Monday, 4 December 2006

The Pirates of the Globalean and the curse of liberalism?

I wrote this analysis (text) on December 4, 2006. Before the economic crisis.

One of my syllogisms then:
The "kingdom" of economic liberalism (in the European use of the term liberalism) is not "grounded" that well on this earth! The ongoing troubles of the Doha Round of world trade talks are evidence to that. What do people prefer, to work as blacksmiths in a fair trade based job market or as knights in a free market based job market?

How relevant is all this, today? You decide!



A "blacksmith" or a "pirate"? A "blacksmith" or a "knight"? A "prince lover" or a "prince warrior"?

There were "good" and "bad" pirates. Most of the good ones were probably in fairy tales. They were "good" and "bad" cowboys in the Far West! They say that the good ones helped "win the West".

Free grazers and free traders! Some people like neither! "I did not invest all this money into this capital intensive - high fixed costs business, I did not hire all these people, undertake all these commitments and risks, to have free traders come and take my hard earned market away"!

"You can always "trust" a dishonest man to be ... dishonest! It is the honest ones who can surprise you" claimed the charming pirate in the fairy tale! Fairy tales! They are so popular nowadays. A sign of the times?

Can an ordinary person, let's say a blacksmith, perform a knight's deeds, without any previous experience, without the right "CV"? For how long? At some point in time, he (or she) may want to return to the previous, the ordinary, life!

Achilles traded an ordinary life in for a place in history, so claims the legend. Paris and Helen caused the Trojan war, united the Greek city-states of the times, who sailed towards Troy (and its commercially/strategically valuable location of the times).

Little known fact that Helen's husband, Menelaus, had agreed to marry the hyper-beautiful Helen only after me made all leaders of the other Greek city-states agree (make a pact) not only not to touch her, but to come to his aid should a "third party" interfere. Paris and his Troy became that third party! For love of beauty?

Zeus knew better than to make a choice between Athena, Artemis (Diana) and Aphrodite (Venus). So he recommended prince Paris of Troy, who was on a sheppard "stage" (internship) at that time, in his place. Not Hector, his brother.

Was the Trojan war, actually, fought over Helen or over commercial (trade) interests of the times? Who knows for sure?

Some claim that all is fair in love and war? What is fair and what is not fair in trade?

Was free grazing of cattle in the wild West "fair" or not?

Are bilateral free trade agreements "good" or "bad" for multilateral global trade? Do they provide useful testing ground for new provisions to be later applied to multilateral ones?

What is the future of the 149-member WTO system? Are 150 members too many to work in plenary? What is the future of the EU system? Are 25 members too many to work in plenary?

What is the role of "powers" such as the USA, the EU and G24 in world trade talks? In world trade dynamics? What is the role of the G8?

What is the role of the founding six (France, Germany, Italy plus the Benelux three) and the large six (France, Germany, Italy plus UK, Spain and Poland) in EU Affairs? In the EU's dynamics? The role of the rest 19 (or 21, or 23)?

What role can the African Union, ASEAN, as well as South American and other "blocs" or "unions" play in the future of global trade, investment, services and work?

In group dynamics terms, is the crucial working number 3 (USA, EU, G24), 6 (the EU large 6), 8 (G8), 24 (G24), 25 (EU), 27 (EU27), 148 (the number of WTO members) or 191 (the number of UN members) or some other number?

Freedom or fairness?
Rules or laws?
Bilateral or multilateral?
What are the systemics of the future of this globe? Multilateral, zonal or bilateral?

What are the politics of the future of this globe? Liberal, conservative, liberal-democratic, social-democratic or other?

Trade or aid? How about "tr-aid"?

Most people prefer to be "blacksmiths of fair trade" or "knights of free markets"? Maybe both.

Vision or fairy tale? Life. Live!

The "kingdom" of economic liberalism is not "grounded" that well on this earth! The ongoing troubles of the Doha Round of world trade talks are evidence to that. What do people prefer, to work as blacksmiths in a fair trade based job market or as knights in a free market based job market?

Monday, 27 November 2006

The Competitive advantage of humans

"Value" seems to be a key word in today's societies. Yet, I argue that "value" is a term without any "real" meaning, at the end of the day. I am even prepared to argue that the notion of "value" is misleading in today's market systems.

I propose that the concepts "I deserve" or "what is my value" have no fixed value in the market.

Cost, utility and price are terms which have more applicability. They are more "real" in market terms. What is more, these terms go well beyond economics. Supply and demand, cost, utility and price are not necessarily measured in money. After all, money is but a measurement tool.

It's about give and take, transactions, exchanges. It's about supply and demand, economic or "non-economic".

And price is after all, the point of equilibrium between supply and demand.

This line of thinking is not economic, it is interdisciplinary.

Utility is also a relative term. What is for example is the utility of a match in a desert island? For a non-smoker, for a smoker? A smoker who has cigarettes nut no matches or a smoker who possesses neither matches or cigarettes?

What is "quality"?

I argue that "quality" means standardization. I.e giving the same every time, with minimum variation.

Machines offer quality. Humans offer "value"

There lies the strategic problem for humans in today's "Globaland": If humans have a competitive advantage in producing "value", and "value" is an irrelevant term, then where is the bottom line?

With more and more manufactured goods being produced in China and services offered remotely from India, what will Americans and Europeans produce in the future (assuming that globalization and free trade do not fall to pieces)? How many services, even offered locally, cannot be based on survival of the cheapest?

I propose that the competitive advantage of the USA and Europe (OECD countries) lies, for a while at least, in capitalizing on the relative and volatile utility of intangibles.

The competitive advantage of the human factor (vis-a-vis capital and machines) lies in producing goods and services with high intangible added-utility (e.g. branding).

Humans, after all, are at their best not in repetitive, but non-repetitive, creative, intellectual, based "products".

Humans will "beat" the machines by capitalizing on what makes them human.

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Epic

How epic are or can be the daily lives of ordinary people in our times?

"King Arthur", "Troy", "Alexander (the Great)", three epic films on historical epics. Alexander's achievements are part of history, for the Trojan War (and Odyssey) as well as King Arthur, we rely on Homer and (for the latter, mostly to) legend.

"The Gladiator", a few years ago, opened the way for a return of epic films. In response to some need perceived by Hollywood?

The "Matrix", "Lord of the Rings" and other films, popular, too, in recent years, are of a different type.

How about Leonidas and his 300 Spartans at Thermopylae or Themistocles and the naval battle of Salamis? Or the wars between Ancient Athens and Sparta, the clash of two very different types of Polities? Are they compatible with Hollywood's analysis of US and global audiences' needs or wants?

Back to the future or onwards to the past?


Many people think history repeats itself, others not. I am one of the latter. But one can draw many lessons from history. Yet these cannot linearly extrapolated to the present or to the future, in my humble view.

How epic are or can be the daily lives of ordinary people in our times? Whether covered by the news (newsworthy) or not, deeds and achievements by ordinary people are, I think, as epic as "epic" can be.


Life as a movie (home movie, vlog, etc.)?

Ordinary men and women live epic lives every day all over the world. They raise children, they overcome illness, they reach personal achievements or contribute to the well being.


There is a hero inside the spirit of every man and woman nowadays in the streets of Rome, Athens, Sparta, Boston, Buenos Eires, Lisbon, Madrid, LA, Chicago, etc., all over the world (see the "Kingdom of Heaven" film, directed by the same man who directed "Gladiator"). In Ancient Rome, "gladiators" traded life as slaves to risk their lives in the Colosseum and, in return, ensure prosperity for their families.

Today's epic deeds lie in raising children, dealing with the downturns in personal lives, balancing family and work life, overcoming age or sex or other biases or exclusion in the job market, remaining "employable", starting up a new venture, identifying new needs and wants to be satisfied by new or newly defined products or services, taking control over one's personal life. By being mobile, either in terms of professions or geography.

Various dynamics ("winds") and events ("constraints") affect our lives and our decisions (of various kinds). The challenge is to stay on course, survive and prosper. Provide added value and gain personally as well as produce, at the same time, positive "externalities" for others.

Unlike what many believe, there do not have to be losers in order for winners to exist. The meaning/point of competition is often missed. Plus, there are many lessons to be learned in "failure" and a loss today can help produce a win tomorrow, in spite of what some say or imply.

Being a hero

The best way to be a hero is to be (or remain) human in the midst of all the jungle, dog eat dog, envy thy neighbor, got a mortgage to pay, bills to pay, dreams to fulfill, deadlines to meet, profit to make, etc, dynamics.

Friday, 20 October 2006

Gladiators of the 21st century?

"I knew that by becoming a gladiator, I was entering a duel with death. But that was better than remaining a slave working in the stone mines. By becoming a gladiator, I could determine my own destiny".

This is an excerpt of the memoirs of a gladiator in ancient Rome, outlining the reasons his chose to become a gladiator, rather than remain a slave.

Many gladiators chose this "profession" in order to gain fame or pay off their debts.

In modern times, we like to think that people have more options available to them than the "slave or gladiator" option set of Roman slaves.

If everybody had the chance to make their hobby into a professional activity, then the world would be a better place, claim some.

Who are the modern "gladiators"?
a) high fliers/executives
b) athletes
c) actors
d) politicians
e) ordinary people?

What are the Colloseums of today? The media spotlight? The top exec market? The job market?

Is it about fame or about power?

Fame or power over which, for how long?

It is a myth that in each duel, one of gladiators had to die. A gladiator had a 90% chance of leaving a duel alive.

Plus gladiators were afforded the best health services Rome had to offer. Cause a gladiator represented a significant investment for his sponsor.

A gladiator's take home pay following each victory was equal to a year's pay of a Roman soldier. A premium justified? By what parameters?

A dead gladiator's family received a significant reward.

Who are the "gladiators" of today? What kind of "slavery" are they escaping from?

What alternatives (decision options) do they have, to being "gladiators"?

"Some of Rome's most powerful men were shouting out my name in celebration, but I felt numb", wrote the gladiator in his memoirs.


Note: Around 80 BC, the Roman Emperor Titus inaugurated the Colloseum to confront his enemies (by gaining more public support) and introduced the presence of tigers and other wild animals in the arena fights, in order to increase the appeal of the "games" to the public. The rules of the games also changed. The crowds decided if the loser gladiator was to die or to have his life spared.

Monday, 22 May 2006

The Speechwriter

Speechwriter
Ghostwriter
Arguments
Thoughts

Communications
Explications
Exclamations
Marks and hallmarks

Emotions
Devotions
Proportions
Motions

(Written: May 22, 2006. All rights reserved)

Sunday, 7 May 2006

Key Dynamics: Agorophobia (Marketphobia)

Does the average citizen of the world today suffer from some sort of "agorophobia" (marketphobia)?


Agora is an ancient Greek word which means a place of public gathering or "market".

Does "globalisation" suffer from faulty marketing?

There is a saying that there are two things which cannot avoid: Death and taxes!

Tax-phobia

Many libertarians think that taxation is unfair! That a zero tax rate is the right rate! Others argue for a flat tax.

Is there a "taxphobia" in many people, or merely a phobia of unclear and bureaucratic fiscal authorities or regimes?

Is a simple taxation system the solution?

Bureaucratophobia

Many people, companies and investors seem to suffer from fear of bureaucracy, i.e. unclear, complex, unrealistic or unstable (ever changing) regulatory and legal frameworks.

This tends to keep them away from countries or activities which may get them tangled in the web of bureaucracy!

Home alone!

And tend to prefer to stay "home", at their local or national markets. Companies and people with multinational operations tend to have to develop the critical mass which allows them to have the right skills and capacities for dealing with the labyrinth of 40, 50, 100, different markets and their bureaucratic or regulatory labyrinths. Others become "pirates", i.e. they hop from market to market, sail the high seas of the global economy without paying attention to national regimes.

Yet, most of people and companies remain primarily "home", in their local/national markets/societies and familiar regulatory regimes. They do not venture out into their regional (e.g. European) or global markets!

Is that some form of "agorophobia", and is it after all, justified?

I argue that it is!

And that unless this stance is not dealt with effectively by policy makers, then globalisation's future (as well as "free trade's") is at stake!

Analysis

There has always been some level of international trade. Yet today, this level seems too intense. It is a main element what what many people call "globalisation".

Assuming that globalisation is mainy characterised by high mobility of the movement of capital and goods across national borders, then it does indeed seem that we live in an era of globalisation.

Many analysts suggest that this is the third way of globalisation the world has seen.

What makes this one so awe-some/awe-full?

Is it a question of volume, or merely media hype?

How many companies, other organisations or people can claim that they are "global"?

"European"?

How many companies, let alone people, have a pan-European or a "Pan-EU" activity (activity: economic or social or "political")?

How many have the tools or critical mass to do so?

What can European policy makers do to increase the number of companies, organisations and persons which/who feel that they are "active participants" in the EU "market" or "agora"?

"Feel"? Yes, it comes down to feeling, thinking. After all, in economics people talk about business, investor or consumer confidence!

I propose that it the confidence of the US consumer which constitutes a key factor in the competitiveness and overall strength of the USA.

How about the "confidence" of the EU or the global "citizen"? Their consumer confidence?

No, I am talking about their general confidence! About work, safety/security, health, of themselves, of their families and their loved ones or their country's!

Is the fear of globalisation justified?

Most economists and all proponents of free markets argue that trade is good. That trade opens up all aspects of society, down the line, and trade has positive effects on politics (democracy) and society (social effects)!

Where is the proof?

"Show me the money" may be the reply of the average citizen of this world (borrowing the words of the character played by Cuba Gooding Jr to Tom Cruise's character from the "Jerry McGuire" movie)!

Show me the jobs! Show me the investors! Show me that globalisation is good for me and my "home" too! Show me that globalisation is not the opportunity of the few to roam around the world, while most of us are simply bystanders or even victims of "tsunamis" in our local or national markets (for products, jobs, etc.)!

Show me the job security OR the job opportunities, show me, at least, the social security or the unemployment benefits! Show me a realistic way to partake in this globalisation thing, this global agora! Or get out of "my house" Mr. Travelling Salesman of Globalisation and Free markets! At the end of the day, I would rather be miserable at home, than abroad!

So I have to change employers, jobs or professions 2, 3, 4 or 5 times in my working life? Do I have to move to other places to find the right job or at least a suitable job? Do I have to move to China?

Are these arguments without rational basis? How can they be addressed, using both logic and emotion?

Mobility of people is a tricky thing! I porpose that most people who relocate are either very rich or very poor! That the large mass of average people do not really want to relocate! To lose their social network, to live or work in a "foreign" country!

Relocation is of course only dimension of mobility! Many people like to travel around the world, for business or pleasure, as tourists or "travelling salesmen". But how many?

Most people do not really want to leave their home markets/agoras/societies/countries either to tour or to relocate elsewhere!

They prefer to stay "home". Cause home is where their heart is! Nations are still standing strong and their roles should not be underestimated.

National identities provide a stabilising effect to people, in an otherwise chaotic world!

Do people normally like to enter jungles? No! When as long as the markets and agoras are perceived as "jungles", is it logical to expect that people will not opt to stay home? When most news seem to implictly tell them that "it's a jungle out there"?

Most people do not feel as strong as "Rambo"! Because they are not. Because, after all, "Rambo" is a fictional character! How fictional is "globalisation"? "Free" trade? Food for thought for policy makers at all levels!

Does the average citizen of the world today suffer from some sort of "agorophobia"?

No.

But he/she suffers from the mediatic treatment of reality. And from the inability of policy makers to decide what a "free marker" or a "free agora" is!

Unless globalisation proves to the average citizen of France, the UK, Michigan, Bresil, Argentina, etc. that it can work for him/her TOO, then I propose that globalisation has good reason to fear for its own future (future-phobia)!

Sunday, 1 January 2006

US-EU Comparisons and Contrasts: Intro


The US and Europe do have very different "Systemics" and the aim of the following analyses of mine are not to suggest that one is better or worse than the other, merely to try to pinpoint the differences in the 2 "Systems" and how they impact on different people and "tastes".


For some people, the US Systemics are best suited for, for others, the "Euro" ones.

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