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  • Bagehot

Globalisation and its complications

A fine example of writing has hit my inbox. Called 'Globalisation Some thoughts on the open v closed divide'. Written by The Economist's Bagehot, it deserves wide circulation and deep discussion.

This column provides several enticing paragraphs and a link to the full article.

' ONE of the most popular interpretations of modern politics is that it is increasingly defined by the difference between open and closed rather than left and right. Openness means support for both economic openness (immigration and free trade) and cultural openness (gays and other minorities). Closedness means hostility to these things'.

'... things are not always as they seem. People who boast about openness can often indulge in all sorts of closed practices. And people who pledge eternal allegiance to free trade can find their attitudes changing as the logic of globalisation extends from goods to services. I suspect that middle-class support for open economies will change radically in the future as middle-class people find themselves challenged by two forces—clever machines that reduce the supply of cerebral jobs, and clever people from the emerging world who compete for their jobs. ... Middle-class protectionism will be the wave of the future'.

And in conclusion: ' My final reason for criticising the open-closed division is that there is a much better way to understand modern politics: that is through the prism of meritocracy, in particular the divide between those who pass exams and those who do not. Passing exams gives you an opportunity to enter a world that is protected from the downside of globalisation. You can get a job with a superstar company that has constructed moats and drawbridges to protect itself from global competition. You can get a position with a middle-class guild that has constructed a wall of licenses. You can get a berth in the upper-end of the state bureaucracy or a tenured job in a university.

'Exam passers combine a common ability to manage the downside of globalisation with a common outlook—narcissistic cosmopolitanism—that they pick up at university and that binds them to other members of their tribe. Failing exams casts you down into an unpredictable world where you are much more exposed to global trends such as the shift of manufacturing jobs to cheaper parts of the world. Exam failers are also bound together by a common outlook on the world: anger at the self-satisfied elites who claim to be cosmopolitan as long as their job is protected, and a growing willingness to bring the whole system crashing down'.

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