Global Paradoxby John Naisbitt, Naisbitt
In the tradition of his bestselling Megatrends books, John Naisbitt explores the new wave of global economic change predicted as a result of the breaking apart of the Soviet empire--and the opportunities and challenges for nations, businesses, and individuals.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- 4.21(w) x 6.86(h) x 1.14(d)
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On the 14th of March, 1993, the people of Andorra, perched high in the Pyrenees between France and Spain and, numbering 47,0010, overwhelmingly passed a referendum granting themselves sovereignty. Now the new country of Andorra -- about one-tenth the size of Delaware -- can have its own international dialing code, Olympic team, stamps, currency, and a seat at the U.N. (which it got in July 1993, to become the 184th member).
But didn't this assertion of independence occur at a time when European countries were marching toward greater union? When Europe was on the verge of adopting a single new currency? When the Maastricht Treaty called for the establishment of a common currency for the 12 countries that make up the European Community?
Actually, Andorra is much more in the direction the world is going than European union.
Freddie Heineken, the brewery baron in Holland, has caused something of a stir by proposing an alliance of Europe with 75 countries, each with a population of five to 10 million -- a very manageable size for governance -- and each with reference to its ethnic and linguistic history.
I Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Den mark would stay the same. Scotland and Wales would become independent countries. In Spain, Catalonia and the Basque region would become independent. Paris and the area around it would become Ile-de-France, with a population of about 10 million. Switzerland and Italy would be divided into nine different countries. And so on.
Some would call it Utopian. And it is hard to imagine how the details of such an arrangement could be worked out. But thefact of -the matter is that preposterous as the idea seems, it is much more in tune with the trends shaping today's world than is European union.
That is why I feel confident in asserting that the Maastricht Treaty, which seeks to go beyond trade and bind countries politically -- moving toward a common foreign policy and defense, as well as a common currency -- is doomed to failure. There are many who disagree with me -- vociferously. But that is because they do not understand that although people want to come together to trade much more freely, they want to be independent politically and culturally. There will be no real union of Europe. It is in name only. The very watered-down version that was ratified in the fall of 1993 will never be implemented. The more people are bound together her economically, the more they want to otherwise be free to assert their own distinctiveness.
The EC will not adopt a common currency -- not in this century and beyond -- because our money, both paper and coin, which we imprint with national symbols and national heroes, is one of the things that distinguishes us from others. Further, with the multiplication of countries, the world is going to have many more currencies, not fewer.
Besides, a common currency already exists: electronics. There is no need for another one. We know instantly how many Italian lire make up an English pound, how many French francs constitute a German mark.
Peter T. White, writing in the January 1993 National Geographic magazine, gives us a personal illustration of electronic currency.
"I'm in Paris, it's late evening, and I need money, quickly. The bank I go to is closed, of course, but outside sits an ATM, an automated teller machine -- and look what can be made to happen, thanks to computers and high-speed telecommunications.
"I insert my ATM card from my bank in Washington, D.C., and punch in my identification number and the amount of 1,500 francs, roughly equivalent to $300. The French bank's computers detect that it's not their card, so my request goes to the CIRRUS system's inter-European switching center in Belgium, which detects that it's not a European card; The electronic message is then transmitted to the global switching center in Detroit, which recognizes that it's from my bank in Washington. The request goes there, and my bank verifies that there's more than $300 in my account and deducts $300 plus a fee of $1.50. Then it's back to Detroit, to Belgium, and to the Paris bank and its ATM -- and out comes $300 in French francs. Total elapsed time: 16 seconds."
Maastricht will not become a reality because it is so out of tune with the times. There will be no union of Europe. Free trade, yes. Union, no.
The world's trends point overwhelmingly toward political independence and self-rule on the one hand, and the formation of economic alliances on the other.
Freddie Heineken's interest in the shape of Europe led him early on to meet with the British historian Professor Cyril Northcote Parkinson (of Parkinson's Law fame). Parkinson talked about his ideas regarding European union. Parkinson said he doubted one united Europe would work, partly because of the many differences in size, population, and, economic muscle. For balance, he thought it would be a good idea to break up the countries into many smaller states of more equal size and importance.
Heineken went on to identify the 75 parts of Europe that he thought could sensibly become the 75 countries of Europe. Heineken points out that the present nations of Europe are artificial and in many cases of quite recent invention: "The present setup of nations," he says, "is in many ways just as arbitrary as my ideas may seem."
All over the world people are agreeing to trade more freely with each other. And all over the world people are asserting their independence, their sovereignty, their distinctiveness.
THE GLOBAL PARADOX
There are many paradoxes in this dramatically changing world. I have identified the one I think embraces much of today's change and is the main focus of this book:
The bigger the world economy, the more powerful its smallest players.
I am dealing here with paradox as it is...
Meet the Author
John Naisbitt has been studying and visiting China for forty-two years, first in 1967, with more than one hundred visits since. A former professor at Nanjing University, he is currently a professor at both Nankai University and Tianjin University of Finance and Economics.
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