Globalization and the New Economy

Globalization is here, and it’s going to hurt. But, like most change this will be an awful lot of short term pain followed by long term gain.

Sounds like a management mantra, but it’s true. Globalization sucks for the people caught in the middle today (the high-tech workers who actually directly drove up the price of tech workers during the dot-com boom) and will continue to. There are two sides to the story, though and that is that in losing a little in the “first-world countries” we are actually pulling the “third-world countries” up to our level.

However, there are problems that I think people are only now beginning to see. For a start in India in general now that a small percentage of the populous has suddenly become relatively well paid, the cost of items in the economy is going up. This either forces the majority of the population to get increases in pay relative to the increasing cost or they run the risk of destroying the economy of their own country. Increase in wealth must be managed or it risks the entire economy. India is starting to learn this.

Now, so long as it’s all managed properly then India will be bought up to the level of the US in terms of quality of life, cost of living and so forth (well, maybe a little lower), then their jobs will all be offshored to some other country and so the cycle begins again. Over time this will have a generally levelling effect and will result in a world that is better placed to actually improve the lives of those living on the Earth rather than in-fighting and bickering. This is generally a good thing.

The utopia envisioned by science fiction writers for years will not come about without a great deal of pain. There’s going to be a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the economies of the first world countries will crumble. The high-horse that the West has ridden for centuries has finally run itself out, and we’re all going to feel the pinch.

There are ways to make sure you survive through this; be flexible. Be ready to work where and doing whatever it takes to make ends meet and support your own families. Don’t get too attached to the “everything on credit” lifestyle to which we in the West have become accustomed, that lifestyle is going to end in a huge and extremely ugly crash. The foundation of this crash was founded in the early 1970′s when the dollar value was seperated from gold. Then with the additional weight of the effect of networking and decentralization on top of that it will lead to a complete crash of our lifestyle. I don’t know if it will happen in our lifetimes, but I really believe it will happen.

We’re in a new market now where our jobs can be done anywhere. This is going to lead to a short term situation where jobs will migrate away from the West. We can’t prevent it. We can complain about it, and we can whine about it but the best we’re going to do is delay it and in doing so make the crash that much worse when it comes.

Yes, I’ve been hit by globalization myself but even I have to realize that the future is going to change radically. Many are going to hate it, I don’t claim to like the short term picture myself… but I have to accept it. In fact, as one of the drivers in the dot-com boom and the decentralization projects of large companies I also have to claim a certain amount of responsibility. Many of us in the tech sector who created the “new economy” do. We wanted this brave new world where the Internet made things possible like improving the lot of others in the world. Well, now our visions are becoming a reality… but the utopian vision we had has a down side that we’re all feeling.

Get used to it, or complain about it… but we can’t prevent it. Not now. Not ever. Life is not Star Trek, and we’re not going to find anything resembling that utopia without the pain that is to come first.

Saturday Rant

First some amusement. I was shown this link a day or two ago… and while it’s an old news story it’s definitely worth looking at; News report out of New Zealand regarding a goof on the national news.

Basically, the upshot is that some technician obviously playing around with the systems put in that George W Bush was a “Professional Fascist”. Unfortunately, for some reason that to my knowledge has not been found or advertised, this was put up on the screens of New Zealanders. I have to admit, I was more than a little amused.

I myself am pretty neutral in the whole political game here in the US. I can’t vote anyway, but I do have opinions. While I have distinctly liberal leanings (perhaps due to my upbringing in the UK in the 70′s and 80′s under a rather tyrannical Conservative rule), I do appreciate the Republican ideal of smaller government and more power to the people. Many of my friends are republican… some staunch republican. By come on, people… if George W Bush is the best representative of the Republican ideal you can find to put up there as our president, there’s either something irrevocably broken in the system or the Republican party itself is severely broken.

The current administration shows almost no signs of being truly Republican. They’re an extremely right-wing religious faction of the Republican party at best. They’re not reducing government… the additions to the weight of government in this country during their tenure has been incredible, including the creation of not one but two entire government controlled police departments (the TSA and Dept. of Homeland Security… though the TSA is effectively a subset of the latter though operating independently). This is a new government bureaucracy that is costing the government a fortune and as near as I can tell delivering on very little. What’s scary is that they get away with it solely because the Religious Right who felt disenfranchised by Bill Clinton’s administration and actions appreciate the fact that GW cites God in almost every speech he gives and action he performs.

WTH? I’m of a slightly agnostic bent (not atheist… I don’t have the conviction required for that!) and I believe that generally God is not involved in the day to day activities of human kind. My viewpoint is that he / she / it / they created man and sort of sent us on our merry way. They check in on us, but we can’t cite God as a factor in our lives because said entity is not directly involved. Anyone who claims to act for God is therefore trying to absolve themselves of blame when the proverbial crap hits the spinny thing.

I also believe absolutely in evolution… rather than claim that it replaces God (which is a ridiculous notion and quite the opposite of what Darwin intended… anyone who claims that is no better than those who claim the Bible creation story is the absolute truth). I believe instead that evolution is the process by which God created… and is in fact still creating us as well as every other species on Earth. Perhaps it is true that God created us in his image… but who’s to say that he’s done yet? When building something we don’t create something spontaneously; it must be designed, constructed and perfected. That takes time… who’s to say God is done yet.

Note that I use God here as a catch-all term… whether you’re a believer in a single God or a pantheist… as I said I have an open mind so I won’t judge either way. It’s not that I’m afraid to decide; rather I just feel that we should not assign arbitrary labels to something that we cannot by default understand. Calling it he, she, they, or even it does not adequately convey what God may be; rather God is beyond our current level of understanding and therefore defies labeling.

Sorry… just got a little off on a rant today. I’ve just had a couple of days where I’ve been talking about these subjects with friends so I find myself wanting to post. Comments and feedback welcome!

Oh, and by the way

Today is one year since I went on my trip to the UK. One year ago, probably right this moment I was at Heathrow airport lugging my bags through the airport to get to the underground station. I remember it well.

Here is the full UK set of pictures for those who haven’t seen them yet. Enjoy… comment… email me.

Briticism of the Week

Here’s a good British phrase for you yankees: Gobsmacked. If you don’t get it, allow me to define it for you.

Gobsmacked: Adjective; With reference to being shocked by a blow to the mouth, or to clapping a hand to one’s mouth in astonishment.

Yes, that’s a dictionary definition. Look it up if you don’t believe me.

This is pretty much the reaction I had when I started talking recently to friends about the history of war. It amazes me that Hollywood nurtures the idea that the first and second world wars only began when the Americans got involved. It also makes me completely gobsmacked to find the education system here actually enforces that idea. And to prove it, a friend of mine recently produced one of his text books from school that pretty much reduced the entire beginning of World War II to a single paragraph stating that there had been “… some limited conflicts in Europe prior to 1941.”

Being more than a little shocked by this revelation, I began to talk about other wars. It appears the dearth of realistic information is even worse when it comes to conflicts that have occurred since then. What really buggers my mind is that the American education system basically pretends that the Vietnam war pretty much never existed, or ended in a stalemate situation. What? Are you kidding me? No offense meant to my American friends, but Vietnam was a conflict that was lost. It started with the best of intentions (publicly), but quickly devolved into a war of attrition with an enemy who used tactics and strategies so different from Americans that we couldn’t hope to win. Add to that the “home field advantage” the Vietnamese had, is it any wonder really that American soldiers lost their lives in such horrible numbers?

Don’t misunderstand me, I have friends of mine who fought in that conflict. They’re all older than me, and they are to a man decent, hard working and good people who I have the utmost respect for. My comment is not about the Vietnam conflict… I am not old enough to have been around, and therefore am not old enough to hold a valid opinion of that conflict. Anything I say is based upon second-hand knowledge of the circumstances.

My comment instead is about an education system that seems to give recent generations an extremely skewed view of history. Sure, it’s often said that history is written by the winners, but even losses and mistakes can provide vital and useful information about yourself, your enemy and provide invaluable information to future generations about the mistakes made. It’s also said that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. I feel this is a huge disservice to my peers, and the children of my entire generation who are being short-changed by this myopic and controlled view of the past.

Looking at some of the knowledge my friends have of the Vietnam conflict (these would be friends of my age, not my friends who were there), there’s a huge lack of knowledge about Vietnam that really makes my eyes roll. The entire teaching of Vietnam in schools for my peers was pretty much a mention of the conflict in response to the popularity of the Rambo movies. Even then, the mention was cursory and didn’t delve deeply into it at all. Most of the knowledge these friends of mine have of the entire conflict was learned from movies like “First Blood” and “Born on the Fourth of July”. How can you possibly form an opinion about anything from that amount of information? Those aren’t even historical; they’re fiction portraying a particular viewpoint.

It blows my mind that Americans know far more about World War II than they know about Vietnam. Between Vietnam and Korea, these have almost become “forgotten conflicts”. Well, not forgotten because they are still in our media… but to most of today’s generation they may as well be fictional battles that never really took place. At least for all the attention that’s paid to them in the classroom. Even then, the paucity of information regarding World War II prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is quite saddening. Don’t even get me started on the “US Focus” of these self-same text books once they do detail the war efforts. Efforts by Canada, Britain and Russia are skimmed over while huge chunks of the text books detail the daylight bombing raids by B-17′s flown by American pilots. Don’t even get me started on the almost complete lack of information about the massive manpower, infrastructure and life cost that was paid by the other allied countries who were close enough to Axis countries to be bombed and attacked daily. Even today, I know from experience that Britain bears the scars of that conflict.

I feel that some of my best times at school in history class, at least those I learned the most from were the somewhat inglorious mistakes we had made as a people, as a country and just in general. The crusades for example were (in hindsight) a rather silly notion that all peoples should be just like us. In reality, there are a lot of parallels that can be drawn between extremist terrorism and the crusaders; it’s just in that case we were the terrorists bent on making everyone Christian whether they wanted to be or not. We spent a lot of time on that… and it’s an embarrassing part of British history that I found fascinating. There are more, but I won’t bore you with this.

I write this just because I feel that some of the current events in Iraq are because Americans don’t remember the past where they were taught that military strategy is at a loss when it comes to guerilla warfare. We must adapt to fight this war, we can’t fight it like we are used to. We must adapt our way of thinking to beat them at their own game, not try to “show them who’s boss” with people and machines. In part, we feed the hatred of us by doing what we’re doing, without really being able to do much to beat them at their own game. I am not a military strategist or tactician, but I do see that we’re fighting another guerilla war. Instead of forests and trees we have cities and buildings. Other than that, we should take the lessons we learned in Vietnam and use them… not try to brush it under the rug.

I have friends in Iraq right now… if you’re reading this guys I’m with you. I support our troops… many of them are my friends. I question often the reasons for going to war, and I question some of the actions taken by our administration as it continues… but the troops, I support.

As long as I’m free to question that, and free to voice my opinion you’ll know that what you fight for is not in vain.