About

Mark Brolin details why mainstream thought is often reliably wrong in totally predictable ways.

EXCESS DRESSED UP AS MODERATION A KEY FEATURE ALSO OF TODAY’S ANALYTICALLY FASCINATING TRANSITION PERIOD

Mark Brolin is a Geopolitical Strategist, Economist and Author who helps policy makers, business leaders and the public navigate today’s tumultuous – and analytically fascinating – transition period. Following a corporate development career he has steered in that direction. Why? One of two key reasons (the second provided further down) is that never before, besides during times of war, have geopolitical risks and opportunities influenced, as fundamentally, the fortunes of political parties, corporations and society in general. Geopolitics, like all nascent fields, offer plenty of opportunity. How so? Because early adopters can add plenty of value – and build substantial competitive advantage – if quicker than others taking on board geopolitical insights that impact their organisations. Mark has had the opportunity to work with policy specialists, research institutes, think tanks and corporations across three continents. He is moreover a regular contributor to the current affairs debate in both the UK and Sweden (link to regular speech, article and book topics here). Well-known employers include the Swedish Foreign Ministry, OMX (Nasdaq) and Cantor Fitzgerald. His corporate development background – when he was responsible for distinguishing the substance from the fluff – probably helps to explain a, within his field, uniquely hands-on – and noise cancelling – approach.

Mark was employed by Cantor during the September 11 disaster (Cantor Fitzgerald was the company most severely affected; 650 colleagues passed). The tragedy proved a career turning point for him (the second key reason he made a not total but partial career change). Analytically he started to focus not only on macro- and microeconomics but also on the threats to a vital society. He found that groupthink, when idealistic and marketed by the political camp in vogue, has always been much more destabilising to society, long term, than even terrorist attacks. How so? Because external enemies are easy to unite against while easy to spot. Political camps with institutionalised powers, on the other hand, will typically move society into excess terrain stealthily. As well as unknowingly. Since the orchestrators will typically be the last to grasp the big picture effect. “One more small step, right? Why the fuss, don’t you care about these things?”

Coffee – like Centrism – is hard not to like when the dose is right. It is today’s overdose – including the cancelling of rival thoughts – that is problematic.

Many small steps still add up. So overreach will follow through unintended mission creep. The overreach will almost always be dressed up as prudent balance. Since those responsible will act in good faith. Given all such good faith confusion will inevitably follow. So will tribal mudslinging. For the third time in a hundred years we are, in real time, experiencing precisely such a transition period. The key difference between these three periods? Voters have reacted against different flavours of political overshoot. First against right-wing overshoot (1920s), then against left-wing overshoot (1980s) and today against Centrist overshoot. Mark labels the latter Centrism In Name Only True (CINO). Of course things have been taken too far over recent years. In relation to all sorts of things: energy policies, defence policies, migration policies, identity politics, monetary policies (QE/doping) and internationalist policies (especially when the power transfers to internationalist organisations has taken place at the cost of democracy). Leaders claiming to be Centrists have led the way. Even though the prudent balance promised Centrist voters has certainly not been delivered.

Sure, most of us have been conditioned to think that Centrism always equates prudent balance. This is a handy myth for (CINO) politicians claiming to be Centrists. How so? Because then, almost per definition, it is very hard to do anything wrong. “I am a Centrist, remember, so what I did equates prudent balance.” The Centrist prudent balance myth is one of the key myths of our times. Just as intended it immediately makes nonsense of constructive debate. “Are you criticising me, even though I offer Centrism. That must mean you are a radical, right?” Then gain, most of the intellectual confusion surrounding the Centrist prudent balance myth immediately evaporates once acknowledging that things can certainly be taken too far also in the name of Centrism. Even if those responsible are then no longer offering real Centrism but, yes, Centrism In Name Only. CINO.

Institutionalised CINO groupthink is presently stifling progress in much the same way institutionalised right-wing groupthink stifled progress in the 1920s and institutionalised left-wing groupthink stifled progress in the 1980s. 

CHEER UP, A POSITIVE AND MORE STABLE RESET IS ALREADY ONGOING

Any good news? Oh yes, plenty and it is much underreported. True, there are numerous peddlers of doom and gloom but doom and gloom are the inescapable hallmarks of every transition period. Since those resisting change will always argue that the world as we know it will end unless orchestrating more-of-the-same policies; or at the very least maintaining the status quo. When people start seeing through such self-interested lines of reasoning the resistance to change enters yet another phase: the phase of moralism. Meaning the phase when we are told only “baddies” object to the institutionalised. So when “wokery” is used to kill debate it has thousands of moralistic echoes in history. The only truly original thing about today’s wokery, for the first time ever, “righteous” people are supposed to embrace Centrist (CINO) hobby horses. Even after things have been taken way too far. However, this is also the phase of desperation for those resisting change. Since reality will always, sooner or later, strike back. For those willing to see pushback against CINO policies is finally offered on every front. Even within academia, the “intellectual church” in secular societies. Why is academia such an integral part of the problem? Because far too many academics have for years, uncritically, been signing off CINO policies. Why? Because the easiest way to secure next year’s budget and inclusion in government “expert” groups has always been to simply provide the intellectual alibis needed by the political paymasters. Also the way many CINO politicians and “intellectuals” have been scratching each other’s backs is old as dirt.

SURE, IN EVERY CAMP THE IDEALISTS WILL OFTEN SOUND GLORIOUS BUT IT IS ALWAYS THE REALISTS WHO SAVE THE DAY 

Mark is ideologically independent per definition while a believer in realism and political balance rather than in the individual superiority of any political ideology. Why? Because history leaves little doubt that overreach typically follows any political camp dominating the political scene over a stretch of time. Once the useful realist agenda has been fulfilled armchair idealism will always, due to the way human nature is wired, be concocted and spouted to keep the fight alive. This phase is unfortunate for just about everyone. The movers and shakers in power – those who have often built their political platforms by always consistently pushing for just a bit more – will usually not see that they have transformed into agents of excess. So voters will not be delivered the moderation they typically have been promised . Discontent and voter pushback will then follow. The good news? Even if tribal emotional hysteria is far too often dominating the airwaves a new stable equilibrium is perfectly achievable. Simply because most people in most camps actually do seek the same outcomes. Including key things like a vital democracy, a pro-free markets rather than pro-big business economic set up and an academic and cultural sphere that promotes multidimensional rigour rather than “wokery”. Etc. Meaning most quarrels, believe it or not, relate not to the end goal but to the way towards the end goal.

A BOOK THAT DETAILS WHY AUTHENTIC MODERATES REALLY DO NEED TO BE WARY ALSO OF OVERREACH IN THE NAME OF CENTRISM

In his latest book, Healing Broken Democracies: All you need to know about Populism, he underpins the arguments made above. The book starts with Mark interviewing six of the world’s foremost thought leaders in relation to their (book) masterpieces: Daron Acemoglu, David Goodhart, Matthew Goodwin, Eric Kaufmann, Jonathan Haidt and Luigi Zingales. So readers are also offered, on a silver plate, the highlights and key insights of six of the absolutely best current affairs books published during the 2010s. Thereby it is obvious that if only knowing where to look the arguments explaining the populist phenomenon have been readily available for years. Meaning plenty of division and agony could have been spared if leading politicians in many countries had been willing to properly take on board what the thought leaders involved in this project have already been saying for a long time. However, better late than never.

Cover design by multimedia street artist Dean Stockton (D*Face)

Healing Broken Democracies can be seen as a tribute to the realist doers of society. To individuals from all walks of life set on making things work in practice. Perhaps most obviously society’s realist doers include countless operators on the field of practical reality. People who are often shamefully neglected simply while not as close to power as the career peddlers of idealist groupthink. Included among the realist doers are also those intellectuals who pay heed to the empirical data even when not politically convenient for the politicians pulling the university budget strings. The intellectuals interviewed as part of the book project just mentioned are all model examples of such intellectuals. A key common characteristic of all (experienced) realist doers? They typically know or at least suspect that when political promises lack practical detail – and sound to be too good to be true – the delivery prospects will most likely be dismal. As a direct consequence realist doers tend to seek backtracking from every idealist strand of politics. Again from right-wing idealism, from left-wing idealism AND from Centrist idealism. 

Panel Discussion hosted by Center for Policy Studies / CapX Live

NOT ONLY SOCIETY AT LARGE BUT CERTAINLY ALSO CENTRISTS ARE FAILED UNLESS SPEAKING TRUTH ALSO TO CINO POWER PLAYERS

True political independence is only possible after having first acknowledged that political overreach typically follows every political camp dominating the political scene over a stretch of time. Such an understanding is necessary to ensure political neutrality against not only politicised group-think in the past but also against politicised contemporary group-think. Meaning only with such an understanding can current affairs commentators – people like myself – stop the malpractice of mainly identifying flaws among the challengers of contemporary – today Centrist – power players. That mistake not only makes complete nonsense of the “speak-truth-to-power” claim. It even does Centrism a disservice while hindering the much needed rethink necessary for revitalisation. After all, also Centrist voters are failed by the Centrist excess politics presently on offer. How so? Because when asked few Centrist voters seek anything but realist, balanced, honest and robust acknowledgement of the trade-offs involved in politics. Or possibly cherry-picking of good thoughts regardless of political origin. This is a far cry from the idealistic – and immorally moralistic – variety that over recent years has actually been delivered. Meaning also most Centrist voters are poorly represented by their supposed representatives.

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In theory just about everyone agrees that no society can remain vital unless allowing challenges to received wisdom. In practice such challenges are still always resisted by the movers and shakers in power.

TRIBELESS UNLESS COUNTING THE EQUALLY NON-TRIBAL SILENT MAJORITY

Mark’s refusal to offer consistent support to any ideological tribe is illustrated by the fact that the permanently angry social media trolls tend to take turns attacking him. Those who always(!) swing behind the same tribe regardless of issue discussed. So many tribal left-wingers are upset due to his unreserved Brexit (and Swexit) support. Many tribal (pretend or CINO) Centrists are again upset by Mark’s claim that during recent years their camp has, for the first time ever, moved into the terrain of destabilising excess. As well as tackled the inevitable pushback through neopaternalism. Right-wingers and left-wingers sometimes express irritation that Mark refuses to align himself to all their positions. Many tribal covid libertarians are upset by his consistent criticism of the “relaxed” early Swedish response to the coronavirus. Even though there should be no doubt that numerous lives could have been saved if Sweden had done like the rest of the Nordics; closed down during the first 4-6 weeks in order to catch up on at least basic protection gear. Sweden has now ended up as the only country in Europe with an exceptionally low population density and a coronavirus death rate that stands out to such a degree that more than half of all Nordic coronavirus deaths have taken place in Sweden alone. On the other hand Mark also argues that the rational for full lock down was only unchallengable during those very first weeks of the pandemic. He maintains that a flexible two-sided approach has been hindered by tribal people on both sides of the argument. So even though Denmark, Norway and Finland offered precisely such an approach – lockdown for 4-6 weeks and then a gradual lifting of restrictions – their relative success has been more or less ignored. Highly unfairly but for the same reason as almost always in public discourse: while not properly verifying either tribal approach.

Tribal attacks always play out in much the same way. Facts are cherry-picked to fit a politically useful – often black-and white – narrative. Pushback hard to dispute is typically ducked through personal – so called ad hominem – attacks. Such classically tribal deception tactics certainly reflect a depressing side of human nature. 

Then again, as disheartening as tribal vitriol can be, especially when on the receiving end, it might be the case that social media platforms, at least in one sense, serve as useful anger outlets. Not unlike, in the past, right-wing gentlemen’s club smoking rooms, middle-class coffee-houses and working men’s pubs. If the consistently angry feel empowered after having insulted people they have mentally painted as “evil enemies”, they might refrain from hurting society in more serious ways. This still leaves the risk that some aggressives are encouraged rather than placated by the kinship enjoyed when joining a social media echo-chamber.

Either way, it must never be forgotten that the people who spend time and energy quarrelling on social media represent only a tiny fraction of the population. Since arguably the vast majority of people neither have the time nor the inclination to waste energy on destructive social media exchanges. There is in fact plenty of reason to think that one much misunderstood non-tribal group is more sizeable than ever before: the silent majority. Only the silent majority seems to shift between individual political positions in precisely the same way as Mark. Meaning without paying too much heed to if others label these shifts as Right-wing (like when championing Brexit (democracy over paternalism); or when championing a pro-free markets rather than pro-big business stance on economics), Left-wing (like when decidedly supporting the phase one coronavirus lockdown) or Centrist (like when pushing back against the CINO policies dressed up as real Centrism). So given that Mark Brolin’s opinion cocktail is very similar to the opinion cocktail of the silent majority it is hard not to feel a strong affinity at least to this “tribe of the tribeless”. Yes, this tribe tends to be heckled from all sides – while per definition not as vocal as the traditional tribes – but during elections it nevertheless exercises considerable clout. So, evidently it has two sides also when swimming against the traditional tribal tide(s). Needless to say Mark is immensely grateful for all the uplifting support from the large number of people who reach out and often also seem to see themselves as more or less tribeless.

Commenting on why it is always destabilising to challenge well established and well respected borders, even when part of a well intended ambition to replace nationalism with supranationalism. Aired on Scope on May 27, 2019

INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION, YES PLEASE, BUT NOT AT THE COST OF DEMOCRACY

Mark was born and raised in Sweden and studied at the Stockholm School of Economics (M.Sc Economics). During almost the entire 21st century he has lived in the United Kingdom. This means he has had the privilege to experience, first-hand, not only the political debate and professional culture of two extraordinary countries; but also the way of life in a general sense. He has simultaneously experienced how the political culture has changed quite dramatically over recent decades. The perhaps most influential general change? In both countries mentioned the connection between politicians and the people was, not long ago, uniquely strong. Rooted in the fact that numerous leaders had spent their formative years on the field of practical reality. Leading to a grassroots understanding of real problems. Slowly but steadily numerous politicians in both countries have slided into the type of top-down territory that typically emanates from too much armchair thinking – and distinguishes just about every unsuccessful society.

Then again, if acknowledging that the weaker connection to realities on the ground is a root cause of today’s troubles there is also a natural way back towards yet again more democratic societies. Including a variety of international co-operation that does not look the other way when democracy is eroded. Meaning showing respect for those previously discriminated as well as for those who have not turned out winners during the globalist transformation. Only thereafter are truly inclusive as well as politically stable societies possible. Most people know this. Many of today’s problems are linked to careerists joining forces, subtly and often unknowingly, to try to make voters believe that international co-operation is not possible without transferring considerable amounts of money and power in the direction of – again surprise, surprise – themselves. As soon as a critical mass of people has stopped sanctioning such neopaternalism it is perfectly possible for society to move forward constructively. In fact, this process has already started. Not least, believe it or not, through Brexit. Mark often points out that, for those willing to see beyond the doom-and-gloom, many much underreported positive developments are also taking place.

Commenting on the UK-EU trade deal on December 30, 2020 on Swedish Expressen TV. In Swedish with English subtitles.