Globalisation 2.0

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

The UK has limped into statistically insignificant (0.1%) GDP growth, which may be revised downwards. If you gave 200 billions of pounds to banks, ran up a national debt of nearly a trillion, cut consumption taxes and subsidised the car industry and only got that growth, wouldn't you be annoyed?

In a wider context, though, what the UK is experiencing is globalisation 2.0. The first version was in appearance benign; cheap credit and energy was accompanied by cheaper manufactured goods and a boom in services, as the UK exploited the growth of poorer countries but maintained a lead in higher-end industries and finance.

Now, though, those developing countries have started to provide their own services; the financial cupboard is bare; the productivity gains from investment in education have turned into legions of frustrated, wrongly-qualified graduates with no jobs or part-time jobs; and energy, credit and commodity prices are being pushed up by competition from the formerly developing states.

The UK therefore will soon be under a compulsion to do a few definite things. It will have to pay down debt; it will have to cut spending, save more, and export more; government will have to shrink and taxes, to gain yield, will have to be flatter and fairer, with better treatment for job-creating small business. Debt is largely index-linked, so inflating out is difficult, and the UK will therefore face lower disposable incomes.

A benefit will be a pressure against the tremendous waste of privatisation in the public utilities and monopolies, which were subsidised off the books by various schemes designed to keep bond markets happy. We'll have to either fairly fund railways and banks, or break up universities and schools and healthcare to survive, or both.

The number of elected officials is going to have to decline. Schemes to cover up regional and deindustrial unemployment with government jobs in former pit-areas and steeltowns that grew up in the industrial revolution, and the associated parasitical administrative class that went with them, are going to start vapourising.

We can do this intelligently, or stupidly. Stupid would be to declare victory in the great recession, drive up house prices, and go for retail growth and foreign takeovers disguised as investment whilst grinding workers down and inflating the domestic economy.

Stupid would be cap-and trade, which would only create a new derivative market based on a different cult, and windmill programmes that lead nowhere. Stupid would be more taxes, more rules, and the socialisation of more private company debt. Stupid would be listening to the media.

Smart would be breaking government monopolies in education up, much higher rebates for individual taxpayers, flat low company taxes and the elimination of a large portion of subsidies, tax breaks and offsets disguised as industrial policy. Smart would be an end to propaganda and a smaller, more flexible core of school curricula with languages, science, and mathematics prioritised, but delivered in any number of ways.

Smart would be much fewer elected officials, and ultimately smaller and more local retail banks. It would be more regional and Asian trade, and less dependence on North America for political and cultural succour. Smart would be embracing conservation, coal and nuclear power, and dumping green nonsense.

Globalisation 1.0 promoted finance ministers and technocrats, whilst falsely 'empowering' individuals with an inflated sense of living standards achieved by debt. It globalised by centralising and depoliticising, and consumed ports, airports, security concerns, planning law credit, insurance, and commodity markets. It was a party for some and a disappointment to many. It did at least lead many in Africa and Asia to the chance of wealth for their children. In the west, it was accompanied by a ruthless, atheistic, destructive and arrogant cultural agenda based around narcissism and materialism. It was fun while it lasted, for a few. I was one.

In globalisation 2.0, we pay, but we can proceed or just fester whilst peak oil's coming tornado slows and spins before touching ground and gathering speed.

Which road, stupid or smart, do you think our political classes are really going to embrace?

The painting is Carraci, and represents 'The Choice of Herakles'. I do like the Baroque, and the Carraci family inspired a good deal of it though they are now not as recognised as they should be. The big man is faced with hardship and glory, in the form of virtue, and an easy life of vice (though vice does look at least as though she'd keep you warm on a cold night). The tale was much liked by Addison, who wrote this account of it in 1709.


berenike said…
You've left out history in your educational priorities. The more I talk to folk with daft ideas, the more I realise fewer daft ideas would be held by fewer folk if they had any study of history. And, while I see the many benefits of the way it's taught on the continent in, e.g., compulsory history marathons for lawyers, politics students etc (from a textbook, memorising names and dates and Wot Appened), it's not much use as a lesson in critical thinking if students don't have to examine a couple of questions from the documents (that is, at least editions and commentaries and specialist literature) up. If you never get to the stuff at the bottom of the theories to compare it to the theories: these families paid this much money for these chantries, or whatever - then you will be left to teach yourself how to interpret evidence, or how to assess other people's interpretations.

Rant inspired by a conversation with a recent politics grad in my French class.
Martin Meenagh said…
I love history, and spent a decade and a half in the formal study of it. I think that it gets better with maturity, and that it conveys a proper critical understanding; i just wonder what would end up getting taught. It is the central art....

Maybe we should include in in our fantasy Britain, but only if we get to write the textbook.
DBC Reed said…
berenike is quite right.There is also a sense that the Humanities having lost the Two Cultures debate
is having a disastrous effect on the blogosphere.Any notion that you should support an argument with at least three pieces if evidence ,factual or on good authority ,has been well and truly lost by people ( a lot with technical backgrounds it seems to me) who make baselesss assertions
and if challenged simply repeat themselves more vehemently.
It really is ridiculous discussing
Citizen's Dividends without being able to dicuss the old National Dividends which were financed quite differently,simply because the others have never heard of Social Credit (as if the creation of money is not an issue).
Your comment that you were one who did well out of the recent economic delusion has echoes of the scene near the end of Evelyn Waugh's Unconditional Surrender when Crouchback is taken apart by a Jewish woman the wife of an engineer.She goes on this long peroration about how a lot of people wanted the war because they
felt that they had led too comfortable lives and wanted to redeem themselves.Crouchback replies "God help me;I was one of them".I cite this episode not because of any personal application but because I can never understand the low literary status accorded to Waugh who stikes me as the key modern figure combining Tostoyan sweep with Byronic humaneness.But he is not on the canon is he?Not even Cats like you mention him.
Also don't lets have the conventional nod to maths in the ideal school curriculum.As has been amply demonstrated in the book "Why study maths" which I have mislaid ,maths is a child terrifying humbug that only got promoted on the school curriculum a) because of its Greek origins and b) we got frightened by the Franco Prussian war.It seems to have been seens as as mental back-up to Drill. Far from being intellectually demanding Maths is intellectually deadening being simply the mindless repetition of set formulae by the incurious.You multiply a half by a half and the child expects (the clue is in the word multiply) that the product will be bigger.But is is a quarter i.e.smaller.The child's mind is not ready for the real explanation of the result and is simply drilled into repeating the set procedure without thinking.
Children think that algebra is mad and a waste of time .They are right: when have you ever used algebra in daily life?
The genuflection to maths led to the bestowal of a Nobel Prize for the Black/Scholes formula for pricing options.Only it did n't work and led to a fairly big financial crisis (the LTCM one).
Spelling reform would not go amiss, another debate with a long history.
Martin Meenagh said…
mea=culpa (squared)
Martin Meenagh said…
Aren't we really talking about the decline of any notion of a disciplined and independent mind attached to a continuum of something--anything--worthwhile that can lift it out of time and space?

I am bad at maths but I think that the fact that so many of us are is what allowed nonsense in the financial markets to go unchallenged.

I note, for instance, that places like Korea--where my girl can do calculus with a lazy annoyance that it diverts her from vogue--seem to be countries that understand interest and investment. Consequently they seem to save more and invest more and fall less for financial nonsense.

More importantly, though, minds need discipline as much as explanations. I have to struggle all the time to impose some on mine and found it via memorising poetry, taking on a little latin and just forcing myself into sequence, because no one ever really drilled anything into me. Children need Latin or maths or proper literature, which is hard work.

I'd also suggest that the heights and depths that Maths can take people to are intimately connected to physics, and to progress. The huffman codes and digital processes that allow for this blog to function, for instance, benefit my life.

I did well out of the boom in that I used debt to fund a doctorate and a call to the bar, but I didn't manage to save anything; consequently I have to put my mind out a bit and hustle. I'm lucky, though, in that I quite like that anyway...God knows what would have happened to me had I been mouldering in some organisation. I'd be learning calculus, probably.....
berenike said…
Maths trains your brain. Copyediting an article on a midC20 Polish mathmo and logician has shown me that while calculus was useful for one of my finals papers, more time being drilled in Euclid would have been better for the brain. I have a suspicion that the maths curriculum we had was basically crap, from a methodological and logical point of view, and therefore didn't do our little brains as much good as it ought to have done.
berenike said…
and arithmetic should be a basic life skill like being able to boil an egg. All I learned in this field I owe to my primary school teacher:)(I still haven't found a method for long division that I don't forget within three days, though.)
Martin Meenagh said…
I used to despise long division. It was a mix of impressionist art and sudoku when I did it, partly because of a cognitive difficulty on my part that has me much more comfortable being verbal and freewheeling than disciplined (cf any blog post of mine ever).

I'm fascinated by Thomas Hobbes. Have you read the account of how he discovered Euclid in a library one day, tutted and carped, and then swooned? Lovely stuff.

Seriously, though, all societies get complex. But this one holds it within its grasp to do incredible things, just from numbers, just from disciplining and directing all that fantastic capacity we all have. Moon, stars, time, space, age, hunger, poverty--we could walk on them all.

And, more practically, we live better than princes and kings because someone sat down and forced scaffolding into the heads of children who grew the sorts of minds that could practise medicine and build the internet before they got to muck about with ideas about rights and free association.

The achievements of those countless mathematicians made it happily possible, for instance, for women to have access to kitchen and cleaning technology and washing machines so that they wouldn't lose time or use other women as drudges for money whilst their men sold their muscle and wasted their lives for things dynamoes could do outside.

Forgetting that, as much as forgetting that some people speak other languages, that there should be clarity and limit to our desires and speech, and forgetting that better men and women than us have prayed to a living God is what is going to do for us if anything does.

All these rights and security and so forth that people go on about would be with Caesar in the dust if it weren't for the numbers we can use and he couldn't.

And DBC--I really value your comments. What I just wrote looks all worked up, and it isn't. I'm aware how blogging can come across as much more arrogant and rude than it is meant, so you won't take offence, I hope!
Martin Meenagh said…
One f my best friend's granny won the nobel, by the way, and sumptuous (in a Scandinavian way) as the ceremony sounded, it seems to me a form of preening best taken with a smile.

What allowed the scandals in the banking world (reason no.543) was the lack of anyone in the politics or regulatory world with the balls and backbone connected to a mind familiar with maths and bull to see the made-up stuff for the horseshit it was (pardon my French). They all did. My story about laughing with a charming banker who'd got access to millions in earnings from a study of the relationship of the Fibonacci sequence to banking was true. I mean--if I came along and said 'I've worked out how to make money forever from applying Henry James to the widget market', you'd have me sectioned. That's because you know that's rubbish. So (and I'm conscious that I'm arguing by analogy) why not see the idea of drilling students in what words and numbers and pictures actually mean as vital? It'd be more use than some silly sociological mixture of romanticism and phenomenology of the sort that now prevails in education, let me tell you.

Of course, you have to let me tell you since I am holding your mind captive for a millisecond on the blog. Sorry for the solecism.