Much ado about noth­ing

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • By AL­FRED TOVIAS

The move to­ward more glob­al­iza­tion is un­stop­pable, ba­si­cally for tech­no­log­i­cal rea­sons. For in­stance, con­stant im­prove­ments in trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies lead to in­creas­ing di­rect con­tact be­tween dif­fer­ent in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies, tribes, cities and states. In a mat­ter of 10 to 20 years, civil­ian su­per­sonic travel will be back. This is not to speak of the in­di­rect con­tact with other peo­ple and cul­tures by trade in goods.

By and large, most young peo­ple look for­ward to it. They are not scared by change brought about by glob­al­iza­tion; they are not even fa­tigued by con­stant change. Apart from age, the rea­son for this fear­less at­ti­tude is that they are in­creas­ingly ed­u­cated and ac­quir­ing a very im­por­tant tool, namely knowl­edge of the English lan­guage. They are bet­ter equipped than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions to cope with glob­al­iza­tion. As a mat­ter of fact, many adults, in­clud­ing old ones who are nat­u­rally in­clined to re­sist change, are also be­com­ing com­puter lit­er­ate. Re­search shows that peo­ple of the baby boom gen­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing this author, are or at least feel younger men­tally and phys­i­cally than their par­ents when they were the same age.

Glob­al­iza­tion has not only tech­no­log­i­cal rea­sons, but also po­lit­i­cal will to elim­i­nate ar­ti­fi­cial man-made bar­ri­ers to move­ment of goods, ser­vices, peo­ple and cap­i­tal across na­tional bor­ders. The Euro­pean Union is at the fore­front of glob­al­iza­tion. It has been an open trad­ing block, largely thanks to elim­i­na­tion of man-made bar­ri­ers to move­ment of goods and ser­vices through in­ten­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion in mul­ti­lat­eral trade ne­go­ti­a­tions first in the GATT and then the WTO. But when that road was un­avail­able or did not go far enough, the EU did not hes­i­tate to ne­go­ti­ate free-trade ar­eas, in­clud­ing with Is­rael; or even ne­go­ti­ate in­clu­sion of coun­tries such as Nor­way in its sin­gle mar­ket.

The de­gree of free­dom of move­ment was al­ways many steps ahead in­side the EU. Since 1968, ci­ti­zens of the mem­ber states can move across the en­tire EU ter­ri­tory to look for per­ma­nent work; for a place to re­tire long-term; to study in an­other EU mem­ber coun­try for an un­lim­ited time; and this list is not ex­haus­tive. Al­most all Is­raelis that by law are al­lowed by one of the EU mem­ber states to be­come ci­ti­zens are slowly and dis­creetly avail­ing them­selves of this pos­si­bil­ity, Zion­ism or not.

GIVEN THE op­por­tu­nity, most peo­ple pre­fer to be ci­ti­zens of a supra­na­tional state than a purely na­tional one. Those fore­cast­ing the un­sus­tain­abil­ity of the EU in the long run (Euroscep­tics) as com­pared to the dura­bil­ity of the na­tion state have con­stantly had to re­vise their dire prediction­s. The eu­ro­zone is alive and kick­ing. No­body ques­tions the use­ful­ness for the cit­i­zen of hav­ing an in­ter­na­tional cur­rency that can be used in prac­tice at least in the Euro­pean con­ti­nent (in­clud­ing Switzer­land, Hun­gary, Mon­tene­gro and so on).

Those UK ci­ti­zens that voted for Brexit ex­pect­ing the EU to col­lapse af­ter­ward must rec­og­nize now that this was not only fan­tasy, but that Brexit has en­er­gized the other 27 to in­te­grate fur­ther. Some keen ob­servers of what Bri­tain will do af­ter leav­ing the EU think that the for­mer will ask again for EU mem­ber­ship in less than a decade.

Who would have pre­dicted sev­eral decades ago that the largest pro­ducer of civil air­craft in the world, Air­bus, would be a con­sor­tium of dif­fer­ent Euro­pean firms work­ing in har­mony with Brus­sels eyes mon­i­tor­ing its devel­op­ment? Who would have said that a mega-na­tional pro­ducer of air­craft like the Amer­i­can Boe­ing, with Washington be­hind it, would in­cur huge losses be­cause of rush­ing the devel­op­ment of a new model, the Boe­ing 737Max, to catch up with Air­bus and then hav­ing to ground the whole new fleet un­til the safety of the new air­craft is duly es­tab­lished?

The ad­van­tages that ed­u­cated young peo­ple in Europe see in economies of scale are self-ev­i­dent. For in­stance, a much higher per­cent­age of young Bri­tish ci­ti­zens fa­vor the UK re­main­ing in the EU than the rest of the pop­u­la­tion. Young Euro­pean ci­ti­zens love the EU be­cause it opens to them 28 dif­fer­ent la­bor mar­kets; they ben­e­fit ex­ten­sively from the successful in­tro­duc­tion of EU ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams such as Eras­mus for ed­u­ca­tion, train­ing and sport. Low­cost air­lines such as Easy Jet and Ryan Air have be­come Euro­pean trade­marks for vast amounts of young peo­ple that never dreamed two decades ago of vis­it­ing other Euro­pean coun­tries as they do know – and they like that.

One of the taboos firmly en­grained in Euro­pean so­ci­eties is be­ing by­passed in­creas­ingly, namely mixed in­tra-Euro­pean mar­riages. Tra­di­tional bar­ri­ers such as lan­guage and re­li­gion are left aside. Chil­dren is­sued of these mar­riages are go­ing to be­come the real Euro­peans. Quite iron­i­cally, among the first gen­er­a­tions of real Euro­peans are, rel­a­tively speak­ing, many Jews. Not sur­pris­ingly, we don’t find many Euro­pean Jews that are Eu­roscep­tic.

THE TRI­UMPH of ne­olib­er­al­ism as an eco­nomic doc­trine both at the supra-na­tional level (the EU be­com­ing an en­gine of glob­al­iza­tion) and at the mem­ber-state level (cre­at­ing EU sin­gle mar­kets for goods, ser­vices, cap­i­tal and la­bor) has had se­condary ef­fects that must now be reck­oned with. They be­came glar­ing a decade ago with the on­set of the Great Re­ces­sion. In­creas­ing in­come in­equal­ity and re­gional dis­par­i­ties, both at the do­mes­tic level and at the EU level are well doc­u­mented.

The po­lit­i­cal back­lash is the emer­gence of Europop­ulism and the rise of ex­treme par­ties – both right- and left-wing. A com­mon fea­ture to all is hos­til­ity to ne­olib­eral and cos­mopoli­tan elites. This trans­lates fre­quently into clas­sic na­tion­al­ism, pro­tec­tion­ism, hos­til­ity to mi­grants and for­eign­ers in gen­eral, but also to well-in­te­grated mi­nori­ties, such as Euro­pean Jews.

How­ever, things must be put in per­spec­tive. The ex­plo­sion of so­cial me­dia ex­ag­ger­ates the real im­pact of peo­ple with ex­treme, fre­quently badly in­formed, views. Let’s not over­re­act. If most Euro­peans think that glob­al­iza­tion should con­tinue and that on the whole it is a sat­is­fy­ing fea­ture of their lives, then the right things to do is to hear the qualms of those left be­hind and try to bring them up to av­er­age as much as pos­si­ble. This is what is ex­pected to hap­pen in a mod­ern democ­racy.

“As much as pos­si­ble” will be a func­tion of the place of the state in the po­lit­i­cal econ­omy (from al­most zero in the UK to quite a lot in France). In that task, the na­tion-state will play a cen­tral role for some time (for prac­ti­cal rea­sons, in most in­stances), but if it ap­pears to most Euro­peans that some ser­vices can be pro­vided more ef­fi­ciently at the supra-na­tional rather than at the na­tional level, they will even­tu­ally go for it. The Euro­pean Univer­sity in Florence is a good ad­vanced ex­am­ple of grad­u­ate teach­ing to­ward ob­tain­ing a PhD with­out re­nounc­ing to ex­cel­lence.

Para­phras­ing Mark Twain, the news that the EU is crank­ing and mori­bund is pre­ma­ture. Europop­ulism can be ad­dressed by adopt­ing pol­icy mea­sures that can cor­rect the worst side ef­fects of open­ness and glob­al­iza­tion, some­thing that Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron of France seems to have un­der­stood. In his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, this pe­riod we are liv­ing now will be re­mem­bered prob­a­bly as “much ado about noth­ing.”

(Pic­tured: World’s Fair Grounds; Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)

‘THE EU has been and is at the avant-garde of glob­al­iza­tion. It has been an open trad­ing block largely thanks to elim­i­na­tion of man-made bar­ri­ers to move­ment of goods and ser­vices...’

(Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)

A PRO­TESTER in Brus­sels dur­ing the Euro­pean Coun­cil, 1987.

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