21 votes

How are things in your country right now?

It's a very broad question, but seeing the latest extremely worrying news from where I am made me wonder: how's everyone else getting on? Now that we're moving past the lockdowns and furloughs, do things look hopeful where you are?

Things in the UK are pretty bad right now - huge inflation, energy prices hitting points that will seriously harm people's financial stability just to stay warm in winter, unending political scandal, increasing pollution, and little real sign of a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm fortunate enough to be able to handle it at least for now, but I'm genuinely worried for those around me and for the country as a whole.

The pandemic hit us all hard, but it's difficult to gauge how hard. Obviously Brexit is an extra anchor around the UK's neck, but then the US has the legacy of Trump and mainland Europe has a war on the doorstep, so we're far from the only ones with problems. Are we in a uniquely bad position, or is this how everyone's feeling right now?

22 comments

  1. JXM
    Link
    I’m in the US…so pretty bad. Even beyond COVID-19 (which is still raging here), things here are absolutely awful. There’s been a massive effort by a large portion of the Republican Party to...

    I’m in the US…so pretty bad.

    Even beyond COVID-19 (which is still raging here), things here are absolutely awful. There’s been a massive effort by a large portion of the Republican Party to undermine democracy and make it as hard as possible for people to vote. They’re also hard at work stripping rights away from anyone who isn’t a straight white guy.

    Oh and inflation is sky high here as well.

    Oh and there’s a housing crisis making it so no one can afford to own or rent.

    Oh and there’s an active investigation into our former president to see if he stole state secrets.

    Oh and our schools are being infected by right wing nut jobs who are trying to teach “both sides” of issues like slavery.

    Oh and -

    19 votes
  2. [6]
    random
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm hopeful, but still very scared. The Brazillian presidential election will take place in October 2022, and every poll under the sun points to the removal of Jair Bolsonaro[1] from office....

    I'm hopeful, but still very scared.

    The Brazillian presidential election will take place in October 2022, and every poll under the sun points to the removal of Jair Bolsonaro[1] from office. However, we've been fooled by polls before. The likely winner, Luís Inácio "Lula" da Silva, is our ex-president who ruled the country between 2003 and 2011. During his administration, hunger ceased to be a national crisis, and millions were taken out of poverty due to a combination of economic policy and large-scale social programs. He was also implicated in the Mensalão Scandal, and, while there was no concrete proof or conviction, he is largely believed to have been guilty of large-scale corruption.

    In recent years, Lula became a controversial figure and spent time in prison. However, he was freed after that decision was reversed by the supreme court, and the judge responsible for his conviction (Sérgio Moro) was revealed to have colluded with prosecutors and taken numerous illegal measures in order to imprison him. Additionally, Sérgio Moro took a position in the same government his decision helped put into power. So the situation is far from black and white, as some external observers seem to think.

    Despite his checkered past, Lula is regarded by many as an accomplished and well-meaning politician, capable of bringing Brazil to the path of prosperity and stability of the early 2010s. For many others, he presents the better odds of removing Jair Bolsonaro, and for them, that is more than enough.

    Lula's vice-president candidate is a highly respected conservative with a checkered past of his own. Geraldo Alckmin was twice governor of São Paulo, our richest and most populated state. That is an odd choice for the Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores), but that should give you an idea of the life and death stakes of this election. I believe the choice to appeal to moderate conservatives is also an attempt to avoid a coup in the case of victory.

    Another Bolsonaro term would represent an existential threat to the continuation of our democracy.

    [1] For those not in the know, Jair Bolsonaro is a much worse version of Donald Trump.

    11 votes
    1. Kuromantis
      Link Parent
      Speaking of Brazilian politics, It's presidential debate season, and the 2 main debates so far have been/featured: The largest news agency and the most proeminent news anchor in Brazil basically...

      Speaking of Brazilian politics, It's presidential debate season, and the 2 main debates so far have been/featured:

      The largest news agency and the most proeminent news anchor in Brazil basically took the role of the right because Bolsonaro wasn't there to do it for them. This is not the first time this has happened at all. This news anchor asked Lula how he would govern Brazil and the Center without something like a "secret budget" (definitely a corruption scheme), simped for the agriculture industry as always ("agro is tech, agro is pop, agro is all") and asked him a lot about how he'll turn about the economy and not repeat corruption scandals from 2014-2018 and to a lesser extent his own presidency. Lula needed to answer these questions exactly once, but since this kept being asked over and over, he just talked about the various feats of his government from 2002-2010.

      In the second one we have seen:

      A woman who said she was a teacher called for the end of income tax for teachers, which feels like these things have nothing to do w/ eachother

      The guy from the Big Business/Classical Liberal party who wanted private money to invest in climate change efforts as if it isn't much more convenient for these people to buy stock in oil companies instead

      Bolsonaro touting welfare initiatives made under his govt as if he didn't oppose them all

      And other bad things.

      5 votes
    2. [4]
      vektor
      Link Parent
      On the topic of corruption, I'd argue (see CGP grey's Rules for Rulers on youtube for a bit of an argument as to why) - I'd argue that any leader in a corrupt country will have to be at least a...

      On the topic of corruption, I'd argue (see CGP grey's Rules for Rulers on youtube for a bit of an argument as to why) - I'd argue that any leader in a corrupt country will have to be at least a little corrupt. The true metric is: Do they work to eradicate corruption, or work to increase it?

      Basically, if I try to play by the rules while everyone cheats, I will never get into power or effectively use that power to achieve any goals. But if I e.g. bribe members of parliament to pass a anti-corruption bill, that's a good thing actually, while if I bribe them to pass an increase to my salary, that's bad.

      Doesn't mean Lula is a good guy though. I wouldn't know.

      3 votes
      1. [3]
        random
        Link Parent
        It is true that you generally cannot achieve much in politics without some degree of corruption, even more so in Brazil. What distinguishes Bolsonaro is that, in addition to being corrupt, he is...

        It is true that you generally cannot achieve much in politics without some degree of corruption, even more so in Brazil. What distinguishes Bolsonaro is that, in addition to being corrupt, he is also a sociopath.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          vektor
          Link Parent
          Oh, I don't mean to defend Bolsonaro with this. My an-ocean-away understanding is that he's not a good leader at all and is likely to be on the wrong side of the fight against corruption. The...

          Oh, I don't mean to defend Bolsonaro with this. My an-ocean-away understanding is that he's not a good leader at all and is likely to be on the wrong side of the fight against corruption.

          The example I'm more familiar with and that I was kinda thinking of is Zelenskyy. For all I know, there might be one or two minor corruption issues he's allegedly involved in. But he's also driving back corruption in a country where that fight is still a seriously uphill one. And my opinion there is: Sure, keep investigating and looking to see if you find any serious dirt. But other than that, his net effect is a decrease of corruption in Ukraine, and that's better than what would be expected, so I don't care.

          2 votes
          1. random
            Link Parent
            And I didn't mean to imply that you did :P

            Oh, I don't mean to defend Bolsonaro with this.

            And I didn't mean to imply that you did :P

            3 votes
  3. [3]
    Protected
    Link
    For the most part things in Portugal are "not significantly worse than usual," with the caveat that the status quo is not great to begin with. For years now median salaries have been extremely low...

    For the most part things in Portugal are "not significantly worse than usual," with the caveat that the status quo is not great to begin with. For years now median salaries have been extremely low and residing in the big cities (where most people are) is unsustainable for most people without living in poverty.

    The country has traditionally been beautiful with great weather, great food, low prices on a global scale, extremely peaceful (almost pathologically so) and surprisingly socially developed (good healthcare, good internet, decent schools, legislatively LGBTQ friendly, errr... public transportation exists, etc) This makes it very attractive to wealthy foreigners, which includes retirees from the middle-upper class from such countries as the US or anywhere in Northern Europe. The government has encouraged this by literally selling citizenships to anyone in exchange for investment, such as buying a house. Construction hasn't kept up (with construction companies being completely booked and raw material costs vastly increased due to pandemic-originating supply chain instability), so nationals are being priced out of their homes. Emigration rates are high and immigration from poorer countries is encouraged to replace underpaid workers. All this to say government incompetence and corruption remains our biggest problem, boosted by poor political and financial literacy.

    Our european overlords have decreed the increase in energy costs to be capped at 35% for Portugal and Spain as of today. This is bad, but not nearly as bad as what Northern Europe has been experiencing. We do not import any natural gas from Russia. Our natural gas is shipped from North Africa. Still, last winter I already paid more than twice my usual summer power+gas expense due to heating, so this is going to be fun.

    It feels a lot more urgent that there has been a drought of massive proportions this year with practically no rain to speak of since the last cold season. Portugal normally has abundant water and relies heavily on a system of reservoirs with hydroelectric dams, but the level of many reservoirs is running low. The same is true of Spain, who additionally have the advantage of being upriver from us in many cases. We have agreements that regulate how much water they can retain, but that presumes there's any water to begin with. Add this to the heatwaves that have been ravaging most of the northern hemisphere this summer and wildfires that keep sweeping through the usual parts of the country, moving hundreds or thousands of firefighters, firetrucks and airplanes.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      moriarty
      Link Parent
      Thanks for this analysis. It's very interesting that the government is practically giving away citizenships for investment and does put into context my own journey. We were looking for a plan B to...

      Thanks for this analysis. It's very interesting that the government is practically giving away citizenships for investment and does put into context my own journey. We were looking for a plan B to escaping the rapidly forming theocratic kingdom of the US and Portugal seemed like a reasonable destination. Apparently the Portuguese government has followed Spain in offering citizenships to jewish people whose ancestors were exiled or forced to convert in the 15th century. Which I thought was bizarre, but it makes sense in this context. You paint a pretty grim picture though... how do you generally like living there?

      4 votes
      1. Protected
        Link Parent
        Living here is great - that's the whole point. It's the job market that sucks. If you have medium assets for a US citizen you can probably move here safely as long as you have a safe job working...

        Living here is great - that's the whole point. It's the job market that sucks. If you have medium assets for a US citizen you can probably move here safely as long as you have a safe job working for an american (or other foreign) company or a senior job in a local company within a restricted range of industries (IT consulting, tourism, banking). Check the insulation of the place you get and consider installing air conditioning since those have not been important in the past but are becoming very important with climate change. You may miss american friendliness and culture but young people all speak english at least. You'll get the most global culture in Lisbon, Porto or parts of Algarve (Lisbon is highly likely to be the best destination but also has by far the worst housing crisis).

        5 votes
  4. [3]
    Odysseus
    Link
    Things are... stable. There's lots that can be improved on, but none of it is really new. Mostly problems that have been around for decades. Japan's economic outlook isn't particularly great, but...

    Things are... stable. There's lots that can be improved on, but none of it is really new. Mostly problems that have been around for decades.

    Japan's economic outlook isn't particularly great, but that's been the case for a very long time now. Stagnant wages, declining birth rate, sustainability of social programs are under question. Inflation is still fairly low, although the yen is the weakest it's been in over 20 years. For an export economy like Japan's, that's not necessarily a bad thing, although the price of imported goods like beef have gotten a lot more expensive.

    Socially, things are the same as they've ever been. There's a labor shortage, so immigration quotas have been increased. While they are loosening border restrictions for tourists, they're still limiting tourists to prearranged tours a la the DPRK. While this hits the tourism sector, the COVID border controls have been fairly popular so the government isn't exactly facing a lot of public pressure to open the floodgates.

    All in all, while things could be better, things are actually pretty peaceful. Not too much anxiety for the near term. Energy prices are expected to increase a bit. Inflation is a thing, which is unusual for Japan, but it's not nearly as high as it is in the west. Japan's democratic institutions aren't threatened. Things are fine.

    9 votes
    1. [2]
      nothis
      Link Parent
      Still no proper tourism in Japan? We planned a trip for March 2020 (yea, that deserves an award for bad timing). Doesn't seem to make sense to retry until 2023, it seems?

      Still no proper tourism in Japan? We planned a trip for March 2020 (yea, that deserves an award for bad timing). Doesn't seem to make sense to retry until 2023, it seems?

      2 votes
      1. Odysseus
        Link Parent
        Yeah. They still require a fixed guided itinerary for tourists. According to a friend of mine working for one of the major Japanese airlines, they're supposed to ease up on it sometime in...

        Yeah. They still require a fixed guided itinerary for tourists. According to a friend of mine working for one of the major Japanese airlines, they're supposed to ease up on it sometime in September, but there's no guarantee they'll follow through.

        3 votes
  5. imperialismus
    Link
    Norway. The biggest issue is electricity prices. Norway is a very electrified country - almost nobody is using gas or any other power source for heating or cooking. Except firewood, but that is...

    Norway. The biggest issue is electricity prices. Norway is a very electrified country - almost nobody is using gas or any other power source for heating or cooking. Except firewood, but that is not very economical unless you or your buddy owns a forest. (My parents have a cottage with access to free firewood for the price of cutting it down and chopping it up yourself - we have a saying that firewood warns you four times, once cutting it down, once chopping it up, once stacking and carrying it inside, once burning it - but most people living in larger cities do not.)

    Almost all electricity in Norway is hydroelectric. That's still dependent on weather patterns, but on much longer timescales than solar or wind. Potential energy is stored in huge water reservoirs that essentially function like batteries. Because of high prices in Europe and new underseas cables, power companies have been selling the power overseas, driving up traditionally very low prices domestically and tapping the reservoirs ahead of winter. And to complicate matters, I personally live in the north, which has had very low prices (at times 500x lower than the south) due to low transfer capacity between the north and the south. A lot of people are calling for more connections between the north and the south, but these would not fix the problem short term (it would take years for them to be operational) and would probably only make prices higher for people like myself without significantly lowering prices in the south.

    The result of this is that prices are still lower than mainland Europe, but due to Norway being extremely dependent on electricity, and having traditionally very low prices, the huge price hike leads to a significantly higher cost of living for most people. Most power companies are publically owned by the state or local municipalities, but this has the effect of essentially being a regressive consumption tax. You pay more if you use more, but everybody has a minimum viable level of consumption for basic living. The effect of all this is that the government's approval levels is at a low that has not been seen in decades, even after introducing a cashback type of solution where the state pays the majority of the price above a certain threshold.

    The government is already fairly weak, being a minority coalition. It consists of the Labor Party, which has been the largest party in Norway since WW2 but is losing voters due to the energy crisis, and the Center Party, a populist centrist party whose strongest base of voters are farmers, and which was fallen from almost 20% (pre-2021 election) to 13.5% (2021 election result) to now hanging around 5-6%. Nonetheless, there's no reason to suspect a change in government before the next election, even though the opposition holds a majority in the polls.

    Inflation is also a thing, like in other countries, with the national bank gradually hiking up interest rates from historically low levels, meaning a lot of people are going to struggle with their mortages soon. This is compounded by a lack of affordable housing, which means young people who can't get their parents to guarantee their mortages basically can't get into the owned housing market.

    On the other hand, covid is, at this point, basically another flu in this country. There's no restrictions and not likely to be any in the foreseeable future, so that's a good thing.

    9 votes
  6. Adys
    Link
    https://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium/276983/belgium-copes-better-with-inflation-than-neighbouring-countries...

    https://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium/276983/belgium-copes-better-with-inflation-than-neighbouring-countries

    https://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium/276613/de-croo-the-next-five-to-ten-winters-will-be-difficult

    https://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium/277012/les-engages-ask-government-to-initiate-first-phase-of-emergency-energy-plan

    In short, we’re doing kind of okay but the energy prices are sky high and Winter Is Coming.

    I’m hoping this will get Europe to wake up and install some fucking heat pumps to replace all the energy hungry heating solutions.

    8 votes
  7. vegai
    Link
    Finland. The worst thing happening here is that our prime minister had a few parties. There's a bit of inflation and energy price is up like everywhere else.

    Finland. The worst thing happening here is that our prime minister had a few parties. There's a bit of inflation and energy price is up like everywhere else.

    8 votes
  8. stu2b50
    Link
    In the US, idk, it could be worse. In terms of economics, I'm mildly hopeful - despite a real GDP loss, other metrics are strong and some show signs of being on the rebound. Unemployment (yes,...

    In the US, idk, it could be worse. In terms of economics, I'm mildly hopeful - despite a real GDP loss, other metrics are strong and some show signs of being on the rebound. Unemployment (yes, including U6) has been very low despite interest rate hikes, inflation seems to rounding the corner with more interest rate hikes to come with, the climate bill went through, which does have a meaningful effect on the future. A strong dollar should also have some domestic demand blunting, with exports becoming less competitive, which should also lower inflation (and probably have the reverse effect in Europe).

    Come winter, it's not as if the US is immune to the global energy markets, but being a net producer of energy, as well as, of course, selling in the dollar when the dollar is very strong, should blunt the supply shock that Europe will have.

    7 votes
  9. rogue_cricket
    Link
    Canada. Things are... OK for me personally, but that's because my partner and I both make decent money and we are homeowners. For others, there are definitely concerns around rising costs related...

    Canada. Things are... OK for me personally, but that's because my partner and I both make decent money and we are homeowners. For others, there are definitely concerns around rising costs related to inflation as well as us having what I think is the biggest housing cost increase in the world (although that seems to be leveling out a bit, we're still way way up there for housing costs). Food and rent were already expensive.

    My biggest concern is what I think is the imminent collapse of, um... medicine. There are no doctors or nurses, they're retiring or leaving from being overworked and underpaid. Sure seems like the Conservative premiers of a couple provinces are starving the beast with regards to public health so they can introduce a public/private "solution" to a problem they caused, with no regard for the human death and suffering that naturally occurs when emergency rooms are forced to close at 10PM from staff shortages. (Not that the Liberals were much better here either - this has been a problem for decades and some of those years the Libs were in power - but the Conservatives are definitely more inclined to push for privatization and my premier in particular seems to be intentionally leaving money on the table rather than spending it on, you know, solving any problems.)

    7 votes
  10. [3]
    patience_limited
    Link
    I'm not in the UK, but read this with great horror and trepidation. As dysfunctional as the U.S. may be right now, our catastrophes are somewhat regional. The Federal bureaucracy is still...

    I'm not in the UK, but read this with great horror and trepidation.

    As dysfunctional as the U.S. may be right now, our catastrophes are somewhat regional. The Federal bureaucracy is still coordinating with more-or-less functional state/city bureaucracies to keep things running, despite our horrid politics. What Stross describes is a level of pending national chaos that should damn the vacuous Tory/Republican axis for generations.

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      moriarty
      Link Parent
      This is pretty dire. Though I'm not sure I share your optimism about the state of the US. It seems pretty inevitable that some states are setting up the groundwork for voter suppression of...

      This is pretty dire. Though I'm not sure I share your optimism about the state of the US. It seems pretty inevitable that some states are setting up the groundwork for voter suppression of unprecedented proportion. With state legislatures having a blank check to draw their own partisan districts, passing laws limiting voting rights of urban (democratic) centers and minorities, and with the now backing of an extremist supreme court, I wouldn't be surprised if Biden is the last Democrat (and democratic) president we see in our lifetime.

      2 votes
      1. patience_limited
        Link Parent
        I’m not optimistic at all about the political direction in the U.S., merely the robustness of the bureaucratic institutions we’ve built. The first Trump administration wasn’t competent or...

        I’m not optimistic at all about the political direction in the U.S., merely the robustness of the bureaucratic institutions we’ve built. The first Trump administration wasn’t competent or organized enough to sabotage a four-generation investment in governmental competence.

        However, the Trumpists have got plans for the second act that will thoroughly replicate the British institutional collapse, and ensure the complete crony capture of government.

        4 votes
  11. ras
    Link
    Southern US here. Things are relatively normal here. Covid isn't really talked about or acknowledged here anymore. I've only seen one sign about masks in the past three months or so and that was...

    Southern US here. Things are relatively normal here. Covid isn't really talked about or acknowledged here anymore. I've only seen one sign about masks in the past three months or so and that was at the public library. I'm a moderate democrat living in a deep red Trump county. No one really talks about what's going on with the former president, only how bad the current guy is. I've cut my news media diet WAY back, so I'm pretty out of the loop when it comes to most things that don't make it through my filters. I occasionally see things trending on Twitter like "Civil War", but where I live it's not something I've heard anyone talk about seriously.

    4 votes