The dominant force in the 21st century has been globalization. This phenomenon began in 2002 with China’s entry into WTO. Distance simply evaporated as a concept. Businesses moved to China & other emerging markets in search of cheaper places & ways to produce goods & services for the Western economies. Several hundred million people in China & other underdeveloped economies were lifted into urbanization from centuries of debilitating rural poverty.
On the other hand, globalization created losers or at least relative losers. As Asher Edelman pointed out on CNBC FM a couple of weeks ago, 80% of Americans have experienced a relative recession for the past 15 years – a period in which their incomes stagnated while incomes of others in America & in the rest of the world rose rapidly. Neither Obama nor Bush paid any attention to this increase in relative poverty of people whose fathers built 20th century America. The results of this unconcern are evident today in the campaigns of Trump & Sanders.
And if America has a problem, Europe has a crisis. The economic disparity between German-centric Northern Europe and Southern Europe has rarely been so wide. Peripheral Europe is in an economic depression. And Europe is far more important for the continued success of globalization as history shows.
1.Previous period of Globalization
Read how Niall Ferguson describes the previous period of globalization, a period of global wealth creation from trade & immigration:
- “From around 1870 until World War I, the world economy thrived in ways that look familiar today. The mobility of commodities, capital, and labor reached record levels; the sea-lanes and telegraphs across the Atlantic had never been busier, as capital and migrants traveled west and raw materials and manufactures traveled east. In relation to output, exports of both merchandise and capital reached volumes not seen again until the 1980s. Total emigration from Europe between 1880 and 1910 was in excess of 25 million. People spoke euphorically of “the annihilation of distance.”
That era of globalization saw emergence of America in the international economy just as the 21st century era of globalization has seen the emergence of China in the international economy. Despite the emergence of America, the end of that era of globalization came from Europe. The intra-European war of 1914-1918 ended it.
History seems to be repeating itself a century after that disastrous conflict. Europe is in crisis once again. Everything that is wrong with Europe is coming to the fore. The intra-European racism of Germanic Northern Europe towards southern, eastern & peripheral Europe has been institutionalized in the structure of the European Monetary Union. However bad, that racism pales before their intensely racist ghettozation of their Muslim minorities in European cities.
If that were not enough, Europe created the disaster that is today’s Libya as well as the catastrophe that is today’s Syria. The after effects of these stupidly horrific actions have led to radicalization of the Muslim minorities in Europe. Add to that the influx of millions of Syrian refugees into Europe, a consciously stupid decision of the leader of Europe, Germany’s Angela Merkel.
We can’t think of another situation as potentially explosive as this. Small fires have already begun. The horrific attacks in Paris being the first and this week’s explosions in Brussels the second. What happened in Brussels may be the tip of the iceberg:
- The Associated PressVerified account @AP – BREAKING: The Islamic State group has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves, the AP has learned.
The Brussels attack is more chilling for one important reason – it was not as well planned as the Paris one. But it made up for the lack of planning with “good bombs“, to use a Stratfor expression. And Stratfor writes “it appears that the bombmaking skills of the Islamic State’s grassroots operatives in Europe have outpaced their planning ability“
Forget planning. If three people can make bombs in their apartment, take a taxi to an airport and kill 30 people wounding hundreds, elaborate planning is not necessary. How do you stop such attacks? How do security agencies monitor multiple clandestine cells that do not interact with each other? Tracking & monitoring one suspicious person takes over 10 agents and many more if that person uses multiple cell phones. How does a fat dumb & self-happy Europe cope up?
When or what if Europe decides they cannot cope up? Germany is already bribing poor African governments to accept shipments of Syrian refugees from Germany. When does Europe decide that Muslim minorities are really not European, something that ordinary Europeans feel already? When does Europe decide that they cannot assimilate/integrate Muslims into European society? When does a terrorism-weary Europe decide to ship back a large of number of European Muslims to the Middle East or Africa?
We ask this because of how Europe acted at the end of the greatest globalization period of the past millenium. That period marked the emergence of Europe in the global economy just as 1870-1914 marked the emergence of America and 2002 onwards marked the emergence of China.
2. Globalization that “Made the Modern World”
Europe was the biggest beneficiary of what might be the greatest globalization period of the last 1,000 years. The ruling class of that world created the “nucleus of a universal culture and world system“. Europe received from that ruling class principles that form the foundation of today’s liberal society – “paper money, primacy of state over church, freedom religion, diplomatic immunity and international law“. It was also a period of global artistic expression in which “artists from China to Paris vied with each other in the service of” the Great Ruler of the period”.
And who was the Great Ruler? Who were the people who created this global system of commerce, law, and arts? They were the great Khans – from Chingis Khan, the greatest conqueror the world has seen to Khubilai Khan, his grandson who conquered & ruled China. The Mongols created a Global Awakening that lasted two centuries. The best exposition we have read of what the Mongols created is in the book “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World” by Jack Weatherford, a professor of anthropology in Minnesota.
- “Europe, though never actually ruled by the foreign rulers, gained the most from their world system. The Europeans received all the benefits of trade, technology transfer, and the Global Awakening without paying the cost of Mongol conquest. The Europeans, who had been cut off from the mainstream of civilization since the fall of Rome, eagerly drank in the new knowledge, put on the new clothes, listened to the new music, ate the new foods, and enjoyed a rapidly escalating standard of living in almost every regard.” [remind anyone of today’s Chinese?]
In particular, Europe received “the three technological innovations on which the modern world was built … printing, gunpowder, and the compass“, as Francis Bacon wrote in 1620. The compass & gunpowder led to deep sea navigation & artillery, two technologies that led Europe to conquer the rest of the world.
What end this globalization? The Plague.
3. Europe’s Actions after that Globalization ended
The plague was a horrendous calamity and the actions of Europe in response were horrendous as well. Globalization died a sudden death and all contact between Europe & Asia ceased. That wasn’t enough. Europeans turned on other Europeans as well. Weatherford writes:
- “… people quickly recognized [the plague’s] close association with commerce and the movement of people; frightened people everywhere blamed foreigners for bringing the disease, further threatening international commerce,. In Europe, the Christians once again turned on the Jews, who had a close association with commerce and with the east, from whence the plague came“.
- “On Valentine’s Day in 1349, the authorities of Strasbourg herded two thousand Jews to the Jewish cemetery outside of the city to begin a mass burning. …. between November 1348 and September 1349, all the Jews between Cologne and Austria had been burned. In the Christian parts of Spain, the people initiated similar persecutions against the resident Muslim majority, driving many of them to seek refuge in Granada and Morocco“.
It gives us chills to read this because Europeans repeated these actions between 1935 & 1945. If Europeans turned true to their past after 600 years, why wouldn’t Europe turn so again later this decade?
If the ISIS inspired attacks continue in Europe, is it possible that Europe turns against the very idea of assimilation of Muslims into Europe? Politicians in America are already talking about banning entry of new Muslims until they understand the nature & scope of the threat. Politicians in Europe are going further in their opinions. Is it possible that feeling goes mainstream in Europe, especially if the migration from the Middle East continues? If it does, what choice would remain for Europe other than mass banishment of Muslims and a complete cessation of all movement of people between the Middle East & Europe?
Of course, that would mean the cessation of global trade between Asia & Europe because the lifeline of that trade runs across the Middle East.
These are mere thoughts and far fetched thoughts at that. But any one who has read the history of how globalization periods end cannot avoid thinking about the long term consequences of today’s intractable war between Sunni Muslims & Europe. It began in 1990 with the emergence of Al Qaeda in response to the continued presence of American boots in the holy land of Mecca & Medina. Will it end without either the Sunni Muslims turning “western” or the west leaving the Sunni lands in a complete separation of Muslims & Europeans? We are not sanguine.
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