Categories
Economy Politics

Globalization, A Short Take

This might very well turn out to be a sequence of posts. The topic is curious in nature and one that has been generating headlines for at least the past year, ridden with the impact of the pandemic on global supply chains and incomes.

Yes, I am talking about ‘globalization’.

According to Wikipedia, globalization

is the process of interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments worldwide. Globalization has accelerated since the 18th century due to advances in transportation and communication technology. This increase in global interactions has caused a growth in international trade and the exchange of ideas and culture.

That globalization has made the world smaller and advanced trade so far is not a debate. In the recent months, though, globalization has been buffeted by strong pandemic level winds that have stopped all but essential travel and ‘integration among people’.

On top of that, there has been a race towards reopening the local economy, at the cost of borrowing from future generations, playing havoc with all kinds of monetary and fiscal best practices, and making arbitrary political decisions on what/who receives taxpayer support and what doesn’t.

Two things have played out — the pace of vaccine research has accelerated, and, demand for technology products that enable people to work remotely and do business has skyrocketed. The latter of these has also been exacerbated by geopolitical arguments about maintaining ‘technology lead’ that were born much before the pandemic struck, under the guise of advancing 5G networks and to curtail oppressive regimes by imposing international sanctions. Some of the world’s biggest economies had already begun a trade war by imposing tariffs on international trade in order to ‘level the playing field’.

Globalization also makes markets more dynamic; prices are more aligned with demand and value. At the same time, it’s capitalism at its best — you get what you pay for.

In theory.

When I read news about countries planning to impose barriers to vaccine exports or companies prioritizing semiconductor fabrication for industries that are more lucrative, it quickly becomes apparent that so much of our future has been held captive to the promise of a world that follows rules. No one does.

Countries are now realizing the value of having their supply chains more integrated within their geographical barriers. The vaccines, although researched by companies and individuals globally, are manufactured at specific locations, and if it’s unable to be exported because the country deems it more important to immunize their own population first, all contracts are rendered worthless. In the chip fabrication industry, there is such a shortage of microprocessors that companies have entirely stopped assembling some models of cars. This has a much bigger impact in countries like Germany that manufacture a lot of great cars but have no global leadership in semiconductor design and fabrication.

For the longest time, the mantra at schools was ‘think global, act local’. Perhaps it is now time to put it in action.

Categories
Politics Tech and Culture

A Technology Proposal for Amsterdam’s New 1.5m Society

The city of Amsterdam recently invited (archive) proposals from residents and companies to help it plan the path ahead in the new normal — a 1.5m society. The goal was to invite creative ideas to help businesses deal with the changes while making sure that they stay in business. The odd thing about pitching ideas is that we’re in an unprecedented situation — there’s no collection of best practices or historical lessons that could be tweaked and turned into something applicable for the modern world.

At the same time, while many ideas would possibly revolve around an app for this, or an app for that, a delivery platform, or a new social networking app for business, I am not sure that’s the right way forward. Not after all the inequities proliferated by ‘big-tech’ in the last decade. The last thing anyone wants is one corporation being the gatekeeper of all physical commerce.

So, is the solution to instead trust the Government? I think, fundamentally, smaller government at the city level is a lot more trustworthy than national policy making. We do, after all, depend on the city to read our grievances when it comes to parking spaces or for sanitation of waste collection. Amsterdam is in a unique situation where it has a woman mayor and where a lot of the infrastructure surrounding business activities is already digitalized.

The proposal I submitted is below. I am not uniquely qualified or even have the organizational structure to action on it, but I do believe that something like this is the way forward in the near short term without succumbing to mission creep.

PS: I know there are grammatical errors :o) I typed it up at the last minute this morning.