Alex Massie

Department of Fancy That!

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Like Philip Salter, I dinnae often agree with Gordon Brown. But fair's fair (especially the morning after a brutal by-election thumping), here's some of what the Prime Minister had to say at the Google Zeitgeist conference  this week:

The two great protected industries of the moment are the two industries that are causing us the greatest problems today: the oil industry, with a cartel run by Opec; and the food industry, with high levels of subsidy that are preventing prices for people that at are at a realistic level, and preventing people from producing in countries and continents like Africa at a level that they should. And we need to have flexible markets there.

Also this:

So here we have this contradiction. We know that the only way we can have a successful globalisation is following the principles of your industry - open, flexible, inclusive, empowering. We know also that public sentiment, just as at other times of rapid change, is moving to be protectionist.

So what do we do about it? It seems to me pretty obvious, that we have now got to put the case for globalisation. First of all we have got to show people that the growth in the world economy as Chinese and Indian people become consumers is going to be very substantial in the years to come. I expect the world economy to double in size in the next 20 or 25 years, and even although we are going through the credit crunch and growth is faltering in America and Europe at the moment, we must not lose sight of the basic optimism of a world where producers become consumers in Asia and the world economy is going to grow at a very rapid rate.

The second thing that I think we can tell people that is about an optimistic view of the future is of course this - that there are huge opportunities for people in every continent of the world. It is estimated that there will be a billion more people in skilled or professional jobs within the next 20 years. So the opportunity for social mobility, not just in China or India, but the opportunities for people to make the best of their talents in countries like ours and in America and across the whole of Europe are enormous indeed.

Whatever else one may say about him, Brown is on the right side here. and I'll just add that it's refreshing - after spending five years in Washington where, it sometimes seemed, Sino-Panic was the coming mania - to see a significant politician welcome the idea of millions of people across Asia (and Africa) being able to dream of a better, more comfortable, option-filled, life than their parents ever did. That's a great thing indeed and something that merits celebrating in its own right, free from any calculation of what our own economic interest might be in the matter. (Though happily, the rise of the east is also good for us in many ways. Hurrah!)

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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