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Inadequate machinery

Inadequate machinery

We have reviewed the role of institutions and adaptive machinery elsewhere. Plainly, if fast change is thrust on a society, then poor adaptive machinery will almost ensure that the outcome will be that the nation becomes a worse place in which to live.

Unfortunately, as the section on incompatible goals demonstrated, it seems to be the case that a large fraction of the world's people live in nations where the change favours the only a small fraction of the elite. As a consequence, those who are excluded from the benefits of change - but who are exposed to its negative features - will therefore tend to react against it. This reaction will be targeted upon the most obvious sources of change, and will be led by those who can articulate a way of thinking about the issues, perhaps based on religion and tradition, perhaps on class warfare or xenophobia. The content of the rationale is less important than its accessibility to the mass of the population. In part, this stems from organised dissemination, whether this is achieved through political organisation or by means of established conduits such as organised religion. In part, too, such accessibility grows out from the preconceptions and the inarticulate hopes of the population.

The existence of an organised rejectionist group is an increasing commonplace as the pace of change accelerates. Its effects are to call for measures such as economic protectionism, a return to religious or traditional education or the repression of women which are often the exact opposite of anything which is adaptive to the forces of change. Policy moves which take the nation in this direction almost ensure that a bad situation gets worse. In the meanwhile, however, the population have picked up a set of tropes and a language of debate which will predispose to further misinterpretation.

Careful leadership must ensure that the majority of the well-to-do in a society (and not just the forces vive, those educated overseas and the advocates of modernisation) continue to do well as doors are opened to the outside world and its standards. This is extremely hard to achieve when the society has been isolated from best practice for a long time. Curiously, it is the poorest societies which present the smallest challenge, insofar as few vested interests have had time to build up. It is no accident that South America, in particular, should have wrapped itself in a mercantilist cloak. An established middle class had a great deal to lose from open doors, and its social and organisationally proximity to the vast influence of the USA made the pressure on those doors a powerful one.

The implicit goals of the international economy have been spelled out elsewhere. The nations which hold these values hold a virtual monopoly on capital, technology and communications. Nations which want access to these will probably have to accede to the conditions with which these come. It is worth asking whether this relationship is, however, set in everlasting concrete, or whether a new model might emerge.

If we assume that those with pensions to fund and hospitals to equip will not suddenly dismiss these concerns in favour of global egalitarianism, then the issue is answered through two questions:

Will the industrial world continue to hold all of the assets?

Some of the resources which are currently in short supply, such as managerial talent, may well be more globally available in twenty years time. Communications will certainly be more complete, and thus more open to being focused on regional interests and markets than is the case today. However, savings in the poorer nations cannot begin to meet their needs. Technology will continue to be sourced from the rich world. In both instances, the poorer nations have to make themselves "investor friendly" if they are attract resources. Dirigiste nations may be able to create highly divided societies, and exploit the poor for the resources to undertake grand transformational projects. The history of these seems universally poor, even in the US, where the legacy of the New Deal has generally been judged to have been an uneconomic use of resource, if a good training for life in WWII. In conclusion, popular culture and local trade may become less dependent on the wealthy world, but access to the high economy and to major capital sources will depend on having the right institutions, and the will to use them.

Does the rest of the world have some aces to play which mitigate industrial world certainties?

Plainly, it does. The following are a few of the many issues that require collaboration for their solution.

Such lists are never complete. It is clear, however, that the rich world of 2020 will have a more even handed relationship with the poor nations than did their equivalents in 1920, or 1820. Neighbours can be walled off from the grand house behind a hedge when they live in shacks, but not when they erect tower blocks and throw their garbage out of the windows. Ugly though the metaphor may be, this is roughly the situation for which a mass of accords can be negotiated, for better or worse, during the next 20 years.

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