Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two models of globalization by Seth Galbraith

from Seth Galbraith
to Lance Miller
date Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 8:13 AM
subject Re: Crops for food or cash

1. "The Law of Comparative Advantage" - move products from where they can be produced most efficiently to where they are most needed. This approach insists that all nations should be governed the same way - same taxes, tariffs, subsidies, copyright, trademark and patent laws etc - but only works if nations are developed differently - different levels and types of industry and agriculture, different patterns of education, social structure and wealth, different technology. This model is most darkly epitomized by the US military-industrial complex sharing steel technology only with selected allies, and the modern push for international software and gene patents.

2. Allow ideas (and people and media carrying those ideas) to move freely through your borders so that you can accumulated the best technology, and in the hope that it will be useful to other countries. This approach works even if other countries have different laws, but it allows other countries to develop similar technology and a similar pattern of living if they choose to do so. Japan after WWII was infamous for this development strategy and and modern China has a similar movement. (Notice that neither example required a high degree of political freedom or socially liberal attitudes.)

Notice the high degree of coherence:
  • individuality/autonomy/passion
  • meritocracy/creativity
  • diversity/sharing/benevolence/cooperation

The coherence is even stronger than the intuitive connection between each cluster of words. Hacker passion is very individualistic - it's the guy working on a model railroad in his basement, not the social passion of participating in a group. The hacker creativity is very meritocratic (not self-expressive) and hacker sharing is very much about cooperating benevolently with diverse strangers.

Hackers have captured the heart of this movement and pulled it forward, but it is not limited to that group. Twitter, Wikipedia and other social networking projects are bringing a lot of people into the movement through Commons-based Peer-production. But if Richard Florida is right, the Creative Class is 26% of the US population, plus a large fraction of the Service Class whose creative contribution is not always apparent in their wages.

In other words individuality, meritocracy and sharing may be fundamental values of the majority in post-industrial America, Europe and some other places. But only a small fraction of that majority is active in the movement, because the majority aren't aware of their own existence as a class, and because the interests of this class have not been articulated as a project for our society.

The same was true of the industrial working class when Marx and Engels started writing The Communist Manifesto.

But the project of the industrial working class has been completed, and that class is steadily shrinking as manufacturing becomes automated and distributed. The 21st century is Our Time if you count yourself in the Creative Class, and unlike all previous social classes, the Creative Class is the only class with the potential to include everyone who wants to participate (with the Service Class as an important complimentary pole for people with less interest or opportunity for creative work.)

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