On world-beating…

June 24, 2020

Warning: politics ahead

We’ve had a lot of talk here lately of all the ‘world-beating’ things we’re allegedly doing as a nation, and although pretty much all of the talk is palpable nonsense (I eschew stronger language in my blog) it has set me thinking about why, as a nation, we are so blindly stuck in our glorious past. I do not claim to write as a historian…

We were once the mightiest empire of its time on the face of the globe, a power, it seems, largely based on our naval might, temporary technological superiority due to the country being the cradle of the industrial revolution, and our subjugation of nations into colonies which we could then pillage at will. There were other naval-based empires run from small-sized countries at the time – Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands once colonised and exploited sizeable areas of the globe, too. They gave up their empires and their pretensions, too, once the wheels of history moved on. We haven’t…

If we want to talk about empires today, then the picture is rather different. Three are based in large nation-states with enormous military might: the USA, Russia and China. There is a fourth pretender solely on the economic front: the EU. These modern-day empires have size and consequently economies of scale, plus a vast hinterland to consume production on their side; they do not possess colonies as did empires in the past, for this is economically inefficient; they certainly exploit client-states. And they do not enjoy the enormous technological advantages that the empires of the past had over the rest of the world, which is now far more inter-connected. And then there is Japan, an outlier, another small island-nation, and economic powerhouse of production – how unlike our own island…

So somewhere in all this is the inability of Britain’s people or its rulers fully to grasp how much the world has irreversibly moved on. We are a small island, a small nation, that is soon to be all on its own. We cannot easily emulate the successes of the two other ‘going-it-alone’ nations in Europe, Switzerland and Norway, because our population is so much larger than theirs. And yet, so many imagine that we can recapture those glory days of the past. Our military power is totally dependent on NATO, and so, indirectly, the USA. Our manufacturing base has been allowed to disappear, because not important. We can offer world-beating (perhaps) financial services, which are parasitical on other things and do not enrich the nation as a whole, but even that is uncertain.

I reach an understanding of where we are now, and I do not see why we cannot collectively accept it and act on it in a way that would benefit out 60 million people. We have glorious moments and shameful ones in our past; other nations have been rather better at acknowledging both strands of their histories. We didn’t defeat the Germans single-handedly in two world wars; we didn’t bring the benefits of civilisation and our way of life to millions in our colonies.

If we are to look forward, then we need to accept the limitations of being a Ruritanian monarchy with a system of government two centuries out of date and a system of class privileges far older than that. We need to realise that our future has been shaped by the USA, with whom – perhaps unfortunately – we share a similar language, and whose madhouse ideas therefore appear here rather too quickly for careful reflection and consideration. We need to give up our nuclear status, our world-power dreams and accept that we are a small and quite easily-ignored island off the coast of Europe, whose best prospects are likely to develop through close co-operation rather than rivalry with our neighbours. We need to give up on the idea of being ‘world-beating’ at anything, because it’s not very likely: co-operation is a much more likely guarantee of future success.

I’m not holding my breath…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: