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Tony Blair Is Right — Globalisation Is a Fact Not a Choice

March 1, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Don’t laugh, Brexiteers. But Tony Blair was in Washington
DC this week lecturing Americans on the need “to argue the
case for democracy from first principles”. In a think tank
speech pushing “moderate” politics, the former prime
minister and now “People’s Vote” champion was at
his triangulating worst, particularly on Brexit.

Asked how he would counteract current “populist”
moods, Blair spoke of addressing “grievances” that led
to the UK’s referendum result. That means “dealing
with” immigration, he said boldly, in his characteristically
unspecific way. The former PM still, amazingly, seems unable to
conceive that anyone might want to leave the EU for constitutional
or political reasons.

As ever with the former Labour leader though, survive the sound
bites and eventually you’ll hear a pearl of wisdom setting
him apart from most current MPs. Blair’s recognition of the
importance of technological forces set to transform politics and
society was a refreshing change from our usual dull political
debates. But it was on global economics where he was perhaps at his
most profound. Echoing other speeches, he once again observed that
“globalisation is a force of nature, not a policy: it is a
fact”.

He’s right. A central failure of Western politics is the
presumption there is a political answer to all issues. That
everything is the result of some government decision or plan.
Globalisation is no different. Opponents of
“globalism” like to pin the blame of our ills on
policy. Trade deals and liberalisation, it is said, have helped
hollow out industry. Migration policy failures have transformed
communities and put pressure on public services. Corbynistas say
free capital flows have contributed to a transient, short-termist
business sector, and one that would constrain the party’s
ability to deliver the activist state its supporters desire.

There is partial truth in all this, of course. Trade
protectionism has fallen significantly in recent decades and the
extension of free movement to eastern European economies within the
EU did result in huge inflows to Britain. Policy across Western
states was indeed predicated on integration and the resulting
specialisation of economies, based on strong evidence this would
enhance prosperity. That, inevitably, affects industries’
structures and business ownership patterns.

Yet Blair is right that globalisation is about so much more than
policy. The greater economic interconnectedness we see reflects the
free decisions of people in the face of new technologies as much as
the actions of governments. Though states shape all sorts of
personal decisions through policy, the increased cross-pollination
of ideas resulting from culture, travel, study and the internet is
not something that can be reversed or boxed away. Globalisation is
thus a reality, not a set of policies.

Consider some remarkable trends. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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