01/23/2021 - Have Some Faith, Carrie!

Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown University's Watson Institute, and political scientist Carrie Nordlund share their take on the news.

On this episode: the Capitol riot and its aftermath; Trump's deplatforming on Twitter and Facebook, and what it reveals about Big Tech; assessing Biden's first 48 hours in office; China's 'pivot' back towards itself; the confusion behind the EU's 'strategic autonomy'; Google threatens to deplatform...Australia?!; envisioning lobsters in the streets of London.

You can learn more about Watson’s other podcasts here.


DAN: Hey there. This is Dan, the producer for Mark and Carrie. If you like this show, we highly recommend you check out Watson's other podcast, Trending Globally. You'll hear more in-depth conversations about politics and policy from some of the world's leading experts, including occasionally Mark and Carrie. You can find us by subscribing to Trending Globally on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Again, that's Trending Globally. All right, on with the show. Thanks.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, hello, and welcome to Mark and Carrie. Hello there, Blyth, how are you?

MARK BLYTH: It's good. I believe this is our 52nd second episode.

CARRIE NORDLUND: It is, yeah. Exciting.

MARK BLYTH: Which is kind of mental. But there we go. Anyway, it's been a while. One or two things have happened.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes. Yeah. Hard to even think of the last time we met. Just after the holidays, right before the new year, seemed like kind of a lull in things. And then--

MARK BLYTH: It did, actually. Yes. And then there was one or two things that happened.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, we've been in a big pickup. So like 2 and 1/2 weeks ago on January 6th, of course, it was the certification of the electoral votes from the various states have been certified by the states come in these nice boxes and then the Senate also certified this. Very straightforward. Senators say yes. They go out to lunch. They call it a day. But 2 and 1/2 weeks ago, of course, the President, the former President of the United States, did at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and really got his crowd really excited, told them to go down to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue and tell the elected officials how they felt.

And what seemed to be-- you know DC really well, too, Mark, just visually you wondered sort of where the police protection was and that the buildings were so vulnerable. But then, of course, those images of the groups of people really swarming the Capitol and then pushing through the barriers and the Metropolitan Police and Secret Service and getting their way inside the chambers of the House and the Senate to actually hang from some of the structure, rifled through papers, take people's laptops, take selfies of themselves with various parts of the old Senate and the House chamber steel stuff.

MARK BLYTH: And let's remember, there was also the assault of several police officers, the death of one after the fact, the death of one of the people that entered into the chamber. And the video of that moment is really harrowing. You have three policemen standing there just holding up this door and then people are just bashing the glass around them and punching their head.

And I just couldn't help think to myself, like, what's going on here? Because any time I've ever been near the police and someone says, excuse me, officer, I'm going to reach behind you and smash the window behind you, you are on your face in a matter of seconds. And there was just this shield of invisibility and protection that these folks had whereby, they, we get to do whatever we want, right? And almost it was like, yeah, you kind of do, but just keep it down a little bit. It was really strange. And then, of course, all that changed when one of the protesters is shot. And suddenly the tactical team arrives and people are like, oh, actually this is real.

There was an interesting quote from of all people the right wing firebrand Richard Spencer, who said that when he saw this, he says, most of the people involved in this really do not think of the consequences of their actions. To them it's like some kind of video game, an extension of the social media bubble in which they find themselves.

And that's what it felt like. It's almost as if they were playing a role. You got the guy with the horns and all this other stuff. And it was like a video game extension of the life of the people who believe that everything was stolen and now this is the natural next step you do. It was a truly bizarre moment.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, that really-- I mean, because, in the pictures you see people sort of looking around Statuary Hall like they'd never been there, and like, oh, my God, this is so beautiful. So that kind of-- your point about this is extension of the game, that rings true in just the way that they were sort of taking it all in or they'd never been in that part of things before. And it just, it was interesting to me to see where they went and whose offices they went to and, of course, whether it was an inside job and they had maps and all of that. I don't know whether that stuff has ever been verified.

MARK BLYTH: So the interesting thing is that happened. And it was pretty weird and scary. What are the long-term consequences? So let's start one thing. I'm going to ask you a series of questions about this, because this is your beat rather than mine. So you have a whole number of Republican politicians in the House and in the Senate who had this whole thing about we want two weeks' delay to basically figure out these charges, et cetera. There have been 62 court cases. There was no evidence presented at any of them. They must know that they are essentially partaking in a lie. How do you run a democracy like that?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I know. And it's just, I mean, it's the same thing we've been saying for so long, which is that it's about power and that Mitch McConnell knows that it wasn't even a close election. And Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, everybody knows this is. They're not even principled in their lives. But it's about them seeing the numbers there, either they're presidential ambitions or being re-elected, and if they go one way, they're going to lose 45% of the vote and et cetera.

But what's interesting about this particular moment is that you also started to see corporate dollars leave and that Josh Hawley's biggest backer decides, the Senator from Missouri, decides or says publicly that they're not going to support him anymore. I hope that continues to hold true. But I think those were the real power moves in that everyone has said, or they've said whatever they wanted to. And people have basically supported them.

But then you started to see the money start to fold up and go away. And that's where I think you got people like Tom Cotton, who might have been on the Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz side, actually distanced himself from the big lie and craziness only, I mean, I don't think it's like he's some more principled person, but maybe he was doing a different political calculation and maybe won't get as slammed on the money side of stuff.

MARK BLYTH: Right, but you will get slammed on the primary side, right? I mean, ultimately if that's the base and that's what the base cares about--


MARK BLYTH: -- that it doesn't matter how much money you raise. I mean, it's very interesting how you can make this work as a political strategy. So on the one hand, the National Association of Manufacturers coming out with that statement that we're appalled by this and this is a decision that we should re-prosecute, et cetera, well, that you reap what you sow. I mean, these corporations and corporate entities have been reeling of a climate of hysteria for years and years.

When you look at the National Association of Manufacturers when Obama was in power, you would honestly think Obama was a communist who landed from Venezuela and was about to expropriate every American business. And that was because maybe we could pay a little more taxes, maybe we could have a little more healthcare.

So there's a way in which they've been completely complicit in this. And now guess what happens? When you constantly throw red meat at the base, it turns out the red meat really makes them kind of angry. So in a sense, you reap what you sow. And this is also the whole thing with deplatforming as well, right? So there was a quote from Voltaire that I found, which I can't remember exactly, but--

CARRIE NORDLUND: I saw that on your Twitter feed.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. It is a brilliant one. I mean, those who deal in falsehoods or those who traffic in illusions are ultimately the most likely to commit atrocities. And it's like, yeah, your next line. And all Google and the rest of these people are doing was saying, right, that's lies. We are not going to be held responsible for what comes next. We've seen the riots. If we don't pull the plug now, it gets worse, and they're going to come after us.

So far from being about principles and anything like this was pure self-preservation on the side of business. So I'm really sort of fascinated and revolted at the same time by the way that the business community is handling this, because everyone's going, oh, yes, wonderful. Applause for standing up for principle. They don't care about principle, they just don't want to be blamed for the atrocities.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's exactly right. And just to go back to your point about the Republican primary, I mean, the death of Trump is that you actually have a moderate, whatever that means, someone not running right of the right person, but a tiny bit to the left, and they win. And the inviting I think stops once you start to see that the primary isn't something to be feared. And I think that's something where Republicans who are never Trumpers have to encourage candidates in that vein of Republicanism to run and not the crazy queue anon woman who wears the Trump One mask in the House chamber.

MARK BLYTH: But that goes back to that same dilemma. On the one hand, tons of money, which you need to win elections, the primary, where you need to be mental.


MARK BLYTH: And they've got to square that. So the Democrats have their own version of this. I call it structural hypocrisy. One half of the party is basically Wall Street and big donors who kind of like things the way they are with a little bit more distribution, and then you've got other people who are like, this is totally unequal and horrible and it's unsustainable and we need a Green New Deal and you guys are to blame. And they've got to square that circle. So both parties have their own version of this. I think the Republican Party one's slightly worse.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Well, I mean, at least in what we just saw. But I want to go back to the deplatforming part, because I was surprised that they pulled that Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, although I always think of them being all the same, pulled the plug on Trump. And of course, now, however many days later, everyone's wondering, well, what is he thinking? What is he doing? And we're all addicted to that.

But I just thought, I actually, I didn't think that they would do it because it's such a huge platform for them to have him doing all of this stuff. So I do wonder how long it will last. I mean, they say indefinitely, but how long really?

MARK BLYTH: Well, it depends if they are serious about even maintaining this as anything other than damage limitation, right? And you're right, we don't hear anything that Trump is thinking anymore, which just shows you the terrifying power of these platforms.


MARK BLYTH: They're just hugely important platforms for mobilization, for grievance, for legitimate grievance, for everything. And they're in so few hands. One guy, Jack Dorsey, just goes off, and that's it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Did you see the New York Times article that he was in French Polynesia as he got the call from his head of whatever, like, we need to pull the plug on Trump's Twitter? And so he was there. And that's where he made his decision.

MARK BLYTH: He was in French-- nice work if you can get out. That's a nice place to hide out during COVID I guess. Yeah, there we go.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, exactly. I was surprised just on this one last point that Bezos didn't do more. I mean, Amazon pulled Parlor. And because you always think it's a real grudge match between Trump and Bezos. So I was surprised that Bezos didn't do one more. But also, and I'm sure you saw this in your Twitter feed as well, that it was-- back to your point, just highlighting this one more time, that it was really Dorsey, et cetera, that has the power. And it's not, I mean, the Republican Party couldn't do anything to silence the President. At it took corporate autocracy to do that. But on a slightly lighter note, we have a new President who has taken over the at POTUS handle. And so President Biden is now able to tweet to his heart's content.

MARK BLYTH: How many followers does he have so far?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I think it's like six million.

MARK BLYTH: Right. It's not 60, is it?


MARK BLYTH: This is not somebody who's pushing or building a movement. There's a lot of information in that number, isn't there?

CARRIE NORDLUND: There really is. Yeah. And on his first evening as President, he signed I think 17 executive orders, a number of them ranging around COVID. And, I mean, here's where I am on the first two days of the Biden administration, is that as an--

MARK BLYTH: Not to take too small a sample, but from the first two days, Carrie, what do you think?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Or 48 hours, which is slightly more.

MARK BLYTH: That's true. That's slightly more.

CARRIE NORDLUND: As a person, as an institutionalist, we have to get out of this executive order cycle of someone comes in and does a bunch of them and then the new person negates them or nullifies them. I mean, this is why this country, I mean, why are we so polarized? We're polarized because the three branches of government can't work together and a President can't actually get legislation through Congress. And so the President does all the stuff on his own. And, I mean, everybody says, I just think it's the wrong way to actually be dealing with stuff. He shouldn't be doing all this. He should actually be going to Congress and trying to work this stuff out and get legislation passed.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, I mean, that would be awesome if-- I mean, maybe they just think there's no chance of doing that. Because again, to go back to what we were talking about earlier, the incentives are if you're a Republican from deep Trump territory, you're going to get primaried if you say anything other than the man is part of a giant pedophile club and he stole the election.


MARK BLYTH: So you're not really going to cooperate. The incentives aren't pointing in the right direction on this one.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But he has the Senate, tiny majority. He's got the House. He could actually move stuff along. I mean, this is when I get really cynical and you think, what change is really coming? Or is it just moving around the chairs? But I don't want to be totally cynical.

MARK BLYTH: No, especially after 40 hours. I mean, give it a chance. I mean, a lot of that is symbolic in terms of rejoining parties. OK, who cares? The Senate's never going to ratify the agreement. That was true under any president. So a lot of this is signaling to the constituents, to the base, et cetera, rather than actually doing anything.

The interesting one is what happens with the new relief bill. If you add CARES one and what will be CARES two together plus other programs, we've actually know spent, in constant dollar terms, slightly more than we spent in the New Deal over a seven-year period. Yeah, no. It's really amazing, right? And if you consider what you got as your bang for the buck then, which was we electrified the south, we built the Hoover Dam, we rebuilt every school in the country.

And it's like, we spent how much? What have we actually got for this? A bunch of people bought Bitcoin. That was useful. Yeah, and we still have a housing crisis. And we still basically have 50 million Americans visiting food banks? Not every day, but have done, right? So, yeah, It's not looking great. And there is a legitimate question here about how much more the federal government can do when you're spending that type of money, particularly if we get kind of a third wave of COVID. So yeah, he's got a lot of problems on multiple fronts.


MARK BLYTH: And it would be great. I love the phrase thank God for the problems money can solve. But trust isn't a money problem.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. So you're thinking that there's going to have to be, if the second relief bill comes in, there may even have to be a third one?

MARK BLYTH: Well, we just don't know how this is going to evolve. I mean, remember we were all told there was going to be a second wave and we all forget that in the summer, right?


MARK BLYTH: So then it came back. And now there's new variants of the virus. The latest data on this that's out of South Africa suggests that it might actually cause problems for some of the vaccines as they are done just now, so we might have to go back and re-tweak them and then do them again. It's a constant arms race, right? The new data, Britain suggests that it's not just more infectious, it is actually more deadly. Not by like a standard deviation or anything, but it hurts more, right?

So this is why their health care system is suddenly under so much more strain because more people are getting it and it's more serious in these cases. So we're not out of the woods yet. And we're shooting off the fiscal canons. I mean, thank goodness we live in a world in which there seems to be absolutely no inflation and interest rates aren't going anywhere and all the rich people in the world want to park their money in safe assets called government bonds. Otherwise, this would be very difficult to finance.

But the question is, I really hope that we can get to April and see real solid progress and get the vaccines rolled out and begin to put this whole thing behind us, because there's a risk that if Biden-- if this doesn't work, there's so many things on so many fronts that if he gets to the end of the first year and he's still fighting COVID, that's really going to hurt when he gets to those midterms.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. No, I mean, you can't imagine, I mean, the political fallout if he's still-- the vaccine, if the vaccination stuff. I mean, more people feel like those percentages, that is a really bad place for Twenty-Twenty-Two, because there's just no place to-- I mean, he ran on I can do this better and build trust and all that sort of stuff.

But, I mean, this is the central part of his campaign. He's got to get at least 100 million doses into people's arms in the first 100 days, if not more. And part of this is like, even the federal government can't get some of these systems up and working to where they can for the local public Department of Health in the middle of nowhere. Pick a state. I mean, this is when we talk about the structural part of things and how it's really hard to get things moving when that stuff has just been so under-resourced for so long.

MARK BLYTH: That's exactly right. Ken Burns, I heard him on the radio the other day, and I'm getting this by order of magnitude, not exactly, but when the polio vaccine came out, which was like '46 or '47, New York did its entire population in a month. And that was back then. Why? Because basically you just fought a war, you'd mobilized national resources, you'd built large scale public institutions, and you had a high degree of public trust. So when it was told, OK, everybody in Bronx wards five, seven, and eight, you're getting your vaccine on Tuesday at two, please go to these schools, everybody showed up. We no longer live in that world. So multiply that by how many counties in the country? And see where it goes.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. If that was even something on the horizon, how many people would show up to their local grocery store to get the vaccination?

MARK BLYTH: So the one thing about this now that Trump is in the rear view mirror, at least for the foreseeable future, at least, is that there is the sense of quiet now. You got so used to the mad stuff that went on and you were just kind of used to the madness. And I don't mean that as hyperbole. I mean, there was some stuff on Twitter which was really amazing where people had posted, what are your top 10 completely batshit crazy things that happened in the Trump administration? And there were some of them where I'd kind of forgotten about them, like I remember Sharpiegate, right? Remember Sharpiegate, which was like the track of the hurricane, right?


MARK BLYTH: But I forgot but this one. He actually proposed detonating an H bomb in the middle of the hurricane to stop it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I remember this now that you say it, because I had forgotten it. Yes.

MARK BLYTH: Right, and there were literally dozens of these things, any one of which with any other president would have been like, what? And it became completely normalized. Where this really came back to me was one of my friends and colleagues wrote to me a couple of days ago and said, quote unquote, well, at least the nuclear codes are back in the hands of an adult.

And in normal times, that would be like a big deal, right? Imagine you have normalcy and then you have something weird happens, and it's like, well, thank goodness we got the codes back, right? But so much stuff was batshit that was, like, minus 50 in my order of importance and things that I was thinking about. Because it was like bombs being dropped everywhere all the time that I kind of completely forgot that he had the nuclear codes. When you live in a world where that becomes unimportant, somehow it struck me as like, what's your abiding memory of Trump's presidency? The fact that I stopped caring that someone like him had the nuclear codes.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I know. That somehow the filter was so wide or narrow, I don't know which one, that didn't even register. Well and just to this point, I mean, people were saying, oh, stuff is going to be bad on the 6th. And I was just like, it's such a straightforward thing. The Senate says yes, certifies the electorate, we move on. And I was watching it, and then suddenly people are like, well, they're banging in the Capitol. I just like, what is going on? And it just never connected that what the President said 20 minutes ago would actually come to life in that way.

MARK BLYTH: Well, when you got Rudy basically there whipping everybody up and Trump himself saying you've got to show courage and stuff like that, I was like, well, you're clearly signaling. So actually, let me ask you about this one, right? So then there's the second impeachment. Is this warfare or is it a total waste of time? What's the point in this?

CARRIE NORDLUND: It's a waste of time. So the House has passed the articles of-- or approved the articles of impeachment. So he's officially been impeached for the second time. But the Senate needs 60 votes to remove him from office by the Constitution's language or that would stop him from being able to run again, so disqualifying him from running again.

Even with the new Vice President Harris installed, they need 17 votes. There is maybe five or six on a good day. They're not going to get 17. So the best they can hope for is that the House has impeached and the Senate censures. And the censure is just like a strongly worded email, like, you're bad. And, I mean, it certainly I think psychologically would hurt him even more because he doesn't like to be a loser. And that sticks around with him. But the Senate could also expunge that from his record if in Twenty-Twenty-Two they get the majority and they decide to do that. So I just think it's a colossal waste of time. We just need to move on and just put it behind us because they don't have the votes.

MARK BLYTH: But, yeah, so then why are they doing it?

CARRIE NORDLUND: In the less cynical part of me, I think there does have to be something that shows that if the president incites a riot, that there is some sort of procedural disciplinary action that has to come to pass. But, I mean, this goes along with just, tell them that he's been bad and let's call it a day. And it takes a lot less time, which is a censure. But I think the Democrats, I mean, this goes back to our starting point, they have to do something because those senators and those House members that are up in Twenty-Twenty-Two, they can't look like they were just sitting on their hands. And their voters certainly want them to be doing something.

MARK BLYTH: So my cynical side says, OK, but all of those Republicans who knew that there was no steal, that things were actually fine, that felt they had to go along with this, otherwise they'd get primaried, if not worse, from their own constituents, isn't this an opportunity for them to basically just show a little bit of muscle, get the guy not censured, get him actually sort of disqualified? Then he can't run again. Then the base has nowhere else to go except back to the party. Is there no way that the Republicans recognize the kind of Machiavellian self-interest that the only way we get out from under Trump, the only way this happens, is if we go along with this? Do you think the Democrats are doing a Hail Mary pass on this?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, I think that's so true. And that has to be, I mean, if there is a chance of getting the 17 Republican votes, that it's based on that sort of calculation. But it's hard for me. I mean, the window is closing in terms of the American public saying, OK, well, we have the patience for this while everyone around is like, there's like all this terrible stuff going on and 4,000 people a day are dying and everyone's lost their job, and then to have the patience to sit through another impeachment hearing. But to your point, I think that's the only calculation that might get the 17 is the let's finally cut ourselves from this person and vote for impeachment.

MARK BLYTH: Would you hold your breath for the outcome?

CARRIE NORDLUND: No. I mean, well, all Democrats, Republicans, everyone, they're craving, and they're just worried about themselves.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, that's a lovely-- so how is the rest of the world doing on all this? I mean, did the rest of the world do you think breathe a collective sigh of relief when he was gone? Or have they already discounted it and moving on? What's going on?

CARRIE NORDLUND: It seems like some parts of the world are breathing easier. I wonder what Putin thinks. I would love to be a fly on the wall for that. It does look like, for example, in China, their economy, their GDP grew by 6 and 1/2%. I mean, the world is moving on without the US, without Trump. And I think we just kind of look like we're stuck trying to get ourselves organized and together.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, the Chinese one, I mean, every time the Chinese publish the GDP statistics, everyone ritualistically goes, but you can't trust the statistics, and then they accept the statistics, right? And there's reason to doubt that that's not just the real figure, that it's sustainable. And this is the whole thing about [? Gibi ?] and [INAUDIBLE], the main man.

He basically favors the state owned enterprise sector over the private sector, because the private sector wants to be independent. There was the whole sort of debacle over Jack Ma, who stood up in front of the regulators and then disappeared for three months. And so there's two things going on. On the one hand, this is going on track to be the world's largest economy, if you believe the figures and if the projections are right.

And that largest economy is basically funneling credit and pushing projects that they probably don't need, another bridge, another opera hall, et cetera, more housing that's empty in the wrong places, because that quote unquote adds to GDP, right? Meanwhile, the private sector, if I was an entrepreneur in China and I had a company and I wanted to do an IPO and I wanted to get access to Western tech, I'd be looking to get out, because I don't know if I'm going to disappear for three months if I say the wrong thing.


MARK BLYTH: So I'm not sure how sustainable this. It's funny because American foreign policy always talked about the pivot towards Asia or the pivot toward China. China is kind of pivoting back to itself.


MARK BLYTH: It's basically weaning itself off of exports. It's going for domestic growth. It wants to strengthen the state sector. It wants to be self-reliant. And it knows that this is going to hurt. And then essentially, they don't really care about the rest of the world. They want to get themselves sorted first, fair enough, to make China great again, if you want to put it that way. And the way that you do that, though, unfortunately, is kind of going against what's been making the grow for the past 30 years. So, yeah, I'm a little bit skeptical as to how this one's going to play out.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's interesting, the inner looking, because right after, I mean, like, the morning, or later that afternoon on Wednesday, China also said that Pompeo and a bunch of other Trump officials could no longer step foot in China or do business there. So interesting thinking about that they're like vultures. We can do it all on our own.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, I mean, part of that is the targeted sanctions that we put on people that we don't like and are just kind of like, we can do this back to you. That type of stuff. And then there's also Pompeo is out the door, incendiary stuff with Taiwan, recognition of Taiwan, and then you're committing genocide against the Uighurs, et cetera, all of which is essentially chucking bombs into the laps of the Democrats on the way out the door saying, good luck normalizing that.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, I mean, had Pompeo actually done this before, I might have thought that he was a little better than human trash. So, I mean, it seemed like he is actually somewhat principled in nature. But closer to home for you in terms of Europe is, I was a total observer watching the CDU elections in Germany and the downfall of the woman whose name I'm now forgetting who was supposed to be Angela's--

MARK BLYTH: Yes, AKK was meant to be the one that --


MARK BLYTH: Yeah, she wasn't up to the job. And then there was three gray men, and they managed to pick the grayest of the three gray men to do it, Armin Laschet, who basically, his version of-- the Europeans have this new concept of strategic autonomy, which, of course, the French made this one up, right? So we must be on our own because we can't trust Google and we can't trust the Americans and the Russians really are a threat and we need to build up our capacity, et cetera.

It's very French, right? They've been on it forever. And the Germans are basically like, yes, we agree, so long as we can sell more BMWs to both sides. That's really their version of strategic autonomy. And this guy apparently has written a kind of a list of the 10 things he wants to do for business and the economy. Not once did he mention climate.


MARK BLYTH: Like, not once. It just doesn't exist, right? This guy is literally, like, intellectually, I mean, he's a provincial leader. He's not a foreign policy / but he is of that pre-financial crisis, mercantilist to the hilt, German mindset of, so long as we've got a big export surplus, everything will be fine. And the position that Europe finds itself in, though, really between China and the US, not so much Russia, is that's not a healthy way to think about this because they're going to take you to the cleaners on both sides.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So where does that put, I mean, where does that put the EU and where does that put Europe? At some point they have to come up with a comprehensive policy that competes with or at least shows their muscle and use in some way in both country?

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, well, they haven't done that so far, so why would they start doing it now? I mean, essentially what they'll do is they'll write something semi-controversial and then the Chinese will phone them up and ask them to take out the following lines and they'll do it. And they'll say, in the strongest possible terms, we are very serious about this, and everyone will have a fit of the giggles. That's basically EU foreign policy, unfortunately, at this point in time.

Now the question is, really do you want to go on a crusade over human rights in China? Because what's your actual leverage? What can you actually do about this? Do you want to-- not that the Europeans will want to do anything like this, right? Do you want to solve the Taiwan problem to the extent that there is one? So the Americans have got a Taiwan problem, not anybody else. So to their point of view, it's sort of, Europe exists to trade, Europe exists in the middle of these two big blocks, and we want to benefit from the fact that they're cross with each other. All right. But you can also get crushed in the middle of that.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. I like that the bulls foreign policy would be standing up for human rights and standing up for the Uighurs that are just being decimated. I mean, the US hasn't done anything on this.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. Exactly. What's your leverage?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Zero. Yeah, exactly.

MARK BLYTH: So here's one. You were talking about deplatforming earlier. Did you catch that story about Google deplatforming Australia?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I did. I heard it on the news this morning. I was happy that we're doing this because it follows up on one of the stories that we talked about.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, no, but we just deplatformed Trump. Oh, watch this, we're going to deplatform Australia. And again, it shows you the incredible power of these companies. And you don't think about it, but it's a kind of network, to use the term network externalities or network effect thing. So Google basically get something like $0.90 of all advertising dollars in Australia or $0.85 or something like that on the dollar.

And what it means is they are taking what's left of the local journalism industry for free and then putting it out for free. So they're destroying their industry. And the government's like, hold on a minute, you can't do that. And you need to pay some fees. Now of course, this is a small market. Google paid $45 million Australian tax on $4 billion worth of either trading or profit. I mean, it's the usual nonsense of these companies. And they could absolutely afford to do this. But of course, no, massive PR campaign, you get so much from us, we're so awesome. And if that doesn't work, we're off. Now, let's think about what happened to Yukari. Do you use Google mail?


MARK BLYTH: What would happen if all your email disappeared? Because, by the way, they own it. That's why when you click trash, it says archive.


MARK BLYTH: Do you use a Google Doc?


MARK BLYTH: Google Sheets? Google sites?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, because I wouldn't be able to work anymore. I'd have total quiet now. But, yes. Yeah.

MARK BLYTH: It would be gone. It would be the absolute disaster. So they've actually got us all in that position. And now they're actually saying, here's a whole country. It's not just like losing a search engine. You can swap one for another. It's all the rest of the stuff we do. Do you really want to lose that? And it's like, wow, you really do have power, don't you?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, this wraps around on itself. But what option do we have? I mean, we can go back to Hotmail, I guess. Or, I mean, what are the options that we have? I mean, there--

MARK BLYTH: Well, that's it. You need to build an alternative infrastructure. And the problem is with these technologies that winner takes all. if you're an Apple user, right? I've been an Apple user since Nineteen-Ninety-One, since I came to the United States. So I have a me.com, which, like, if you walk into an Apple store, they're like, really? Wow. That's amazing. And I was with them when they had clones when they were bankrupt, all this sort of stuff. Terrible.

And I also remember when they were an awesome company at the start forming them up. But you actually get the same technical support guy twice because there was like an actual team somewhere in California. And then they just turned into a giant behemothic monopoly that wants to do everything and they're just awful it it's all about clicks and fees like everybody else.

But once you're on one of these platforms, there's no way off. It's increasing returns. That's it. You don't split your time. I mean, the reason there's so much on television just now is because each platform is trying to be the winner takes all. And that's where we've got to stop. It's just crazy, because ultimately, what we're licensing are games and monopoly.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and it's a network effect, because you use a Google document. Everybody else we know, I mean, that's the power. So, yeah, but I can't stop using it because everybody else uses it.

MARK BLYTH: That's the one.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, as we wrap up, on a slightly later note, I'm sure you noticed this, too, but one thing from the inauguration that just tickled me were are the memes coming from Bernie Sanders. The picture was him with his arms crossed, mask on, and these woolly mittens.

MARK BLYTH: Yes, the mittens. The mittens, absolutely, yes.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes. And him just looking like the grumpy old man that he is. And then seeing that put on so many different backgrounds across Instagram and Twitter. That really tickled me.

MARK BLYTH: I mean, I don't know if it was a high point, but it was definitely sort of like a human point. Sort of grumpy old white man for once as an angry and wears cute gloves.


MARK BLYTH: That's kind of that one. That's what passes these days for that. Yeah, I mean, we could talk about Brexit but we'll leave it till next time because it's the gift that never stops giving. I'll just leave you with this little story about it's all fine, it's all going to be great. Britain's going to be a trading nation again. At tonsorial, a lot of the lobsters that the French love to eat comes from Scotland.

Scottish people don't eat lobsters. I don't know why. We just don't. And they go on these big refrigerated trucks and they drive all the way through England and then they get to France. They need to be there within 24 hours, otherwise they can't be used. So needless to say, the paperwork now to get there and the paperwork on the other side means that it isn't working. So the entire Scottish shellfish industry is basically driving their trucks down to London to protest.

What will happen next is that they will take a leaf out of the books of the French. They will actually bring all the lobsters with them next time and they will just throw them all over the roads of London. So I reckon within a month, you're going to get some great pictures of scallops and lobsters all over the streets of London because Britain is global Britain and is back to work.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But also on the empty streets of London, because they're still in a lockdown, so back to work.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, they are a really bad lockdown. No, absolutely. I mean, they have the very severe new strain of the virus and it's really, I mean, I was listening to a podcast out of Britain from a hospital, one of the main London hospitals, and they've got 14 floors where they can put patients and 13 of them are COVID. And everything else is concentrated on one floor.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, that's just sad.

MARK BLYTH: No, it's nuts. It's just completely nuts.

CARRIE NORDLUND: The lobsters will have strategic autonomy.

MARK BLYTH: I think you just found the title for the episode. The lobsters will have strategic autonomy. Perfect.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, it was great to see you. Next time maybe we'll definitely talk, hopefully talk about something that is maybe slightly less cynical than our usual stuff.

MARK BLYTH: Well, again, you've kind of jumped the gun a little bit. As you said, two days, 48 hours, I'm already down on the new administration. Carrie, I'm going to ask you, have a little bit of faith. Give them their own time to really screw up and then you can be cynical.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And this coming from a Scotsman, too. I mean, I really need to give them the benefit of the doubt.

MARK BLYTH: Absolutely. All right.

CARRIE NORDLUND: All right. Thank you, everyone. Thank you for listening. We will be back.

MARK BLYTH: Be back whenever we're back. Bye.


About the Podcast

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Mark and Carrie
Mark Blyth, political economist at The Watson Ins…

About your hosts

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Mark Blyth

Host, Rhodes Center Podcast
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Carrie Nordlund

Co-Host, Mark and Carrie