Pot calling the kettle black

How ironic it is that, after years of Western politicians — mainly Americans, but with British not far behind — telling Chinese politicians how to run their affairs, we find that government after government in the advanced countries are being told by intelligent observers in academia and the media that their governments are “broken”.

“Broken” is rather strong language but we understand what is meant and, as far as we can see, what with Donald Trump being a Presidential candidate, the decision to leave the EU by Britain, chaos reigning in one party or another in all advanced countries and growing scepticism by their electorates, the description is not far off. If it’s not far off now, it soon will be unless politicians and their advisors, economists, can’t pull something out of the bag.

“A bright hi-tech future” is what William Hague, sometime leader of the Tories, calls it in an article in today’s Daily Telegraph. We now have more innovations than ever before. All we have to do, for this country to rise like the Phoenix, he reckons, is to be more thoroughly enterprising than ever before.

He’s quite right in his assumption. We — in the advanced countries because of our monopolisation of scientific research — certainly do have more innovations than than ever before. But where are the innovative consumer goods of any ‘weight’, such as a house, a car, a television set? Which one — or two or three — will William Hague select for enterprise?

He hasn’t a clue. Neither can any of the top dozen or so of the major multinational corporations. They would give billions — tens of billions — for the merest glimpse of anything that is uniquely new. All that we have today on the drawing board are refinements of what was invented 100 years ago.

We’ll bave masses of innovations and their applications but they’ll be in the producer and infrastructure fields, not brand new consumer goods. We already have enough of those to occupy our leisure. Also the investments required will be so increasingly expensive that only governments or ad hoc associations betweeen them — will be able to afford them.

We’re moving into a totally new era of robotized jobs and informational services. Instead of politicians telling the Chinese — or us — what they’d like us to be doing, perhaps they’d better start reforming their own systems and make them more relevent to the needs of their electorates.

One thought on “Pot calling the kettle black

  1. Greetings Keith,
    Thanks for this essay.

    I see the question as one of a general existential struggle between governments/nations and a globalized corporations.

    It is a struggle we could see emerging at least as far back as the sixties, but a one that was difficult to interest academic institutions ( such as the American Society of International Law).

    I think technological innovation is only one relevant issue on the resolution of this struggle. The very ethos of the two systems will I think have more of an impact: one can see this as an existential struggle between the ethoses of nations and corporations. Which will prove more valuable? Which more fair (the perception of fairness being one of the main elements in the decision-making of individuals)? Which more safe?

    People will vote with their behavior, and so one of the two systems will come to dominate the other. Both systems have the power to make this process of emerging domination quite messy.

    What do you think?


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