision-making. Our experts play active roles in top universities, think-tanks, intelligence services, business and as government advisors. They have a unique blend of backgrounds and experience to deliver the narrative and understanding of global developments. They will help you develop a complete understanding of international affairs because they identify the key players, their motivations and what really matters in a changing world. Our experts examine the challenges and opportunities in economies old and new, identify emerging politicians and analyze and appraise new threats in a fast-changing world. They offer new ideas, fresh perspectives and rigorous study.

Policy cures worse than the disease

GIS statement by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein

Governments first failed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. When they finally realized the scope of the challenge, most resorted to misguided, self-serving and often disastrous policy responses. Their push for centralization and control of economies, companies and ultimately, individuals, bodes ill for the future.

Krakow, March 25, 2020: Lock and chain on the door of one of the hundreds of closed stores in the city center. Globally, the indiscriminate closure of businesses will prove more disastrous than the pandemic itself (source: dpa)
Krakow, March 25, 2020: Lock and chain on the door of one of the hundreds of closed stores in the city center. Globally, the indiscriminate closure of businesses will prove more disastrous than the pandemic itself (source: dpa)

The disease started in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province of China. After first ignoring the problem, the authorities in Beijing cut off the contaminated area from the rest of the country – however, they did not ban international air traffic. By the end of January, the world was facing a health problem, but that truth had still not sunk in.

The world has lost its head and gone into a panicky, large-scale economic lockdown. Coronavirus rules supreme.

The disease started in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province of China. After first ignoring the problem, the authorities in Beijing cut off the contaminated area from the rest of the country – however, they did not ban international air traffic. By the end of January, the world was facing a health problem, but that truth had still not sunk in.

First: denial

When, on February 1, the United States began denying entry to travelers from China, the decision was loudly criticized. Many in Europe saw it as a manifestation of President Donald Trump’s anti-Chinese leanings. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), argued that travel restrictions cause more harm than good because they hinder information flow, disrupt medical supply chains and harm the economies. Through many of his official actions, the head of the WHO has revealed his uncritical admiration for the People’s Republic of China …

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Policy cures worse than the disease


*GIS is a global intelligence service providing independent, analytical, fact-based reports from a team of experts around the world. We also provide bespoke geopolitical consultancy services to businesses to support their international investment decisions. Our clients have access to expert insights in the fields of geopolitics, economics, defense, security and energy. Our experts provide scenarios on significant geopolitical events and trends. They use their knowledge to analyze the big picture and provide valuable recommendations of what is likely to happen next, in a way which informs long-term decision-making. Our experts play active roles in top universities, think-tanks, intelligence services, business and as government advisors. They have a unique blend of backgrounds and experience to deliver the narrative and understanding of global developments. They will help you develop a complete understanding of international affairs because they identify the key players, their motivations and what really matters in a changing world. Our experts examine the challenges and opportunities in economies old and new, identify emerging politicians and analyze and appraise new threats in a fast-changing world. They offer new ideas, fresh perspectives and rigorous study.

Opinion: Harmful attempts to plan and regulate the global economy

GIS* Statement by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein

Recently, a G20 summit of finance ministers was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The main concern of the summiteers was not the condition of the global economy, but two other issues: taxing the digital economy and taming digital and cryptocurrencies with overarching global regulations.

In a famous and, unfortunately, still pertinent quip, late United States President Ronald Reagan described the underlying problem this way: “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

Governments’ traditional economic mismanagement may be elevated to an all new, global level (source: GIS)

Governments’ excessive spending and oversized bureaucracies have created staggering public deficits. The unduly elevated role of public administration sucks talent away from the productive sectors of manufacturing and services into deadweight bureaucratic overhead. Lately, one can hardly avoid the impression that many regulations serve to justify public jobs rather than aid society. This amounts to a massive burden on the economy, especially in Europe, vastly contributing to the declining competitiveness on the continent.

How systems degenerate

Public administration should be a service organization for the citizen. Any good service organization should be lean, efficient and cost-effective. Taxes should be fair compensation for the services rendered, not a system for feeding an increasingly greedy administration and its redistribution schemes. In fact, social redistribution has degenerated to a tool used to satisfy the clientele of political parties …

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Harmful attempts to plan and regulate the global economy


*GIS is a global intelligence service providing independent, analytical, fact-based reports from a team of experts around the world. We also provide bespoke geopolitical consultancy services to businesses to support their international investment decisions. Our clients have access to expert insights in the fields of geopolitics, economics, defense, security and energy. Our experts provide scenarios on significant geopolitical events and trends. They use their knowledge to analyze the big picture and provide valuable recommendations of what is likely to happen next, in a way which informs long-term decision-making. Our experts play active roles in top universities, think-tanks, intelligence services, business and as government advisors. They have a unique blend of backgrounds and experience to deliver the narrative and understanding of global developments. They will help you develop a complete understanding of international affairs because they identify the key players, their motivations and what really matters in a changing world. Our experts examine the challenges and opportunities in economies old and new, identify emerging politicians and analyze and appraise new threats in a fast-changing world. They offer new ideas, fresh perspectives and rigorous study.

A trillion euros on the wrong policy

GIS* statement by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein

There are several cost-efficient and market-friendly policies that could be implemented by both Germany and the European Union to reduce the impact of carbon emissions on the environment. However, these solutions are being cast aside while the European Commission attempts to create a planned economy through “green” measures.

So far the European Commission has not revealed how it plans to finance the trillion euros it intends to spend on climate change (source: GIS)

The European Commission proposes to spend one trillion euros over the next seven years to fight man-made climate change. The European Investment Bank will be in charge of administering and investing these funds. How this trillion euros will be financed remains somewhat obscure so far.

Obviously, it is important to fight pollution and waste and minimize their effect on the environment. However, natural changes in climate, which have always existed, will continue to take place. Furthermore, European emissions account for only a small percentage of global pollution, and our continent is continuously improving.

European emissions account for only a small percentage of global pollution

This trillion euros to be spent instead appears to be the financial basis of a centrally planned and guided economic stimulus. Unfortunately, this will also act as a tool to redirect our successful market economy model toward a planned economy …

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A trillion euros on the wrong policy


*GIS is a global intelligence service providing independent, analytical, fact-based reports from a team of experts around the world. We also provide bespoke geopolitical consultancy services to businesses to support their international investment decisions. Our clients have access to expert insights in the fields of geopolitics, economics, defense, security and energy. Our experts provide scenarios on significant geopolitical events and trends. They use their knowledge to analyze the big picture and provide valuable recommendations of what is likely to happen next, in a way which informs long-term decision-making. Our experts play active roles in top universities, think-tanks, intelligence services, business and as government advisors. They have a unique blend of backgrounds and experience to deliver the narrative and understanding of global developments. They will help you develop a complete understanding of international affairs because they identify the key players, their motivations and what really matters in a changing world. Our experts examine the challenges and opportunities in economies old and new, identify emerging politicians and analyze and appraise new threats in a fast-changing world. They offer new ideas, fresh perspectives and rigorous study.