A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘globalization

[LINK] “Trump Can’t Deliver the Rust Belt Jobs He Promised Because Work Has Changed”

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Wired‘s Joseph Bien-Kahn notes that technological changes in the workplace make Trump’s promises to restore the Rust Belt’s jobs simply impossible.

On Election Night, voters in northeastern Ohio’s Trumbull and Ashtabula counties made Sean O’Brien—a three-term Democratic state representative—their state senator. They also helped make Donald Trump president. In 2012, 60 percent of Trumbull’s largely white, working class electorate voted for Barack Obama. In 2016, they flipped their support to the populist GOP candidate who offered his own promises for change.

The partisan shift surprised O’Brien, but he realized it shouldn’t have. Days before the election, O’Brien’s cousin snapped a photo of his own front yard and sent it to the soon-to-be state senator. A Trump sign stood right next to one supporting O’Brien.

“He didn’t expect a lot of what Trump promised, and yet he still voted for him,” O’Brien said. “Maybe he won’t bring jobs back, but at least it’s somebody new, it’s somebody outside. It’s somebody who’s talking his talk, their talk, our constituents’ talk.”

In the Rust Belt, that talk is all about the factories that left and the jobs that went with them. Trump succeeded in places like Trumbull and Ashtabula by convincing voters he’d truly fight to bring back their factory work. He promised to rip up trade deals, punish currency manipulators, and make it harder to outsource jobs. This was change Rust Belt voters at least wanted to believe in.

But Trump will enter office with the nearly impossible challenge of rebuilding a sector of the economy that technology has altered at least as much as globalization has. To help the constituents who were instrumental in electing him, he’ll need to get a GOP Congress to back policies at stark odds with conservative orthodoxy. Even then, the implacable forces of automation guarantee that whatever jobs may return to the Rust Belt won’t look like those of days gone by.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 8, 2016 at 6:15 pm

[LINK] “U.K.’s Lingering `Lost Decade’ Pushes Carney Into Marx’s Arms”

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Bloomberg’s Lucy Meakin notes Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s speech warning of political tumult ahead, a consequence of a bad decade for wage increases.

The mid-19th century was a period of social and political upheaval in the U.K. economy that saw an international financial crisis and technological revolution. Sound familiar? Mark Carney thinks so.

The Bank of England governor described the economy as experiencing its “first lost decade since the 1860s” in a speech this week. Citing wage growth that’s at its slowest since that period, he said globalization for some has come to be associated with low pay, job insecurity and inequality.

“Substitute Northern Rock for Overend Gurney; Uber and machine learning for the Spinning Jenny and the steam engine; and Twitter for the telegraph; and you have the dynamics that echo those of 150 years ago,” he said.

Not even the Great Depression or two world wars produced a period of falling real wages like the present one, BOE data show.

[. . .]

Carney noted in his speech that the economic upheavals of the mid-19th century produced Karl Marx, who argued that the only way for workers to throw off the yoke of wage labor is revolution. Carney said the key is to redistribute the benefits of globalization and do more to ensure workers have the right skills to thrive.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 8, 2016 at 6:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Why Monorails Are the Future (Really This Time)”

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At Bloomberg View, Adam Minter suggests that the monorail might yet have its moment, flourishing in cities of the developing world as inexpensive mass transit systems.

Monorails may not have worked in sprawling, 20th-century Los Angeles. But for the dense, traffic-choked cities of the modern developing world — where populations are growing, pollution is worsening and public funds are limited — they’re ideal. If they catch on, they could change urban landscapes around the world for the better.

In China, they’re already starting to. Although China has built some of the world’s biggest and best metro systems, and plans to build more, subways come with plenty of problems. They’re geographically constrained, disruptive to build and expensive to maintain, especially for the smaller cities driving much of China’s local debt problem. Buses and cars are cheaper and more flexible, but contribute to air pollution and traffic jams.

Monorails could help on all counts. They run solely on electricity, and so are usually better for the environment. They’re built above ground, on relatively thin pylons that can be installed in road medians, and thus avoid the heavy costs of excavation and underground maintenance. BYD, a Chinese manufacturer backed by Warren Buffett, says its SkyTrain monorail costs one-sixth what a traditional metro would, and requires only one-third the time to install. For cash-strapped Chinese cities such as Shantou — home to 5.5 million people and (soon) a 155-mile monorail — that’s an attractive proposition.

More interestingly, monorails can navigate steep grades and sharp curves. This makes them ideally suited to downtowns, where they can easily be aligned with existing roads and landscapes. And it opens up new possibilities. The world’s busiest monorail — with nearly a million daily passengers — is located in the hilly metropolis of Chongqing in Southwest China, where it negotiates curves and hills that would’ve required tunnels for heavier rail. Though few cities are as geographically challenging as Chongqing, there’s plenty of demand for transit systems that can take people exactly where they want to go.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 7, 2016 at 9:45 pm

[LINK] “British Villagers Are Baffled by Flocking Chinese Tourists”

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In The New York Times, Dan Bilefsky describes why so many Chinese tourists are paying attention to the otherwise unremarkable British village of Kidlington.

One explanation holds that guides started using Kidlington as a drop-off point for tourists who declined to pay $68 for a Chinese language tour of the palace. Credit Elizabeth Dalziel for The New York Times

Sun Jianfeng, a 48-year-old tour guide with Beijing Hua Yuan International Travel, said guides were routinely depositing in Kidlington tourists who did not want to pay an extra $68 for an optional Chinese language tour of nearby Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s majestic ancestral home.

He added that some wily tourists had figured out that buying tickets at the palace would cost only about $25, and were secretly sneaking there on foot, irking other tourists, who had already paid full price. As a result, he said, those who opted out of the Blenheim tour were being dropped in Kidlington, which is not within walking distance.

Mr. Sun said Kidlington was also a convenient stop on the way to Bicester Village, a must-go discount luxury retail destination for Chinese shoppers. The Chinese are big spenders, and European countries compete hard for their business.

Mr. Sun stressed that the Kidlington phenomenon was also an outgrowth of modern China and globalization. Many tourists are a part of China’s rapidly growing middle class, many of whom live in anonymous concrete tower blocks in huge cities, he said. They are enchanted by the village’s tranquillity and intrigued by daily life in the English countryside.

“The environment in the countryside in China isn’t so great,” he said, noting that it could be run-down and gritty compared with England’s typically bucolic atmosphere. “In Kidlington, the environment is great. You see farm fields and ranches here. Also, many newly built houses here have brick or brick-and-wood structures, which you no longer see very often in urban China.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 7, 2016 at 8:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “How Christmas Markets Have Gone Global”

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Torontoist’s Emily Macrae looks at the globalization of the Christmas Market.

In a city known for snow, skiing, and hearty cuisine, wooden stalls fill a downtown park to create an annual Christmas market. The scene is Sapporo, Japan, which has hosted a German Christmas Market since 2002.

Japan’s fourth-largest city might seem like an unlikely place to find Bavarian specialties, like pretzels, each December, but the event is a result of Sapporo’s relationship with its sister city, Munich.

Christmas markets have a long history in Germany, dating back to the Middle Ages, with the first written records of the winter festivals appearing in the mid-1600s. Today, there are some 2,500 markets in Germany, and similar practices are found in neighbouring countries.

As anyone who’s wandered through the Distillery District’s Christmas Market can attest, vendors typically sell crafts and other gifts alongside warming food and drink. From glogg (mulled wine) in Denmark to grzane piwo (mulled beer) in Poland, there is no shortage of festive beverages, and Canadian gamay may soon join the ranks of holiday icons.

Sapporo shows that Christmas markets have expanded beyond their origins in Central Europe to become a global phenomenon. So if countless cities across multiple continents boast markets, do these seasonal events contribute to the unique identity of a community or simply entrench each place as an interchangeable site of shopping and off-key songs?

Written by Randy McDonald

December 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm

[LINK] “The dangerous ‘zombie identities’ of those left behind by global capitalism”

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At Open Democracy, Kristian Thorup looks at how class identities can survive the collapse of their economic functions, and how they can inspire new–sometimes threatening–populist ideologies.

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election it was clear that Donald Trump’s victory relied heavily on the white working class vote. It’s well-known that his rhetoric and ideology resonates especially well with this class as he speaks effectively to the feelings and experiences of the victims of a more and more globalised economy and the subsequent decline of the American manufacturing industry.

As the frustrations among these working class voters emanate from the pitfalls of globalisation, it should be clear that the basis for Trump’s victory tells us a story much larger than that of the 2016 election. The frustrations among Trump’s voters tell us about the fundamental mechanisms of today’s more and more globalised capitalism.

Today, capital moves around the globe effortlessly. It easily crosses national borders, finding the most cost effective place to produce its commodities. Free market preachers are excited by the mere thought of how the market with fluid elegance lets itself equilibrate by balancing supply and demand. From their strictly economic standpoint this kind of development only entails advantages from cheaper goods, more efficient production, and allegedly higher economic growth.

But the economic structures do not only produce the material goods of society. They also produce a lot of society’s meaning and identities. People’s identities to a large extent emanate from their place in the production system. They work as distinguished lawyers, proud and strong coal miners or caring doctors. People tend to find their social value and dignity through their professions.

The question is what happens to people’s identities when companies move their production to other countries and thereby remove the economic ‘base’ of these identities. What happens to the proud worker of a car plant when most of the car plants move to the other side of the globe where labor is cheaper? What happens when a factory worker doesn’t have any factory work any more?

Written by Randy McDonald

December 6, 2016 at 8:00 pm

[FORUM] Do you think the world risks running into a new stagnation?

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With Brexit set to diminish the prospects of the British economy and Trump’s policies seeming likely to harm the United States, there seems a real prospect of all of the rich countries of the world remaining stuck, with stagnant living standards and growing inequality. Less rich countries also face similar problems, with Russia and Brazil at best bottoming out their declines and China heading who knows where. The big economic boom that began after the Second World War and continued, with varying geographic emphases, even after the 2007-2008 financial crisis might be coming to an end.

Do you think it will? What do you think the consequences might be? People who feel themselves being immiserated, I would note, are often people who make more narrow and less generous choices politically and socially. I hate to raise the spectre of the 1930s gratuitously, but are we in fact heading for an epoch like this? (And then what next?)

Written by Randy McDonald

December 3, 2016 at 11:59 pm