Friday, 25 April 2008

The New Nationalism

What is the opposite of Globalisation? In order to answer this question, we need to have an idea of what globalisation is in order to consider its opposite. If we had to stylise globalisation as anything, then we would stylise it as inter-connectedness. It is a process whereby the world – enabled by communications technology and falling transport costs – has been able to get closer together. It is about shrinking the planet.

If so, then the opposite of globalisation would be characterised by dis-connectedness. It would be a force that would drive people apart, reduce their linkages with each other, and highlight the differences between peoples throughout the world. We just have to add in to this mix a pinch of resource scarcity, a hint of geopolitical competition, and a grain of moral superiority to obtain the New Nationalism.

Whilst Globalisation acts as a force of integration, the New Nationalism acts as a force of dispersion. We take the view that one of the perspectives of history is that it can be characterised by the relationship between the integrative and the dispersive. One force may become prevalent, but it cannot completely eradicate the other, which, at some stage, will make a come back. This is important when we consider the future of Globalisation.

A number of factors have emerged recently to hint at what shape the New Nationalism might take. It is likely to lean towards protectionism rather than free trade. So, when we hear US Presidential Candidates talking of protecting US business from unfair foreign competition, or when we hear of the US Congress blocking commercial transactions to protect strategic US national interests, they are playing to the New Nationalist agenda. Equally, the New Nationalism is likely to be unilateral rather than multilateral. Again, when we hear of India and China imposing restrictions on the export of rice, the New Nationalism is starting to assert itself. And finally, the New Nationalism is likely to be chauvinistic. When we see ethnic Chinese people counter-demonstrating against Olympic protesters, we are seeing an assertion of the New Nationalism.

All of this raises an interesting question: is there a state in the world, largely untouched by Globalisation, which demonstrates the New Nationalism? Obvious candidates might be Myanmar, Cuba, or one of ‘The Stans’, but there is an interesting example much closer to home – Jersey. Jersey is something of a constitutional anomaly. It is ruled by the Duchess of Normandy, who also happens to be the British Monarch. It gives Jersey close ties to the UK, without actually being part of it. More importantly, Jersey is not part of the EU.

Since 1949, Jersey has operated a system of immigration controls that have prevented the settlement of anyone other than ‘High Value Residents’ (the rich are welcome, and the poor are not). This has distorted the local labour market (too many chiefs and too few Indians), and has distorted the economic development of the island. Jersey today is expensive, delivers poor quality services, and offers poor value for money. It has the general air of decline. This is all resulting from a lack of competition on the island lasting for nearly three generations.

Much worse, Patrick Muirhead – a BBC news reporter – alleges that this lack of competition has encroached into public life. In The Times he alleges (see article) that the island is corrupt and self-seeking. This is allowed, it is alleged, because a web of nepotism and favouritism has given the political class on the island control over the media. This issue has come to a head as it now appears that, for decades, children in care on the island have been abused and murdered and the authorities have done absolutely nothing about it.

In Jersey, we are given a glimpse of what the future might hold if the New Nationalism were to gain the ascendant. Personally, I find it quite an unattractive prospect. Globalisation has brought many benefits to me, and I would be reluctant to give up those benefits. However, I do see that Globalisation has not delivered an effective response to resource scarcity and the competition for resources. Perhaps this is the challenge for its next phase?

Globalisation has not been universally welcomed by all. What I would say to its detractors is that if they want to see what a world without it might look like, they should take a holiday on Jersey.

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