Friday 17 October 2008

The man is not for turning

I'll admit to never having been a fan of globalisation, whether economic or cultural. Reading Marcuse (One Dimensional Man) in the 1970's was a significant influence on the development of my own political philosophy, and as I recall, Sartre said something along the lines of "merely insisting on being Basque is itself a revolutionary act".

At a cultural level, Welsh nationalism is at least partly about maintaining human cultural identity and diversity, and at an economic level, it combines with environmental concerns in supporting a more localised economy. Localised is not necessarily the same thing as protectionist or isolationist, nor does it exclude the promotion of trade with developing countries in ways that assist them. But when I read that shrimps are caught off the British Isles, landed in Scotland, and then shipped to the Far East to be shelled before being shipped back to Scotland for packing – then I know that globalisation has gone too far.

That's an absurd example, obviously – although there are plenty more like it – but one of the consequences of globalisation has been the creation of long thin supply chains; and I think even supporters of globalisation ought to be more worried about that than they appear to be. The complexity built into the supply of goods and services, coupled with rigorous attempts to ensure 'just in time' delivery and reduce the amount of 'working capital' employed by businesses, makes the whole economic system extremely vulnerable to a failure at a single point.

The failure of financial markets has hinted at that; but there are a range of potential events in the real world which could be even more devastating. As a simplistic example, I'm not convinced that people really understand the potential economic impact of a major flu epidemic in the Far East, even if no-one in the UK even caught a cold.

What sparked this train of thought today was reading about David Miliband's speech in Cardiff last night, where he seems to have said that the financial turmoil won't deter Britain from continuing globalisation. I struggled to find any trace of a logical basis for that statement. It reminded me of the remark attributed to Keynes, "When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?".

It worries me that, in the face of a clear warning about the way in which globalisation has led to an essentially US problem being exported to the rest of the world, the response seems to be to accelerate the process of locking us into an approach which has an increasing potential for systemic failure. The facts have changed – shouldn't policy also change to reflect that?


Rhetoric Innes said...

Globalisation has gone too far..
local grown food is fresher and helps local economies.
In my opinion Wales has an unique cultural identity already (as have Scotland and Ulster) without the need for any political seperatism.
I suppose you will disagree John!

John Dixon said...


I don't think there's anything 'separatist' about wanting full membership of the EU, including adopting the Euro as our currency. For me, the real 'separatists' are people like UKIP and the Tories, who want to cut these islands off from the rest of Europe.

And I seem to recall that even the Lib Dems have been backtracking on their commitment to the Euro...

Anonymous said...

John, What's the point of Eventually achieving Independenece only to throw it away by joining The Euro along with an European Superstate - so instead of Having Welsh Laws Made in England, They'll be made in Brussels Instead. Not if but when Wales gets it's Independence wouldn't it be better to get COMPLETE Independence rather than losing our soverignity to Europe and Letting The French or Germans decide what's best for us. We ONLY have 4 MEPS out of more than 700 for pity sake - The EU cares less about Wales than Westminster does.

Cibwr said...

There is no such thing as total independence in the modern World, we are all interlinked. The EU is a reality that we can't ignore. As for only having 4 MEPs that is only 1 half of the EU legislature. On independence that would go up to more like 10 or 12, plus we would have votes at the Council of Ministers - the more powerful half of the legislature. Plus I think we would find ourselves with a lot of allies in the Parliament. The EU does seem genuinely more concerned with supporting its less prosperous regions and nations. Something the United Kingdom seems less good at. Separatism is a dead term just used to smear those of us who support real independence in an interdependent world.

John Dixon said...


I agree with Cibwr on this.

I almost hesitate to name a comparison country given recent events, but for the purpose of the argument, in which way do you think that the degree of independence enjoyed by, say, Ireland is inadequate for them and / or would be inadequate for Wales?