Sunday, May 21, 2006

Brian McNair: An old communist confesses: the class war is over and even Rupert Murdoch makes sense … what do lefties do now?

from the Sunday Herald via The Euston Manifesto,
Less than a century ago there were no democratic countries anywhere on the planet (if by democratic we mean every adult, regardless of class, gender or
ethnicity has a vote). Today, around two-thirds of the world’s states are classified as democracies, even if many are deeply flawed and some, like Iraq and Afghanistan, risk being strangled at birth. Much of this is down to the liberatory effects of new technologies, especially the internet and satellite TV. Al-Jazeera has fuelled the development of a vibrant public sphere in the Arab world and the prospect of democratisation across the region. Bloggers eat away at the foundations of authoritarian information control.

As for those “extraordinary living standards” identified by Murdoch as evidence of capitalism’s success, Scots, like the rest of the UK, have seen their personal wealth increase by 300% on average since the 1950s. The streets are choked with cars, the skies full of holiday-makers heading for the sun, our houses full of domestic appliances. Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm has observed that “there is no precedent for this in the history of mankind. In developed countries, even the poorest and the most abandoned live immeasurably better than their grandparents did.” In the developing world, too, economic progress has been more rapid than the tenor of most news coverage suggests. The World Bank reports that the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty fell by a quarter between 1990 and 2001. Growth has been patchy, with GDP falling in Africa while rising fast in the emerging superpowers of Asia, but overall the trend is upward. On current projections, poverty levels will be reduced by another half in the next 10 years.

Not enough, you may say, and you would be right, but looking at these trends it is hard not to conclude that globally, there is more political freedom, and more material wealth, enjoyed by more people than at any previous period in human history. Yes, there is still greed, excess and corruption in every country. But it is evident from the long-term trends that, on balance and overall, globalisation is good. Capitalism works. The Chinese know it. The Indians know it. Deep down in his heart I bet that even Hugo Chavez knows it, and would probably admit it if were he not too busy trying to become the new Fidel.
Read the whole thing. He tells what to do now.

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