I always loved that old (1987) REM song – “it’s the end of the world as we know it”. I once bought the CD version of their greatest hits and was gutted to realise that this song was not it. It’s a song for the age of globalisation because the message might be that it is the end of the world as we know it but everything is ok because I feel fine! I won’t bore you with all the globalisation imagery peppered through the song but when you listen to it with the news about the war in Ukraine on in the background, it all feel just a little bit eerie.
Certainly, the geopolitical map of the world is being changed by force yet again. It can be hard to keep up with the skirmishes around the world and the impact that they will have. Who would have thought 3 years ago that we would spend 2 years in a global pandemic where over 6 million people (and counting) would die. The WHO estimate that there have been nearly 475 million cases of COVID (with 1.6 million still classed as new cases in the last 24 hours). The WHO have a nice GIS Dashboard here which is worth a look. Then, just as we saw the light at the end of the tunnel – Mr Putin decided to create a modern day version of the Spanish Armada and invaded Ukraine. The impact on western lifestyles has been swift. There are consequences for helping to stick up for the weaker country. Our fuel bills, food bills and inflation have hit heights that many of us have never experienced in our life times.
Callum Jones in ‘The Times’ today wrote up a really interesting interview with Daniel Fink – the head of BlackRock – one of the largest investment companies on the planet.
The really interesting thing that he noted was his idea that globalisation was now dead. The article notes
“The fallout from the Ukrainian conflict “has put an end to the globalisation we have experienced over the last three decades”, Fink, 69, said. “We had already seen connectivity between nations, companies and even people strained by two years of the pandemic. It has left many communities and people feeling isolated and looking inward. I believe this has exacerbated the polarisation and extremist behaviour we are seeing across society today.”
Globalisation is dead. I wonder, then what is going to replace it? The interconnectivity between countries was something that came to signify this modern age. We could (and did) order goods from all over the world and had them dispatched everywhere we needed the goods. But the COVID pandemic and now war in Europe has caused a catastrophic shift of global priorities. Can we trust supply chains again? Do we need to rethink where we get our fuel, food, clothes and electronic goods? Are we experiencing a xenophobic realisation that we cannot actually trust people from other lands? This will led to a massive re-orientation of how we do life. Will we still be able to maintain our affluent consumeristic lifestyles? Are we returning to the days of the second world war (with rationing)?
Michael O’Sullivan, author of ‘The Levelling’ notes the following in The Economist (28 June 2019)
“Globalisation is already behind us. We should say goodbye to it and set our minds on the emerging multipolar world. This will be dominated by at least three large regions: America, the European Union and a China-centric Asia. They will increasingly take very different approaches to economic policy, liberty, warfare, technology and society. Mid-sized countries like Russia, Britain, Australia and Japan will struggle to find their place in the world, while new coalitions will emerge, such as a “Hanseatic League 2.0” of small, advanced states like those of Scandinavia and the Baltics. Institutions of the 20th century—the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation—will appear increasingly defunct.”
That said, NATO, the defensive security organisation looked to be on its last legs in the Trump era but today, the focus on a common enemy means that President Biden today announced that ‘NATO has never been more united’. So maybe – the trade aspect of globalisation is about to go but the security aspect is going to stick around to make sure that Russia does not venture any further East inside Europe.
Fink goes on to talk about the impact that the reorientation of supply chains is having. (As someone who lives in NI – BREXIT is another factor as I cannot get simple deliveries anymore from British firms to my house in NI – the supply chains have gone due to undue and unwanted red tape).
Maybe, what we are seeing is a return to the days of hyper-inflation where prices will rice exponentially and wages will be left behind. The one thing we can probably all agree on is that what usually happens when the economy comes under any sort of pressure – the poorer will continue to get poorer and the richer will continue to get richer. This is always the way of things. War makes some men rich and others struggle for the very essentials of life. And let’s face it – its not as if many people living in the UK were not already having to rely on charities and Food Banks before all this began . . .
There is bound to be a better way.