Much has been written about Globalisation. It usually tends to focus on the really sexy aspects of the process – trade flows from exotic places, hot money sloshing around the world, gizmos and gadgets that will revolutionise the way in which we live, and so on. And yet, it is the really mundane things in life that are the more appropriate measure of the process of Globalisation.
A story this week brought it home to me. I dislike air travel very much. I don’t like airports – they are far too soulless for me. I don’t like the insincere veneer of customer care offered by airlines. I don’t like being herded around from one place to another. And I really dislike being interrogated by immigration officials who, if they had paid more attention at school, would be qualified to flip burgers. Wherever possible, I prefer an alternative form of transport.
My preferred method of travel is the train. It is relatively green, relatively relaxed, and a more enjoyable way of travelling long distances. The problem is that, in Europe, at least, the rail system is so fragmented. For example, in booking a ticket to the European Futurists Conference in Lucerne, the system will force me to buy a ticket from Ipswich to London, from London to Paris, and from Paris to Lucerne.
I welcomed with joy the news this week that a number of European train companies are to pool their ticketing arrangements (see story). Apparently, this is an attempt for the train companies to compete directly with the airlines. It is certainly the case that Ipswich to Amsterdam, via the ferry crossing, is quicker by train than by plane, if we add into the mix the travel to the airport and the hanging around in the airport terminals. At £50 return, it is also cheaper to travel by train.
This news is of great significance to our model of globalisation, as it provides an example of how the architecture of globalisation is being built. In our view, globalisation is all about the integration and the harmonisation of the world economy, global society, and the global political sphere. There is still some way to go, but the vision of the end state of globalisation is starting to take shape. Companies such as the rail companies (an interesting mix of public sector, private sector, and a hybrid group) are finding that the benefits of collaboration far outweigh the benefits of competition. This is the force of globalisation that is turning the world upside down.
The authorities in China and India are presently engaged in building a rail link across the Himalayas so that Beijing will link, by rail, to Mumbai. There is a great amount of geopolitical significance to that project – it cuts out the maritime choke point in the Straights of Malacca – but it will have quite some commercial significance as well. From my perspective, it means that I will be able to travel by train from Ipswich to Cologne, from Cologne to Warsaw, from Warsaw to Moscow, from Moscow to Vladivostok, from Vladivostok to Beijing, and from Beijing to Mumbai. And back again.
How about that for a connected world? I guess that you all now know what to buy me for Christmas!