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CB24 8TX, UK.

Our Changing World


For those of us in influential jobs, we have made ourselves a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ world, in which in our working lives, money and power are our only gods.  As we walk out of the office, we must switch to a different paradigm, in which other people are more important than money and self-interest, and generosity doesn’t require a business case.  This is not easy to do.  Those who don’t manage it usually either find that their family and friends fail the business case, or they get trampled on by the free market.


In our affluent society with Maslow’s needs met, we can choose how we apply our assets – our skills, our physical resources, but above all, our time.



The free market is a fantastically effective mechanism, but it’s not perfect, and it doesn’t always give the right answer.  We know this, but we ignore it.


  • We are privatising our national institutions without any apparent rationale, except a quick one-off payment into the Treasury.  Most of our national institutions are what they are, because for one reason or another, the free market model couldn’t be relied upon for the services they provide.  Transfer of ownership means loss of control – however you dress it up with official regulators.  It also means a new set of mouths to feed – the shareholders. 

    Once the assets are sold, we realise too late why they were nationalised in the first place – but we still go on doing it.  Think Railtrack, PFI, or selling our best brains for a pittance to an American speculator (Qinetiq to Carlyle).  Why do we do it?  As Macmillan said in his valedictory speech in the Lords, “This government has fatally misunderstood the difference between capital and current account.  It has sold the family silver, to pay for the winter cruise.”


  • It’s difficult to make the business case for spending time listening to people, so we don’t.


I see many things happening in our society that seem quite bizarre to me.  Although I am complicit in at least some, I can’t explain them.  Here are a few:


  • My father was competent and practical, and he would repair objects several times before throwing them away, when repair was no longer practical.  Today, even though I can repair things, I find myself increasingly throwing away not only things which could be repaired, but for the past 5-10 years, even things in fully working condition!   Is this right?


  • Iraq.  Enough said.  (Just possibly, we’ve learnt a lesson, but somehow I doubt it.)


  • Becoming inexorably money-richer and time-poorer.  Focusing on what makes business sense – we know how to make products of quality, but because the market is not discerning, we can’t justify the cost.


To answer my rather rhetorical questions at the top of this note, I’ve observed some fundamental changes this year, in the world we live in:


  • In the explosive economic growth of China, we’ve seen that Capitalism and Democracy are not inextricably connected.  When history is written, Iraq may mark the start of the end of the USA’s reign as the world’s Superpower (in favour of China, and perhaps India).
  • Many Third World countries are no longer ‘basket cases’ fit only for Western patronising, and are beginning to stand as full members of the world economic community – though there certainly are still some really awful places, and still a lot of Western protectionism.
  • The massive human influx into the UK (probably 1.5M or more in the past two years) has been astonishingly painless, and suggests we’re not all as bigoted as our press would have us believe.  We’ve learnt that their net economic contribution is positive, and that most of our more serious social problems are actually home-grown.  (We’ve even grown our own suicide bombers.)
  • If by accident of birth, you are poor because you come from a poor country, that doesn’t make you stupid – on the contrary, you have survival skills, without which I probably wouldn’t last five minutes in your environment.


All this leads to a clearer awareness than ever that this small planet is now truly Marshall McLuhan’s Global Village.  When I meet someone of obvious ethnicity, I try to no longer think first, “Where has this person come from?” – after all, we are all from somewhere.  I know which planet they’re from, and that’s enough.  There are many more important questions:


  • Can I trust and rely on this person?  Will their words and actions match up?
  • Are our opinions compatible?  Will we be able to get along?
  • Are our objectives compatible?  Is there any synergy between us?
  • Are there things you can teach me?




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