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Peak Globalisation

Written By: - Date published: 3:26 pm, August 22nd, 2021 - 72 comments
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The first great era of globalisation from roughly 1840 through to 1914 took place inside a framework that we can now view as the last hurrah of empire. The logic of empire extends back to the invention of agriculture – a technology that fundamentally demands access to fertile land, rainfall and sunshine. This meant all successful societies needed to expand their territory in order to survive, hence 10,000 years of conquest, colonisation, slavery and exploitation.

The nature of empire is to create silos of control over territory, trade and politics – each silo largely self-contained and treating all others as a competitors and potential prey. Industrialisation during the 1800’s had a paradoxical effect on this – it both empowered and intensified this process for a period, until the system collapsed in the two Great Wars of the 20th century. It also spun off three competing economic strategies – fascism, communism and capitalism. Fascism springs from an essentially authoritarian impulse that like the feudalism which preceded it – centralises power in the state; and it was the first to fall. Communism springs from the idea of the collective, the notion of community taking precedence over all – but based primarily in a highly materialistic, power based model of society – it failed to establish a form of society that met the social needs of it’s populations and failed in it’s own turn. Capitalism rooted in the idea of the sovereignty of the individual has proven the most durable, but it’s neo-liberal forms which imposed market models onto the legitimate domains of both the state and community will also prove fatal in time.

The second great attempt at globalisation post-WW2 arose almost by accident. The US possessed by the need to contain the Soviets in Europe (it could not allow them access to the Atlantic) created a new form of alliance at Bretton Woods. It was unquestionably a hegemony – but not one based on the need to control territory, but to control the politics. Essentially the US bribed much of the world to create an alliance against the Soviets, the deal was that the Americans would provide the security and framework to enable global trade – as long as you were politically on their side against communism. And as flawed and narrow as this motivation was it was wildly successful. It not only contained and eventually destroyed the Soviets – it also led to the greatest period of human development ever. The relative peace and prosperity that most of us have taken for granted all our adult lives – is really just a brief blip in history consequent on this relatively flimsy structure.

But having won the Cold War the US never had much interest in what might come next. We forget that of all the great nations, the US economy is the least involved in global trade. Outside of North America the rest of the world could sink beneath the waves tomorrow and it would make a few paras on pg.3 of their major media. As a result the US has elected five Presidents in a row who have promised the least involvement in the outside world. Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump and now Biden have all followed the same basic imperative – pulling back from their overseas involvement where it no longer makes sense for them to do so. At this point in time there are fewer US troops stationed overseas than anytime since 1915 and it will keep reducing. The pullout from Afghanistan, as bungled as it was, is only one of many steps most accompanied by far less publicity. By the end of this year there will be zero US troops in the ME. NATO serves up nice lunches at it’s conferences, but it makes no sense for the US to keep paying to defend Germany against Russia. Not only is Germany now the 4th largest economy in the world, the modern Russians really only want to trade with them – not invade. Europe and the ME are on their own and historically these are two of the most turbulent regions on the planet.

Thus the political conditions that enabled this second great phase of globalisation are coming to an end – with consequences no-one can foresee at present. Moreover the economic conditions that underpinned it are also at the same time coming to an end. At the end of WW2 the troops went home, created the great suburbs and had lots of children – the Boomers. This generation created a huge consumption demand everywhere, which in turn enabled export led growth for any nation capable of participating. As this generation matured it also invested creating massive capital markets which powered infrastructure and industry across the planet. Every day for the two decades post 2000 – some 250,000 households got connected to an electricity grid, lifting them out of poverty and transforming their lives. In 2016 fully half the human race became middle class by local standards, and by 2020 barely 15% of people lived in absolute poverty. We should not lightly dismiss this extraordinary achievement.

Yet with relatively few exceptions (and NZ is one of them) in most countries the Boomers didn’t have so many children. Japan was the first to hit this demographic boundary in the 90’s – suddenly transitioning to a post-growth economy. What happened to Japan is now happening to economies all over the world in this decade. By 2030 most of the current export led economies will look more like Japan – post growth. Thus bringing to an end the economic conditions that have prevailed since WW2 – and the end of trade based globalisation as we’ve known it in our lifetimes.

It will also likely bring to an end capitalism’s run – it too will exhaust the potential of it’s current form. This new post-growth world will need a new ‘ism. If we apply the principles of evolution, it will conserve elements of what came before it – it’s reasonable to think features such as the state, nations, trade, markets and money will persist – but equally any new economic form must transform them into something that better serves our needs. So while the second great phase of globalisation has peaked and is now running on fumes – the left should be thinking about what might come next. After a period of turmoil – humans will globalise again – and we should be thinking about how this might evolve into a form that meets not only humanities material needs – but our authentic social and spiritual ones as well.

Moderation Note: I will monitor this thread and shift to OM any of the usual ‘anti-US’ derails some people here habitually indulge in. They’re boring, out of date and not the topic of this post.

72 comments on “Peak Globalisation ”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    "some 250,000 households got connected to an electricity grid, lifting them out of poverty"

    How so? Electric what, lifts people out of poverty? Heaters? Hair-dryers? Incandescent bulbs?
    I guess, ovens?

    • Drowsy M. Kram 1.1

      Don't know about poverty, but I prefer a hot shower – Alzheimers' here I come.

      I do believe that in some areas of our lives ‘peak convenience‘ has come and gone, but fully expect other areas to surge forward for a little while longer.

      The NOVA True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds offer peak convenience in lightweight, comfortable package. Usually $79, you can save 37% when you buy today for just $49.

    • Andre 1.2

      Lighting is a big one. It extends the length of a day that people can be productive and/or socialise.

      Refrigerators tend to be highly valued. They make it so you can greatly reduce the amount of time you have to spend getting fresh food, and they really reduce food waste by spoilage, and reduce time lost to getting sick from eating spoiled food. That’s if the males of the house don’t take all the space for cold ones, of course.

      TVs come in quite soon. They're great for getting news and info and entertainment.

      I've got tickling in the back of my head that a couple of aid development friends mentioned water supply projects were big ones dependent on electricity. So instead of every house having to send someone to walk kilometres to a stream with containers to fill, or laboriously get it up from a well, there could be a convenient central point supplied by pumping from elsewhere.

      Cooking using electricity and heating are way down the list. Because creating heat uses massive amounts of electricity, and it only generally replaces something easy to source and store locally. Such as wood, dried animal dung, bottled gas or kerosene etc.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 1.2.1

        Electric cooking replaces wood fires ( smoke shortens lives considerably) or, using kerosene and such.

        Theres nothing romantic about dung fires and deforestation is linked to the search for firewood ( warmth) and creating charcoal for cooking.

        • Andre

          All true.

          But that change to using electricity for heating and cooking purposes doesn't happen until it becomes much more plentiful and much cheaper. It's the second or third step in improving people's lives from the introduction of electricity, not the first.

    • pat 1.3


    • Ad 1.4

      heat, security, information, working hours, reading, learning, productivity, mechanisation, etc,

    • DB Brown 1.5

      Some electric things free up considerable time, washing machines are a prime example. Washing machines saving time implies time to spare – for work activities, or simply activities that make life cheaper like mending, building or gardening.

      Electricity's a big deal.

    • RedLogix 1.6

      More than anything else electricity transforms the lives of women in the household. Prior to electricity domestic life was confined to a drudgery of fetching water and food, cooking, cleaning, washing and dusting. The invention of the hot water cylinder alone, not to mention the washing machine, cooking appliances and refrigerator were all key steps in enabling women to leave the household enmass and take their place alongside men in the workplace or in public life as they saw fit.

      Electricity is what enables piped water an sewerage systems to work, the single biggest contributor to the extension of human life span ever. Refrigeration keeps food safe for far longer, giving us access to a much wider and better range of food. And electric cooking eliminates indoor air pollution – still one of the biggest killers in the developing world. If there is one single thing that hundreds of millions of women everywhere are thankful for – it must be that they no longer have to cook over the dung fires their ancestors suffered over for millenia.

      Not to mention that electric lighting extends our lives into the evening in a way that candles and oil lanterns never did. It makes our public spaces far safer in the evenings, extending our social spaces and lives dramatically.

      Above all it makes cities possible – by 2050 at least 70% of humanity will live in cities, that occupy barely 3% of the ice-free land area – freeing up land for wilderness and more efficient forms of food production.

      There is of course no rule that says we won't use electricity for wasteful and frivilous purposes, and many of these benefits came with a hidden cost we're still learning to adapt to – but objecting to modernity because it isn't perfect isn't an idea I have much sympathy for.

      • Robert Guyton 1.6.1

        Electricity enables cities. Cities are a cancer that eats away relentlessly at the resources of the natural world, therefore, electricity is a curse! Oh, you may like it personally; you can watch your movies, stay up late reading your crime novel, listen to the music you thrilled-to when you were 18, but really? Is that excuse enough to engender the collapse of the non-city world that sustains us human and non-human alike?

        Do the/did the bushmen of the Kalahari resent the setting of the sun? Would they yearn for a refrigerator to replace the seasonal round of gathering they have enjoyed for centuries (I've seen The Gods Must Be Crazy, twice 🙂

        • mikesh

          I think cities existed long before electricity came into use. And we are not all bushmen.

        • Gosman

          Are you advocating everyone return to the nomadic lifestyle of the San people?

          • Robert Guyton

            Only for the likes of Judith Collins and David Seymour.

            • Gosman

              That seems like you want to impose economic restrictions on people you disapprove of ideologically.

              • Robert Guyton

                I'd like people to choose to restrict their biophobic behaviours, that's all.

                David and Judith don't seem like biophilics to me.

                I don't want to see either of them in positions of influence until they overcome their fear and loathing of life.

      • Robert Guyton 1.6.2

        "Above all it makes cities possible – by 2050 at least 70% of humanity will live in cities, that occupy barely 3% of the ice-free land area – freeing up land for wilderness and more efficient forms of food production."

        This is a huge misconception; that humans should be clustered in order to free up land for other things; humans should be, imo, "embedded" in every productive landscape, managing it to the maximum benefit of all life. We need to spread ourselves out, take up challenge of respectful and responsible resource management and enormously reduce the need for electricity use; keep it for the emergency services and the necessary industries.

        • RedLogix

          Human beings were indeed 'spread out' for most of our evolution.

          As hunter-gatherers the entire planet barely supported a few 10's of millions of us, as agriculturalists something less than 1b. And those of us remaining as subsistence farmers are among the poorest of humanity. I'm not sure the left should be advocating for more poverty. And we easily overlook the deforestation and habitat destruction this kind of 'living with nature' necessarily entails.

          That's not meant to be as harsh as it sounds – because I also grasp your motives here. There is every reason for people evolve into a far more subtle and mature relationship with nature. But that doesn't presuppose that we have to live within it as did our ancestors. Indeed it's demonstrable that the people in the modern world who most value wilderness and it's creatures are generally the city-dwellers. We value nature as something to visit – to appreciate and allow it to exist on it's own terms – while at the same time reducing our dependence and direct exploitation of it.

          As I've tried to convey before – we actually save nature by not using it. This doesn't mean we will ever sever our relationship with the natural world, just as adults never sever their relationship with their parents – but we will become less dependent. The relationship needs to change – and in this much of what you're saying here points the way – but a reversion back to the conditions of humanity's collective infancy strikes me as the wrong direction altogether.

          • Robert Guyton

            We save nature by not using it?

            I don't believe that is a correct or useful belief.

            Partitioning-off land for "preservation" of food production is an out-dated concept, imo. I'm with you in believing the best of technology and the inventiveness behind it will guide is into and through the coming times, but feel your vision of what "living outside of the city" could be like is faulty. How about eco-housing modelled by computer for maximum efficiency of construction and use, utilising grown-on-site materials? How about re-imagined communication and transport networks based on mathematics crossed with microphotography of neutron-nets, modelled on computers? How about on-site water-catchment systems and humanure-management systems modelled on termite-cities or….whatever. In other words, a complete refresh of human-life-on-earth that refocuses on existing non-human systems and the principles behind them and makes a truly sustainable job of it, rather than stumbling near-blind into the future, churning out new technology, clustering together like frightened sheep in pens of our own making.

            • DB Brown

              I think multi-tenanted sites can be steeped in permaculture while leaving tenants to live relatively modern lives. Simply take on a gardener/groundsperson or more for each development. So you've got the benefits of a sustainable development and healthy food and living, coupled with busy lifestyles. The food, water, power and wastewater systems could easily offset the cost of an employee.

              • RedLogix

                I'm a big fan of urban aquaponics in this kind of setting. The almost closed loop nutrient cycle appeals to the engineer in me a lot and lends itself to community involvement on all sorts of scales.

                • DB Brown

                  I've had an aquaponic system running for over 20 years without requiring cleaning. I've run a bunch of systems that I was very enthusiastic about, at first… but then I got side tracked by soils. cheaper, more plentiful… when the object is growing plants.

                  Here's my reckons.

                  Aquaponics is a fantastic aquaculture system, and a second rate gardening system. Easier to put permanent plants in (ferns and mosses do great), and enjoy the aesthetics of fish in a pond system with surrounding landscaped look (that is the biofilter). This type of system can potentially culture all manner of fish but vegetarian fish seem much more practical than omnivores or carnivores for production. Taking ocean fish to feed farmed fish is, how do I put this nicely – fucking stupid. Research in vegetable based proteins for fish/pets is being carried out, but no idea where they're at, or the sustainability of such operations.

                  One might culture insects, worms, duckweed etc to supplement or feed your fish. A big system, if I got to design it, would have the whole food chain from algae – insects – small fish – bigger fish. You can get a whole aquatic ecosystem rocking just by adding manure to water – in the right proportions of course. Too much life – no air – everything's dead.

                  Depth and volume lend temperature control. Cooling and heating water is too expensive unless you have a thermal or glacial source. Using hardy species that cope with a range in temperatures is clearly smart practise. Cold water carries more air. Harvesting and/or thinning fish before and into summer seems the smart way to go.

                  Aquaponics to grow plants will save significant water, so is probably worth it in semi-arid regions and highly likely a good idea in arid regions. If it is a food system you need to supplement with chelated iron to get good results. Even then it's better suited to leafy greens but I've grown some ridiculously good tomato harvests with light supplementation of organic hydro nutrients (1/10 of recommendation).

                  Bit tired, but that should lend food for thought.

                  Oh yes – one moving part only – the pump. Let gravity do the rest of the work, including aeration.

            • RedLogix

              Interestingly COVID has at least in some places prompted something of a move away from the very large cities – but people have remained mostly urbanised all the same. And all of those enticing ideas you mention – excellent as they sound – almost certainly depend on a substantial level of industrialisation in the background, and that will always imply a significant level of human density.

              Like you I'm not especially a fan of the kind of city that the first phases of industrialisation have built – and with time I suspect they'll soften and evolve into something else. If nothing else what we have now is unreasonably ugly.

              However I invite you to read the last para of the OP again – how far have we strayed from this question?

              • Robert Guyton

                I'm a stray-far-from-the-question sort of guy.

                I guess, in closing this sub-thread, I have to say, until everyone is surrounded by and immersed in examples of the elegance of the non-human, non-fabricated world, we won't come to anything much and I feel certain our occupancy here suggests we are to attempt to do just that 🙂
                p.s. re: “we should be thinking about how this might evolve into a form that meets not only humanities material needs – but our authentic social and spiritual ones as well.” – I am.

          • Drowsy M. Kram

            There is every reason for people evolve into a far more subtle and mature relationship with nature. But that doesn't presuppose that we have to live within it as did our ancestors.

            Are you proposing that 'we' tow civilisation "beyond the environment"?

            • Robert Guyton


            • RedLogix

              That's pretty much the direction we've been heading in for a long time now. We are more than anything else the first post-biological species on this planet – inasmuch as not only have we learned to understand and manipulate our environment to our advantage, but we can also change it dramatically – for both better and worse. More than this we have changed ourselves in the process.

              If you imagine this is all going to stop now – right at the peak of our ability to innovate and evolve – then I suspect you're going to be disappointed.

              • Drowsy M. Kram

                If you imagine this is all going to stop now – right at the peak of our ability to innovate and evolve – then I suspect you're going to be disappointed.

                Yes, I suspect we will each have our share of disappointments to come.

                • RedLogix

                  What is it – six hours later and barely a single person has attempted to address the question the OP actually poses?

                  Instead a steady stream of nihilistic negativity and distractions. Not impressive.

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    Not impressive.

                    Couldn't agree more – disappointing in so many ways, starting with a reluctance to tolerate (as opposed to accept) alternative points of view.

                    Kinda predictable?

                    • RedLogix

                      Part of the problem is that these 'alternative points of view' you mention were things I enthusiastically believed – oh about 30 years ago.

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    What's remarkable (and instructive) to me is that you didn't foresee the change in direction that your beliefs would take. Maybe there's a (further) change in direction ahead for thee and/or me – who can know.

                    All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.
                    – Ellen Glasgow

                    However, as of now, your worldview is generally so different to my own that we would likely clash on many topics. That being the case, it’s probably best if I refrain from commenting on your opinions in future.

                    All the best.

    • lprent 1.7

      On their own, fridges and freezers are enough to improve most peoples lives for those who don't already have them. In terms of public health, both in the distribution chains and in a household they ensure that food doesn't spoil so easily and that the range of possible foods eaten gets vastly increased.

      It isn't as effective as public sanitation and clean water. Both of which pretty much rely of electric pumps these days.

      But it takes a whole lot less up-front capital. A gas fridge (I spend a chunk of my adolescence with one of those) or these days solar powered DC fridge with a battery work pretty well. But getting grid or local power systems makes it whole lot easier.

      It means that people don't have to rely on spam in a can or its equivalent for preserved foods transported across distances. It provides a safer storage for food – most bugs of all kinds don't like living in a fridge.

      Ovens and elements are probably the third most effective. But for the local areas, it diminishes the need to clear fell everything for a wood fire.

      Think of the start of the 20th century rather than the end of the 20th for what happens when electricity goes into a region.

      • Robert Guyton 1.7.1

        Naturally, I enjoy electricity for the comforts it brings, however it's the consequences I am concerned about. In the same way irrigation opens up drylands to dairy intensification and the environmental harm that flows from that, electricity allows frivolous development that wastes space, energy and resources; it allows/encourages wasteful behaviour; casinos, running through the night, for example, or the illumination of streets where boy-racers can play. Fossil fuels create the same problem. What frustrates me is the mind-set that declares, "there's no going back, there's no alternative way to the one we have now and anyone who suggests otherwise would have us living in caves". I think this is a failure of imagination. We are not considering these issues from a point in time 200 years ago; we are blessed with a great deal of experience, access to computing power and instantaneous electronic forum discussions and resources of all sorts that we can utilise to create an entirely new way of living. Plus, there're the imperatives of climate and biological collapse, pressing us to take a novel, unique and effective path. This time is like no other, imo.

    • Adrian Thornton 1.8

      I haven known and interviewed people who actually lived through the period of having the first electric light bulbs installed (in the UK and Ireland), as far as I recall they were amazed at the new technology of course, but never mentioned it being transformative in their lives any way..and as far as Andre's answer goes, I don't believe on a personal level we are any more productive post "electric lighting", except in making more and more commodities, which is one of the primary reasons we have Climate Change. I am not sure were he gets the idea there is less waste through refrigeration? Most western countries, pre refrigeration would have been quite capable of processing cold stores in quantities that meet local demand very precisely, and the buyers of those goods in turn would have used them in an order so as not to have any waste…no I would wager a bet that there is far far more waste created now in our "greatest period of human development ever" than could ever have even been dreamed of pre refrigeration… and I don't need google to know that.
      I am not saying that I want to live in a pre electric world, but there are two sides to every coin.

  2. KJT 2

    No doubt it will be "shifted to OM".

    However the idea that the State that has invaded the most countries, blockaded the most sea lanes, sequestered the bank accounts of any state they don't like, bombed and regime changed at will since 1950 and before, has somehow, in all that destabilisation, restraint of trade, blockades, ostracism and sequestration of nations assets, boycotts, and war mongering, has "provided the security and framework for global trade" is an exercise in cognitive dissonance worthy of Trump's finest moments.

    The "Pax Romana" succeeded for so long because it bought peace within the Empires builders. The Pax USA, has done anything but, as they failed to learn the lessons from the Marshall plan. And their many failed interventions from the “Banana republics” onward.

    • RedLogix 2.1

      Try reading the post and responding to that – rather than your own preconceptions. What you have missed is that the US-led hegemony was fundamentally different from the empires that preceded it – in that while it sought to control the politics and often had troops on the ground – it did not seek to expand it’s territory. Nor did it constrain trade into a top-down silo as all other empires did before it.

      And by focusing on the dominant role the US has had in the world this past 70 odd years – you miss the fact that it has also taken conflict between all the other nations pretty much off the table.

      Still you should be happy – all this is coming to an end now.

    • Phil 2.2

      [The US] has "provided the security and framework for global trade"

      There has never been a time in all of recorded human history where the probability of you or I or any other member of the human race being a casualty of warfare has been lower than it is now.

      The "Pax Romana" succeeded for so long because it bought peace within the Empires builders [presumably you mean 'borders']

      This is a laughably romanticised and ignorant take on the daily lives & state affairs of the Romans and the peoples they interacted with. Rome was constantly at war with itself and its neighbours (sometimes simultaneously) through its entire history.

  3. Ad 3

    Can we just hold a sec on the supposed relationship between ageing populations, population decline, and decreased economic growth.

    Japan will get down to about 95 million in 2050. Roughly the same population it had in 1960.

    New Zealand is only 29% smaller than Japan by land area, and almost the same of you omit the largely unpopulated Hokkaido.

    If New Zealanders can be reasonably prosperous on about the same size island with 4.5 million people, why can’t Japan be prosperous with “only” 95 million people? Or 50 million? Or 10 million?

    • Andre 3.1

      The theory seems to be that caring for too many old people takes up too much of the labour of fewer young people. Thereby diverting the labour that could be going towards being "productive".

      That may have been a plausible model some time ago when simply feeding oneself involved quite a lot of manual labour, but these days most older people seem mostly very capable of looking after themselves with very little extra help needed until not long before they cark it.

      So yeah, nah, to me an ageing population on the way to a declining population is actually a very good thing. Not a demographic disaster in the making.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 3.2

      We create enough food for 40 mill ( its said) while japan is a net importer as they only provide 40% of their calorie needs.

      They industrialised and became a global scale exporter as that requires less land area AND provides better employment for 100 million people.

      Sometime mountainous is good but mostly its not as fertile as Java which is 145 mill people

    • RedLogix 3.3

      From a strictly economic perspective human life span can be divided into four periods – childhood, early adult, mature adult and retired. Our economic behaviour in each of these periods is quite different. This is why demographics matters.

      For most of human evolution our population pyramids looked like Africa does right now. The astonishing development post-WW2 has transformed us collectively into this World. And much of it is rapidly moving into something like Japan. We've never been here before – and while Japan rather cleverly managed it's post-growth era by outsourcing it's major labour requirements to other countries (eg the largest Toyota plants are in the USA) and to robotics – it's not at all clear how the rest of the world can manage the same trick all at once.

      And especially if as like China they reach this demographic inversion before they attain a GDP/Capita that enables them to sustain modernity.

      Nor is it obvious – and this is the point of the post – that we have any idea of how to run an economy absent the prospect of growth as we've always known it.

      • Ad 3.3.1

        Plenty of low population growth economies are growing just fine. I can't see much anxiety. Even the decent-sized crisis we are is forging new speed in market responses and in reinforcing public institutions and regulations.

        The states I worry about more are those who have both weak institutions and don't form strong international alliances.

        Top of my list would be Britain, now standing very much alone. Those there who have wanted less America will discover that it can be alarming to get what you wished for. Those who have looked to America for global leadership will have to think hard about alternatives.

        But even there, institutions there are holding together – and they have about 500 years of institutional savings and acquisition to live on.

        Not sure there's evidence that peak globalisation is as big a threat as you say.

        • RedLogix

          Plenty of low population growth economies are growing just fine.

          For the moment there are still just enough export destinations for the old growth model to work – but the demographic inversion this coming decade is going to be brutal. And the impact this will have on capital formation (as people retire they stop investing) is also going to be interesting to see – what happens if interest rates suddenly start rising?

          Still you do pose a good question that I need to do some more homework on – I'm not predicting a collapse, but we are in for some very interesting re-arrangements.

          • Ad

            What I do see is states vulnerable to massive export demand beginning to look carefully at trade protectionist measures. NZ is not going to survive much longer without local stockpiles of wood for example, or nurses.

            Pressure points on other countries on global microchip supply, rare earth mineral supply, and of course highly skilled people, will drive the decline of globalisation as we have to turn to our own resources.

            That is a really, really bad place for small and narrow states to be. We simply can't afford to stockpile in any form when global supply lines choke and drive up scarcity and price.

            But that's at least as much a crisis as it is an opportunity for states and corporations to innovate together.

  4. DB Brown 4

    I dropped a not insignificant note on evolution, and mans predicament, in OM. You might consider some of that feedback for some of this, as well as the OP in the OM. OK?

  5. pat 5

    It is unclear what the premise of this piece is….are we to take from the title that globalisation has reached its zenith and is now in terminal decline or is globalisation a recurring cycle with peaks and troughs as "After a period of turmoil – humans will globalise again – and we should be thinking about how this might evolve into a form that meets not only humanities material needs" suggests?

    And you may wish to consider that the US is currently both the issuer of the worlds reserve currency and the largest trading economy (the antithesis of "least involved in global trade) so may notice if the rest of the world disappeared or withdrew tomorrow.

  6. Peter 1 6

    I would suggest that you read a book called The Forth Turning, in it the writers believe that between 2005 and 2031 there will be a major incident that will change everything, they wrote the book in 1997. They say it could be a war, civil war, pandemic or finical collapse it happens approx.every 80 to 120 years or one long life.

    • RedLogix 6.1

      Yes I've heard a number of people refer to this book. It's themes potentially expand the conversation substantially – and maybe usefully as well.

      While I would never dismiss the potential for a crisis – after all plenty of them have occurred – only a fool attempts to predict the details of them. For the time being there is enough work to unravel what we do know – geography, demographics, trade, security and culture – and the constraints these place on our political evolution. Many things are possible, but only a few will work.

      One basic rule to keep in mind is that every nation has it's fundamental imperatives – things is must do, and things it cannot do and that everything will occur between these poles.

  7. Robert Guyton 7

    My best option, it seems, RedLogix, is to encourage you in your mission to create an elegantly-technological future, with your fancy high-rise aquaponic doo-dangles and your clean energy whizz-whooflers, and work tirelessly in the background with my "green-and-pleasant-land" fairy-tales, to engender a global metanoia and create a movement of minds that will empty the cities and fill the countryside with people.

    Or should I have kept that plan under my hat?


    • RedLogix 7.1

      Nothing I've ever written here is intended to dissuade you from your passion to reform the way people interact with the natural world.

      But equally I look to what you said above and think that our ancestors – as smart and tough as they were – tried pretty much exactly to live as you describe for millions of years and eventually gave it away when the chance came to them.

    • DB Brown 7.2

      I could make you an aquaponic system that blended into and was part of the landscape Robert. Can do the same creating a practically invisible whitebait hatchery so that your stream is the place to be at a certain time of year.

      Earthworks and knowledge, you'd be amazed what one can do with both. For aquaculture I'd add a solar pump, way easier to raise production with a pump.

      No need to get too fancy it's just added expense. Within the confines of dense housing would require more materials of course, but nothing too falutin. A tank (pond), a bio-filter (pondside garden), a pump. The more falutin you make something, the more it has a tendency to break.

  8. Stuart Munro 8

    I'm not sure I agree with your working description of capitalism:

    rooted in the idea of the sovereignty of the individual has proven the most durable

    The role of the individual has largely been a legal and political fiction to grant increased power to corporations, chiefly banks.

    The banks, having subverted the institutions that limited their power, the state banks, are more powerful than ever. They are after all the rarely named biggest player in the housing fiasco.

    As for the return of globalisation, it may be in the form of trading cultivars, or modest technical hacks to make life easier or gardening more productive. But while the banks lie athwart little matters like the ownership of a bit of ground to garden, aquapon upon, or whatever, there is no happy outcome for our increasingly unequal society, and little or no social justice in prospect.

    • RedLogix 8.1

      I was necessarily brief in my description of capitalism, it wasn't after all the main point of the OP. Elsewhere I've described it as a set of economic tools (as distinct from the ideology we call neo-liberalism) such as, private property, sanctity of contract, double entry book-keeping, fractional reserve lending (the role of the banks as you focus on) and all of these coming together in share markets and the like.

      Most of these tools play a reasonable role in economic affairs – until they're distorted into an ideology. Markets can be effective in some contexts, especially around goods that have a single primary dimension of value – but when this idea is extended to cover matters that are properly the domain of the state, human rights, justice and social cohesion then ‘Capitalism’ (with a big C) becomes a destructive ideology.

      That I'm willing to make this distinction – as I also do between socialism and communism, and conservatism and fascism – doesn't earn me a lot of friends here – but in the bigger picture there is more value in looking at it like this rather than merely chanting 'fuck capitalism'.

      But yes returning banks to closer to their original role as 'trusted bookkeepers' and wrestling some control over credit creation out of their private sector hands would a very worthwhile endeavour. On the other hand exactly how and where money supply creation should lie is a tricky question that no country has ever found an ideal answer to. Open to suggestions.

      • Stuart Munro 8.1.1

        The creation of currency is properly the role of the state. Unfortunately we've had a generation of politicians so corrupt that they did things like alienate our electricity generation resources, so that we've gone from having some of the cheapest electricity in the world, to having among the most expensive.

        Can such woskers be trusted not to debase the currency for personal short term advantage? Absent the proximate threat of a good guillotining, the likes of John Key et al could not be trusted to go to the dairy to buy a packet of cigarettes.

        • RedLogix

          Yup. The risk of centralising credit creation into the state is that it puts a very powerful lever into very few hands. I wonder if this suggests a most sophisticated model that somehow distributes the authority, without privatising it?

          • Stuart Munro

            I think we just need something a bit like the Korean Prosecution Service. They routinely throw former administration members or officials in the chokey while they go through their financial affairs.

            A collection of random citizens, however good and true, do not have the deterrent effect of a punitive and rigorous state entity dedicated to suppressing corruption.

            What they would have made of things like the extrajudicial process of separating Alan Hubbard from his wealth is not perfectly clear – but it would likely have gone rather badly for some rather big political names, and ended in lengthy imprisonments. As it is the scoundrels got off, for the moment at least, scot free.

  9. pat 9

    Think the problem of the OP is the fact it seeks an answer to other than its premise.

    It appears you are asking what is the role of economy and how is it best organised….globalisation is a misnomer.

  10. Globalisation and the era of infinite growth was fun while it lasted, for our species anyway. Not so much for those we pillaged while ignoring the finite nature of our planet. Global supply chains have yielded unparalleled wealth and technology but this hasn't changed human nature. Greed, hubris and corruption is bringing down the US system as the empire rots from within and global rivals seek to exploit chaos – – the "limits to growth"and climate change is already beginning to bite

    (n.b. religion and culture were suppressed by US hegemony but they never went away)

  11. Robert Guyton 11

    Until we can rein-in our habit of exploiting any situation, we will be bound to continue down this path toward collapse.

  12. Janet 12

    Way back Ghandi was projecting a future

    "Gandhi rejected the modern industrial-urban concept of development for its anti-democratic, anti-humanitarian, and exploitative features. In its place Gandhi offers the ideal of the economically self-sufficient, politically self-governing and culturally non-violent village republic as the guarantee of genuine democracy, true humanism, civilising non-violence and lasting peace. Thus Gandhiji was in favour of technology and development of cottage and small scale industries at village level because these industries are localised, energy saver, job intensive and less polluting. According to him cities should as store and forwarding houses and no production in cities to prevent congestion and pollution."



    • Robert Guyton 12.1

      Thank you, Janet. That Gandhi seems a sensible bloke.

    • RedLogix 12.2

      Sadly for Ghandi's vision – and it's an appealing one at that – we can say that we tried pretty much that agriculturalist/village model of living for about 10,000 years. It rarely worked out quite the way he was hoping for. And our experience over the past century or so is that when most people in the world are given a chance to escape the village – they do so with alacrity.

      If you want to advocate that we do this experiment again, you need to carefully spell out what you would do differently this time.

      I've no doubt there remains a big hole in our psychology that's roughly the size of that village – and I understand our hankering to fill it. However all too often I see people proposing a return to some earlier period they imagine to be less complicated and kinder, while at the same time wanting to selectively keep the advantages of modernity they happen to like. Most people for instance would like to keep modern dentistry, but then fail to think through the complex industrial and technical structures that support such a thing. And this is but one of many such examples that cities do and villages don't.

  13. Robert Guyton 13

    "And our experience over the past century or so is that when most people in the world are given a chance to do any number of selfish things: drive across the country to watch a rodeo, buy 4-ply toilet paper, up-grade to a ….whatever, escape the village – they do so with alacrity."

  14. Robert Guyton 14

    I regularly say, look outside of your bubble for the answers to your problems.

    This artist has a similar view (I believe) with regard creativity (we need this now!).

    Hope this helps 🙂

    Eva Hesse on How to Be an Artist

    Lesson #1: If you’re stuck, try new materials and methods

    Lesson #2: Embrace the absurd

    Lesson #3: Explore your materials with spontaneity

    Lesson #4: Practice fearlessness


    • Stuart Munro 15.1

      There's a lot of potential in rice for NZ – though most of our ground isn't that salty yet. Wild rice might make a decent nitrate consumer for water too near enthusiastic dairy farmers – considered a superfood by some.

      For most human stupidity there is an organic solution – for the msm it’s probably carnivores.

  15. Robert Guyton 16

    Countryside cities?

  16. Hundertwasser has some great ideas for interacting with Nature. We simply need to use them. But fewer people on the planet would also help.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on growing drought tolerant crops in NZ? Also gao trees?

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