Saturday, December 6, 2008

Catching up with reality

There is an old saying “When it’s time to railroad, people will railroad”. Which I take to mean that the technology and need must coincide with people being ready to accept the new idea. So how might that work with the public efforts toward a global, or at least a more global, economy?

When movement of ideas, people, and goods between countries was slow and relatively expensive we had highly independent nation states. As transportation of goods and people between countries became much less expensive the “separations” are much less important barriers between nation states. As we are witnessing in Europe, cultural, economic, and religious differences are breaking down and, albeit slowly, a more homogeneous society is being created.

The worlds financial markets are now so closely interlinked that China, which limits it’s citizens contact with foreign visitors and news sources, is feeling the impact of the financial troubles in the United States.

Have we reached a point where we are being forced by events to let go of an outmoded idea of who “we” are? Is the current terrorism the last violent gasps of a world view that no longer accurately represents how countries interact with each other?

It seems that just to “do business” on a global scale, we will need to globalize some of the support functions, like finance. If banks in New York are financing a factory in India, that may drive a closer relationship between financial institutions in both countries that will drive more conformity in the banking laws. That in turn may drive changes in tariffs and visa regulations to allow easier movement for citizens of both countries. We already have closer financial and visitation practices between the US and Canada and the US and Mexico than anyone would have predicted even 30 years ago.

We have changed the character of the United States in my life time. I remember my shock and surprise in the early 50s when I first saw black and white restrooms and drinking fountains the Memphis, Tennessee. In 2008 we elected a president who is African American, that’s was unimaginable 50 years ago!

The reality is that manufacturing is now global, with components and products made in locations around the world dictated by cost and ability. White collar jobs depend on the availability of trained professionals and their salaries not on the workers geographic location. Nearly instant audio and video communication is allowing people anywhere in the world to meet and work without actually being in the same room.

Like Pandora’s box, once this is “out of the box” it can never be put back in! It seems that we are all ready a global society but our institutions and thinking must catch up.

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