Noami Klein–NO is Not Enough

December 31, 2017

No is Not Enough

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My blogging friends, I want to end 2017 with this Naomi Klein interview. Here she talks about her latest book, No is Not Enough. Her focus is on the character and personality and branding of the 45th President of the United States, HE Donald J. Trump.  But her insights are also apply to leaders in countries like Malaysia (Najib Razak), South Africa (Jacob Zuma), Zimbabwe (Robert Mugage) and other corrupt and abusers of power.

It is not enough for us to say No; we must also make act to make regime change a reality. Zimbabweans and South Africans have acted. Now Malaysians must show the rest of the world that they can do the same. –Din Merican

The ‘United States Factor’ in Southeast Asia: The Philippine and Singaporean (Re)assesments

December 31, 2017

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Number 408 | December 27, 2017


The ‘United States Factor’ in Southeast Asia: The Philippine and Singaporean (Re)assesments

By Ithrana Lawrence

Despite reports on the unpredictability of Washington’s Asia policy, the Trump Administration, through telephone diplomacy, high-level bilateral visits, attendance at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), East Asian Summit (EAS) and bilateral meetings in Vietnam and the Philippines, has displayed a “post-pivot” US commitment to the region and its multilateral initiatives. This aside, its engagement framed by collective action on North Korea, and a lack of specific concrete regional cooperatives, plays into Southeast Asia’s long-term anxiety.

This anxiety is addressed by Southeast Asian  leaders recalibrating their external engagements, including relations with the United States, in their strategic pursuit of policy maneuverability, autonomy, and prosperity. The cases of the Philippines and Singapore highlight how regional countries are coping with “The United States Factor”.

The Philippines’ Realignment under President Rodrigo Duterte

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Under President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines’ perception of the US role in the region has changed. Although recognized as a major non-NATO US ally since 2003, the Philippines increasingly views China as an important and economically attractive source of support, and Manila has shown an increasing willingness to accommodate Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea (SCS). Despite a 66 year-old alliance, the Philippines is diverging from the United States on issues of security and governance.

Duterte’s announced “separation” from the United States and refusal to visit Washington despite Trump’s invitation are efforts to chart an independent foreign policy. Distance from the U.S. is a price President Duterte seems eager to pay. Although the Obama-Aquino administrations’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) allowing US military forces and weapons to be stationed in the Philippines was ruled constitutional and has not been abrogated, Manila is wary of implementation. For example, the Philippine Defense Secretary remarked it was “unlikely” that the United States would be allowed to conduct Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS) from the Philippines “to avoid any provocative actions that can escalate tensions” as the “US can fly over there coming from other bases.” Similarly, Duterte downplayed US assistance in Marawi despite the US Embassy in Manila reporting a donation of planes, weapons, technical assistance, and humanitarian aid worth $56 million in 2017 – recognizing instead the contributions of China and Russia on the same day Secretary of Defense Mattis arrived in Manila.

Doubts about US commitment of the United States to defend the Philippines in the event of a conflict with China in the South China Sea have driven President Duterte to chart an engagement strategy avoiding over-reliance on Washington. China’s symbolic $14.4 million arms package was delivered as the US Congress disapproved a sale of assault rifles for the Philippine National Police (PNP) due to concerns of state sanctioned human rights violations in the ‘war on drugs’. The Philippines has leveraged competition in the region, securing Beijing’s pledge of $24 billion in infrastructure (including free infrastructure) projects in Davao and Manila, and $22.7 million in Marawi; alongside Tokyo’s $8.8 billion “maximum support” to rebuild Marawi.

Duterte’s Philippines has shown selective accommodation to China’s assertiveness as it recognizes the opportunities of engaging a rising China. Recent examples include the removal of a hut on a sandbar upon Beijing’s protest, not openly protesting territorial incursions, and allowing Chinese ships to survey within Philippine territory. That being said, the Philippines remains committed to its territorial sovereignty, with the Philippine Navy deployed to guard current claims.

The Trump administration’s generally absent rhetoric on human rights, and praise for the war on drugs has improved bilateral leadership camaraderie. All anti-US outbursts over the year aside, President Duterte’s ‘karaoke diplomacy’ at the ASEAN Summit gala dinner signals an affinity for the commander in chief of the United States.

Singapore’s Longstanding Alignment

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Despite China’s growing economic significance, political assertiveness, and security provocations in the SCS, Singapore’s alignment responses have been different than those of the Philippines. Singapore is partnering closer with Washington than with Beijing on most issues, and the United States is still viewed as an indispensable partner, significant to the development and security of the island state. While Singapore boasts a high degree of military technology, interoperability, and physical infrastructure to host the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s logistics command, its refusal to be recognized as a major non-NATO US ally reflects the island-state’s maintenance of a public non-aligned strategic engagement.

Although China is the island-state’s top trading partner, the United States remains its largest foreign investor with stock totaling $228 billion and an annual bilateral trade surplus. Singapore’s open support of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s July 2016 ruling and non-claimant concern over freedom of navigation in its regional waters faced high-cost pressure from Beijing: seizure of military equipment in Hong Kong en-route from exercises in Taiwan, cancellation of the 2016 high level Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) and apparent non-invitation of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. Although showing resolve to face China’s growing pressure, a subsequent delegation of high-level officials to Beijing followed by Prime Minister Lee’s own visit is symbolic of Beijing’s growing significance as a partner not to be openly defied. Singapore looks to harness China’s economic engagement with the region specifically as a global financial services hub for the Belt and Road Initiative and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

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Singapore remains a strong advocate for US engagement in the region, with a pledge to facilitate initiatives for regional counter-terrorism efforts upon assuming ASEAN Chairmanship in 2018. Bilaterally, Prime Minister Lee’s pledge to extend to 2018 his country’s support for the anti-IS coalition in the Middle East (the only Asian country to contribute personnel) and deployment of helicopters to hurricane relief efforts in Texas are symbolic of Singapore’s activism and the leadership’s institutionalized affinity for the United States. The progressive deepening of defense cooperatives also witnessed the first bilateral naval exercise taking place off the coast of Guam, following the deployment of the Singapore Air Force (RSAF) there for joint training in April.

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The lack of transparency on Malaysia’s deals with China is worrying


The Philippine and Singaporean alignments demonstrate models that can be expanded to other Southeast Asian countries. There are signs countries like Indonesia and Malaysia are reassessing the traditional role of the United States and to a certain extent adjusting their external engagements as the systemic conditions that placed the United States as the key security protector, economic patron, and diplomatic partner at the end of the Cold War are changing. Future research on asymmetrical alignment under uncertainty should examine these states.

About the Author

Ithrana Lawrence, is a former Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington. She can be contacted at

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Peter Valente, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact

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Trump’s democratic destruction and Asian absenteeism

December 31, 2017

Trump’s democratic destruction and Asian absenteeism

by TJ Pempel, University of California, Berkeley


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United States President Donald Trump stands next to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the G20 Summit in Germany on July 8, 2017. Photo by: VGP

In the twelve months since the 2016 elections, the United States has undergone an unrelenting series of attacks on its constitutional provisions, its regulatory regime, its democratic procedures and its social cohesion. US President Donald Trump has been the knife-edge of these assaults.

He has repeatedly challenged judicial and media independence. He threatens banana republic-like judicial retaliation against his political opponents. He has green-lighted white supremacy and Nazi marchers while attacking religious, racial and ethnic minorities. He has refused to enforce existing laws while his appointments and executive orders have undercut the missions of numerous government agencies. He has exploited the presidency to enrich himself and his family while following the authoritarian’s playbook by muddying the line between fact and fiction through shameless denials of inconvenient facts — whether they be the size of his inaugural crowd, the science of climate change or the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Russian interference helped his election.

Yet his actions are hardly those of an unsupported autocrat. A Republican Congress and an animated support base provide steady enabling. They seem convinced that they are in an existential gang war, and beneath their red jerseys, they have proven themselves better armed and more willing to sacrifice principles for one-party autocracy than their blue-jerseyed ‘enemies’.

Darkening for democracy as this domestic situation is, the immediate impact on Asia is largely indirect. As US political power focuses inwardly, US engagement with Asia atrophies. Nothing telegraphs the minimisation of foreign policy more than the evisceration of the Department of State. A diplomatic novice leads it, the department faces major budget cuts, scores of senior diplomats — including 60 per cent of the United States’ senior ambassadors — have resigned while 74 top posts at the State Department remain vacant with no announced nominee.

Despite a purported concern with North Korea, the Trump administration (as of 29 November), had not even nominated individuals to fill such key posts as Assistant Secretary for International Security and Non-Proliferation, Assistant Secretary for East Asia or Ambassador to South Korea.

Some might offer Trump’s 12 day, five-nation trip to Asia as counter-evidence. Yet aside from a physical presence in the region and a number of showy photo ops, the trip generated few concrete outcomes. Trump’s ‘America First’ speech at APEC was an unapologetic broadcasting of his government’s domestic obsession and its obliviousness to the reality that the global and regional trade regime he vilified has been vital to Asia’s post-war economic success. His last-minute decision to skip the plenary session of the East Asia Summit testified further to his administration’s narcissistic approach to Asia, including its multilateral institutions.

Underscoring the absence of an integrative strategy was the schizophrenic insistence that Asian countries should cooperate multilaterally with the United States regarding North Korea but simultaneously that they should all behave unilaterally on trade and in doing so follow the lead of the US. Equally inconsistent was Trump’s decision to decertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal forged by his predecessor Barack Obama and major world leaders. The signal sent to the North Koreans could not be clearer: why enter a deal with us if we are free to ignore prior international agreements?

Such diametrically antagonistic impulses have left allies and adversaries alike confused about the United States’ motives and staying power: what are the United States’ goals, what tactics will advance their implementation and will anyone be in office to advance them?

Unfair trading practices — most particularly China’s mercantilist behaviour and constraints on foreign companies — deserve criticism. But rather than aligning allies such as Japan, South Korea and Germany, all of which have suffered from Chinese practices, the Trump administration has been approaching the issue unilaterally and inconsistently, minimising the chances for support from others victimised by Chinese practices. Thus, in his recent visit to China, Trump basked in his host’s flattering pageantry while ignoring earlier declamations about trade practices. Instead, he concentrated on pressuring China to tighten sanctions on North Korea.

Meanwhile, as its democracy deteriorates domestically, the longstanding appeal of US soft power withers. Admittedly, the United States has never been especially forceful in promoting human rights and democracy in Asia. But it is difficult to convince locals that democracy and citizens’ rights remain a high priority in the face of the Trump administration’s domestic behaviour and its expressions of admiration for Asian authoritarians like Chinese President Xi, Russian President Putin, Philippine President Duterte, Thai Prime Minister Chan-ocha and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib (not to mention Kim Jong-un, whom Trump labelled ‘a pretty smart cookie’).

Not surprisingly, during his visit to China, Trump played his ‘get out of jail free’ card on behalf of three UCLA basketball shoplifters while ignoring the many prominent political prisoners languishing in Chinese prisons. As former US national security advisor Susan Rice phrased it: ‘the Chinese leadership played President Trump like a fiddle, catering to his insatiable ego and substituting pomp and circumstance for substance’.

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The longstanding regional order now faces major challenges, and realists across Asia must deal with the United States as it is — not as they would like it to be. Thus the other participants of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have moved ahead without the United States to forge their own eleven-nation agreement (suspending provisions previously negotiated to benefit the United States).

Meanwhile, China utilises the absence of the United States and its own economic strengths to enhance its influence over regional developments. For example, Vietnam and the Philippines have reached an accommodation with China in the South China Sea while in return for an easing of Chinese economic pressures against THAAD, South Korea has capitulated to ‘three nos’ that abdicate key security options with the United States and Japan.

As the regional order shifts, it is unfortunate for both the United States and many in Asia that Washington, obsessed with its own domestic battles, is likely to observe these changes from the sidelines.

TJ Pempel is Jack M Forcey Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley.

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2017 in review and the year ahead.


Malaysian Government caught Pol Pot’s habit of banning books and persecuting writers and public intellectuals

December 31, 2017

Malaysian Government caught Pol  Pot’s habit of banning books and persecuting writers and public intellectuals

by FMT Reporters

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Former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim says his book “Assalamualaikum: Observations on the Islamisation of Malaysia”, which was launched in October 2015, has now been banned by the government.

The former minister took to Twitter to make public the decision which comes under the jurisdiction of the Home Ministry.

“So the year didn’t end that well, My book ‘Assalamualaikum’ is now banned. Looks to me this govt prefer Muslims to burn effigies of political opponent(s), destroy beer bottles than reading books,” he tweeted earlier today.

In the book, Zaid shares his thoughts on a new and fresh conversation about the role of Islam in Malaysian politics and in public life.

A check with a local bookstore website indicates that the book, which was on sale for RM19, is banned.

FMT is still waiting to get confirmation from the Home Ministry on the banning of the book. This is the latest case of book banning related to publications that touch on Islam.

Image result for Farouk Musa and Din MericanDr. Ahmad Farouk Musa and Blogger Din Merican


On October 3, the Home Ministry had announced the banning of five books with Islamic content, by Turkish author Mustafa Akyol, and two Malaysians – Ahmad Farouk Musa and Faisal Tehrani.

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Prolific Writer Faisal Tehrani


In an official government gazette dated September 28, 2017, the Home Ministry said the books were banned as they were likely to be prejudicial to public order as well as to alarm public opinion.

The sole English book banned was “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty”, written by Akyol, and which has been an international best-seller since it was first published in the United States in 2011.

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The Bahasa Malaysia version of the book, “Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan” was also banned. Aside from Akyol, Farouk, Nur Asyhraff Mohd Nor and Shuhaib Ar Rumy Ismail are also credited as authors for the translated work.

Two of Farouk’s own books – Wacana Pemikiran Reformis (Jilid 1) and (Jilid 2) – were also banned.

The publisher of the three books in BM is Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), an Islamic NGO of which Farouk is chairman.

‘More corruption than anytime in history’

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At the launch of his book in 2015, Zaid had said that Malaysia was deeply divided along racial, religious and class more than ever before.

“We have more corruption than at anytime in our history. Greed has become a way of life. Democracy and Rule of Law have been pushed aside.”

“Jakim, proclaiming itself as the protector of Islam, is more involved in big business and overseas travels than in promoting the principles of the religion,” he had said, referring to the Malaysian Islamic religion development department by its acronym.

“These are the complete antithesis of an Islamic government. Islam is a pristine, pure and a simple religion. It’s a religion of peace, promoting honour and integrity.”

Saying then that he was hoping for the book to be a conversation starter, Zaid said: “If the idea of Islamisation was to promote Malaysia as the country that exemplifies the virtues of the religion, then we have failed.”

2018: Year of Change for Better or Worse?

December 31, 2017

2018: Year of Change for Better or Worse?

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

As the year comes to an end the latest press statements from two civil society organizations – the National Association of Patriots ( NPA or Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan) and G25 – provide renewed hope that the struggle for the freedoms and values of a robust democratic system will continue with key stakeholders providing overdue support.

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With scandals in his bag, Najib Razak needs to retain power and maintain the status quo. Keep praying Mr. Prime Minister.

For too long most Malaysians – outside the political arena who are well positioned to resist the authoritarian political and religious forces seeking to kill off moderate positions on regressive and illiberal socio-economic policies and programs – have remained quiet.

They have been spectators or have stood outside the political process hoping that the long entrenched ruling government is truly committed to building a cohesive and inclusive nation where no ethic, religious, geographical or class grouping is denied their rightful entitlements. They have also expected the BN to be consistent in pursuing a genuine pluralism that can be the foundation stone for peace and progress in our multi-racial society.

Many among our elite have also remained passive in the belief that opportunistic and repressive, and what constitute the more dangerous and real, not imagined, anti-national forces can be countered by institutional stake players located in the executive and legislative branches; as well as by the other constitutional checks and balances.

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That these two organizations – NPA and G25 – whose service and loyalty to the nation is irrefutable and unimpeachable have come out openly on developments which the government is in denial or prefers to draw a curtain of silence over reveals the deep concern and despair of respected armed forces and civil service leaders with current developments; and their lack of faith that the BN leadership is up to the task of steering the nation in the right direction to a better future.

Losers of the NEP and Religious Extremism    

The NPA’s subject of concern is the New Economic Policy and its successor policies, and their impact on the ethnic composition of the armed forces. Calling on the government to increase the recruitment of non-Malays by 10 per cent annually, the NPA statement explained that it was giving its views as truthfully as possible on “some of these issues that are ultra-sensitive.”

In its opinion, a policy favoring Malays in promotion and discriminating against non-Malays has made the latter feel demoralized and marginalized. Coupled with an increasing Islamic culture, this has negatively affected esprit-de-corps and comradeship in multi-racial military units.

According to NPA President Brigadier-General (Rtd) Mohd Arshad Raji Arshad these factors have not only affected the military but also the police force and other public service organizations.

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3 Penyamun Tarbus with medals

BG Arshad noted that “the problems faced today are an outcome of the policies and decisions of our government of the past few decades … The problem is endemic, a cause-and-effect of the ‘unwritten’ rules and regulations of the past.”

He pointed out that “to solve the problem, we have to first recognize the problem. The intention here is not fault finding, rather to fully comprehend the grievances from the perspectives of the non-Malays, and help those in position make decisions for the betterment of our country.”

A critical but balanced and rationally-based independent position can be similarly seen in the statements of G25 on the socio-economic and religious controversies that have beset the nation in the last few years.

In its statement on the latest controversies relating to the influence of political Islamic ideology in the country and the effort by Malaysian Islamic Research Strategic Institute (Iksim), the government-supported Islamic think-tank, to censure and punish University of Malaya Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi  and G25 member, Noor Farida, for their views on religious radicalism,  G25 has noted that while it “recognises the fundamental rights of individuals and Islamic activists to advocate their beliefs of political Islam”, government officials and leaders need to reassure the public that the government does not agree with such views as they are contrary to the intent and purpose of the Constitution and the Rukunegara.

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To G25, it is “when the government leaders keep silent and pretend not to hear that the public gets worried whether the government is using religion for its own politics. It’s the official silence and apparent acquiescence that make locals and foreigners get the idea there is radicalisation of Islam in Malaysia.”

Standing up for all Malaysians

What is especially encouraging about the statements by these two Malay dominated organizations is not simply the commitment to what G25 describes as a “national ideology of tolerance and respect for the diversity and differences among Malaysians”. It is also their willingness to stand up for the rights and freedoms of “other” Malaysians.

One response by a Patriot member to criticism by the Defence Minister of the press statement of BG Arshad provides comfort that even if 2018 turns out badly for moderate and progressive minded Malaysians on the political and religious front, there will always be our true patriots to fall back upon.

This is what Major Mior Rosli wrote in his reply. It provides such a contrast to the saccharin sweet, vacuous and meaningless New Year messages that will soon flood our print media from the PR offices of the country’s political leaders.  His entire note should be required reading for all young Malaysians and those of us who have become cynical about developments in the nation:

“We, the veterans Armed Forces Officers and the ex-senior police officers are the real Patriots. More Patriotic than any of you, “power and kleptocracy” crazy politicians. Don’t ever belittle us. If there is a war to defend the soil, we will be the second or third liners behind the regular forces to defend this country. Please don’t mess us up with your political dreams. (capitals and exclamation marks omitted).”

Racing the Machine

December  30, 2017

Racing the Machine

by Robert Skidelsky


Economists have always believed that previous waves of job destruction led to an equilibrium between supply and demand in the labor market at a higher level of both employment and earnings. But if robots can actually replace, not just displace, humans, it is hard to see an equilibrium point until the human race itself becomes redundant.

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LONDON – Dispelling anxiety about robots has become a major preoccupation of business apologetics. The commonsense – and far from foolish – view is that the more jobs are automated, the fewer there will be for humans to perform. The headline example is the driverless car. If cars can drive themselves, what will happen to chauffeurs, taxi drivers, and so on?

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Economic theory tells us that our worries are groundless. Attaching machines to workers increases their output for each hour they work. They then have an enviable choice: work less for the same wage as before, or work the same number of hours for more pay. And as the cost of existing goods falls, consumers will have more money to spend on more of the same goods or different ones. Either way, there is no reason to expect a net loss of human jobs – or anything but continual improvements in living standards.

History suggests as much. For the last 200 years or so, productivity has been steadily rising, especially in the West. The people who live in the West have chosen both more leisure and higher income. Hours of work in rich countries have halved since 1870, while real per capita income has risen by a factor of five.

How many existing human jobs are actually “at risk” to robots? According to an invaluable report by the McKinsey Global Institute, about 50% of time spent on human work activities in the global economy could theoretically be automated today, though current trends suggest a maximum of 30% by 2030, depending mainly on the speed of adoption of new technology. The report’s midpoint predictions are: Germany, 24%; Japan, 26%; the United States, 23%; China, 16%; India, 9%; and Mexico, 13%. By 2030, MGI estimates, 400-800 million individuals will need to find new occupations, some of which don’t yet exist.

This rate of job displacement is not far out of line with previous periods. One reason why automation is so frightening today is that the future was more unknowable in the past: we lacked the data for alarmist forecasts. The more profound reason is that current automation prospects herald a future in which machines can plausibly replace humans in many spheres of work where it was thought that only we could do the job.

Economists have always believed that previous waves of job destruction led to an equilibrium between supply and demand in the labor market at a higher level of both employment and earnings. But if robots can actually replace, not just displace, humans, it is hard to see an equilibrium point until the human race itself becomes redundant.

The MGI report rejects such a gloomy conclusion. In the long run, the economy can adjust to provide satisfying work for everyone who wants it. “For society as a whole, machines can take on work that is routine, dangerous, or dirty, and may allow us to use our intrinsically human talents more fully and enjoy more leisure.”

This is about as good as it gets in business economics. Yet there are some serious gaps in the argument.

The first concerns the length and scope of the transition from the human to the automated economy. Here, the past may be a less reliable guide than we think, because the slower pace of technological change meant that job replacement kept up with job displacement. Today, displacement – and thus disruption – will be much faster, because technology is being invented and diffused much faster. “In advanced economies, all scenarios,” McKinsey writes, “result in full employment by 2030, but transition may include periods of higher unemployment and [downward] wage adjustments,” depending on the speed of adaptation.

This poses a dilemma for policymakers. The faster the new technology is introduced, the more jobs it eats up, but the quicker its promised benefits are realized. The MGI report rejects attempts to limit the scope and pace of automation, which would “curtail the contributions that these technologies make to business dynamism and economic growth.”

Given this priority, the main policy response follows automatically: massive investment, on a “Marshall Plan scale,” in education and workforce training to ensure that humans are taught the critical skills to enable them to cope with the transition.

The report also recognizes the need to ensure that “wages are linked to rising productivity, so that prosperity is shared with all.” But it ignores the fact that recent productivity gains have overwhelmingly benefited a small minority. Consequently, it pays scant attention to how the choice between work and leisure promised by economists can be made effective for all.

Finally, there is the assumption running through the report that automation is not just desirable, but irreversible. Once we have learned to do something more efficiently (at lower cost), there is no possibility of going back to doing it less efficiently. The only question left is how humans can best adapt to the demands of a higher standard of efficiency.

Philosophically, this is confused, because it conflates doing something more efficiently with doing it better. It mixes up a technical argument with a moral one. Of the world promised us by the apostles of technology, it is both possible and necessary to ask: Is it good?

Is a world in which we are condemned to race with machines to produce ever-larger quantities of consumption goods a world worth having? And if we cannot hope to control this world, what is the value of being human? These questions may be outside McKinsey remit, but they should not be off limits to public discussion.

Robert Skidelsky, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University and a fellow of the British Academy in history and economics, is a member of the British House of Lords. The author of a three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes, he began his political career in the Labour party, became the Conservative Party’s spokesman for Treasury affairs in the House of Lords, and was eventually forced out of the Conservative Party for his opposition to NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999.