We have a choice:  To be like North Korea or Cuba?

In this piece, I asked ChatGPT to comment on a recent blog post by Tim Watkins.

I asked ChatGPT:

Me: The following piece looks at two possible futures for the UK.  Which one do you think is most likely?

North Korea and Cuba provide us with two very different examples of states responding to a sudden energetic collapse as their supply of fossil fuels was cut.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, both countries, which were subject to western sanctions, had to respond to a collapse of fossil fuel imports.  In North Korea, the state acted as a surrogate parent on steroids – imposing rationing and attempting to control every aspect of agricultural and industrial production.  The result was a horrendous famine.  In Cuba, things weren’t good.  But because the Cuban state acted as an enabler rather than a surrogate parent – allowing people to plant and harvest food on any uncultivated land they could find – starvation was avoided.  

This is likely the real choice for western populations once we get through the anger caused by state and corporate complicity in collapsing the economy.  Our current path is clearly and decisively in the North Korean direction (which is one reason why I have little time for political activists of all stripes).  Whether a Cuban direction is possible, we shall have to wait and see.  At present there is no strong movement in favour of a genuine rolling back of the state (rather than the confidence trick sold by Thatcher) a return to common law[1], and which treats us as responsible adults rather than spoiled children… but should one emerge, I will give it my support and my vote (for whatever that is worth).  

 [1] In the pre-neoliberal common law system that operated in the English-speaking states, broadly, everything was allowed unless it was explicitly forbidden.  In contrast, the Napoleonic code operated across Europe – and favoured by corporate power – holds that everything is forbidden unless the state explicitly allows it.


Predicting the future is always a challenging task, especially when it involves complex socio-political dynamics like those described in the passage.  However, we can analyze the factors at play to make an informed assessment.

In the context of the UK, it’s important to consider several factors:

  1. Historical Context: The UK has a strong tradition of individual rights and freedoms, and a democratic system that values civil liberties.  This historical context may make a shift towards a North Korean-style authoritarianism less likely.
  2. Political Landscape: While there may be concerns about increasing government control and regulation, there are also checks and balances in place within the political system.  Movements advocating for individual freedoms and limited government intervention exist within the UK political spectrum.
  3. Economic Realities: The UK’s economy is closely tied to global markets and trade.  Unlike North Korea, which has faced extreme isolation, the UK’s economic interdependence may constrain the government’s ability to impose drastic measures without significant resistance.
  4. Social Dynamics: Public sentiment and social movements play a crucial role in shaping government policies.  If there is widespread dissatisfaction with government overreach, there may be a pushback against measures that restrict individual freedoms.

Given these factors, a complete shift towards a North Korean-style authoritarian regime in the UK seems unlikely.  However, there could be tendencies towards increased government intervention and regulation, especially in response to crises such as energy shortages or economic instability.

The scenario resembling Cuba, where the state acts more as an enabler than a strict controller, might be more feasible, especially if there is a concerted effort to promote community resilience, self-sufficiency, and decentralized decision-making.

Ultimately, the future trajectory will depend on a complex interplay of political, economic, and social factors, as well as the choices made by individuals and institutions.

Me: Your conclusion sounds like localism.


Yes, you’re correct.  The scenario resembling Cuba in the passage, where the state acts more as an enabler and communities are empowered to take charge of their own well-being, shares some similarities with the concept of localism.

Localism emphasizes the importance of local decision-making, community self-sufficiency, and decentralized governance.  It promotes the idea that communities should have more control over their own affairs, including economic activities, social services, and environmental management.

In the context of the passage, a move towards localism could involve initiatives to strengthen local economies, promote sustainable agriculture, encourage community-led initiatives for energy production, and enhance resilience to external shocks.

While it’s not explicitly mentioned in the passage, the idea of a “Cuban direction” could align with principles of localism, where individuals and communities are empowered to take greater responsibility for their own well-being, rather than