Saturday, December 31, 2011
Friday, December 30, 2011
Great read from Sergei Karaganov. Some snips:
Here is where we come to grips with an especially remarkable phenomenon. Social protests and revolts have burst in the grassroots of affluent Western societies, and although the demonstrators calling for the occupation of Wall Street and other places refer to the example of the Arab Spring, the causes of protests in the West are certainly not rooted in tyranny combined with corruption, or in informational semi-openness and semi-famine evidenced in the Arab world.
The root-causes are many but there are two major ones.
First, social inequality has grown unabated across the Western world over the past two to three decades. It was fuelled in many ways by the disappearance of the Communist threat. Overwhelmed by own problems, we, Russians, would whine about inequality in this country and yet it was growing everywhere – and was tolerable until a certain moment, as the downfall of Communism and the consequent vast expansion of the capitalist market made the slices of the pie bigger for everyone.
Second, the situation started changing fast in the last decade, when dozens of millions of jobs shifted to Asia, which was inexpensive, increasingly better educated and ready to work hard. The traditionally consistent increase of wellbeing in Europe stalled and then recoiled.
The West, awash with the euphoria of victory over Communism and the seemingly endless economic growth, which was largely fed by external factors, failed to embark on the necessary structural reforms (Germany and Sweden are rare exceptions). Instead of reforms, the outward prosperity became more and more heavily reliant on borrowings.
So what do we do now? Karaganov offers this boilerplate:
The reforms that are essential for raising competitiveness are painful and difficult to implement, as the authorities have to seek electoral consent from the majority whom these reforms unavoidably hit the hardest.
And he offers this this note of promise:
...the newly emerging world brings not only problems but also huge opportunities. Billions of people in Asia have extricated themselves from half-famine. New markets and spheres for applying one’s intellect, education and labor are appearing every minute… Victory in it will be won by those people and countries that are capable of readjusting themselves in advance.
For several years I’ve had a theory on globalization. Namely, while it brings unprecedented prosperity to those who are prepared for it, it simultaneously wreaks havoc in the lives of those whose lives are geared for the industrial economy, and that we need a better governmental response to integrate those who are being left behind. To me, that response should be a transition from the state led, macroeconomic model known as the welfare state and towards a model that fosters education, training and preparedness among the masses. I call it the Opportunity State. That is, a state led economic paradigm that will replace the Welfare State.
The hallmarks of this state will be continued education, training and workforce development. With an Opportunity State, governments will transition their efforts away from ensuring a de minimis standard of living and will instead focus on developing the creative and entrepreneurial capacities of its citizens. Focus will shift from redistribution of wealth to greater distribution of the means to create wealth. When nations adopt an Opportunity State they will understand that globalization is irresistible; instead of trying to create barriers to it, they will attempt to create new means for their citizens to tap its incredible potential.
Although I have the basic workings of the Opportunity State in my head, the goal of this site is to help me sharpen my ideas, hopefully with the help of commenters. Eventually, this will allow me to better express my views, hopefully in some sort of publication form. In some ways, this project is a continuation of a theme I spent quite a bit of time on in my first blogging foray: cyberhillbilly.blogspot.com. That site was where I first articulated the term “the opportunity state.”
Although the term Opportunity State has been used in some publications since, such as here and here, so far as I can tell, I am one of the first to have used this terminology. Further, whereas others on the right and left have used this term to describe their vision of a society that promotes opportunity via the state, neither has attempted to make an all-encompassing argument about the outright replacement of the welfare state as I will here.
This is just an early snap shot of where I see this project going as of Dec. 30, 2011. I appreciate readers’ feedback and comments.