This week’s broadcast uses Thursday’s referendum on Scottish independence as a hinge for some divagations about globalization and nationalism.
Why should anyone outside the British Isles care about this referendum? Well … reasons for being interested were encapsulated very nicely by Neil Irwin on, believe it or not, the New York Times blog. You don’t often hear a kind word about the New York Times and its opinions from Radio Derb, but Irwin is spot-on.The full Radio Derb playbill:
The Scottish referendum is, says Irwin, a symptom of something happening in our age. Of what? Of, quote, “a Global Crisis of the Elites.” Further quote from Irwin:
Scotland’s push for independence is driven by a conviction — one not ungrounded in reality — that the British ruling class has blundered through the last couple of decades. The same discontent applies to varying degrees in the United States and, especially, the eurozone. It is, in many ways, a defining feature of our time.
That’s quite right. The heading here is: “Globalization and Its Discontents.” The great globalization push of the past thirty years has actually done much good, freeing up trade and finance and probably leaving us better off than we would otherwise have been.
As is usually the case in human affairs, though, the bearer of good things comes trailing a dark shadow. We may be better off than we would otherwise have been, but we don’t actually feel better off. Middle-aged people can remember when the curves were all rising. You can argue that without globalization they would have turned downward, and that thanks to globalization they have at least only leveled off. The way the human mind works, though, that’s not very consoling.
And there have been some stark negatives. Globalization, in both Europe and the U.S.A., was pushed through by elites who believed in it. Belief in globalization goes naturally with absence of belief in the sovereign nation-state. Thus important attributes of the nation-state — control over borders, primacy of one’s own laws enacted by one’s own representatives in one’s own national parliament — have been tossed overboard.
These are not just matters of cold policy, either. People like the idea that they belong to a nation, with some cultural continuity going backwards in time through their parents and grandparents. Believe it or not, people have actually been known to fight and die for their nation. Not crazy people; not “fascists”; not “extreme right-wingers”; ordinary sensible Joes and Janes.
A member of the globalist elite would likely say those people were foolish and deluded to do so, but most of us disagree. Most of us, in fact, think the globalist elites are cold and bloodless. We don’t much like them. They don’t feel the things we feel. Plus, a lot of them are insanely rich. I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with being rich; but if you’re rich and also a dogmatic adherent of an unpopular ideology — in this case globalization — it’s natural to suspect that your ideology springs from self-interest.
I say again, globalization has done much good; but it’s had downsides, and the downsides are now edging to the front of people’s minds all over.
People are waking up to what’s been lost.