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Is Britain Really Going To The Dogs?

Steve
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Registered: 13-07-2009

Is Britain Really Going To The Dogs?

Quote
China recently overtook Japan as the world's second-biggest economy.
If you believe everything you read, then the economy's in tatters, Britain is a broken society and we don't make anything anymore. But how bad is it really?
The Japanese seemed to take the news pretty well. After years of a lacklustre economic performance, with endemic deflation and both stock and property prices lower than they were 20 years ago, they've had time to get used to the idea.
Gauged on many other more economically important measures, Japan's been behind China for a while. And of course, the more powerful China becomes, the more stuff it'll buy from Japan.
How times change
If there's even the slightest glimmer of envy, the Japanese can look back on when they took second place to the US in 1968. That's when they superseded West Germany. For a while it seemed that Japan would overtake the US.
We know how that turned out. Maybe they're thinking that China will one day rue its current time in the spotlight.
Of course, Britain didn't get a look-in on any of these stories. We're well down that top 10 list, currently sitting around number six, behind France and Germany. But the fact is, anyone who wants to be the top dog should pay attention to Britain.
Why? Because we've been there and done that. We're the ones who handed the mantle of global superpower to the current holder, America. And to hear some people tell it, we've been in relentless decline ever since.
But, the truth is, the tale of Britain's slide in the global rankings has been more about the rest of the world growing wealthier - and that's a good thing. As for Britain itself, we're in much better shape than comparisons with our history might suggest.
China poised to take over from the US
We used to be a contender
I'm no expert on the British empire, but a rough summary as to how we became top dog could reasonably go as follows: we industrialised more quickly than anyone else.
That gave us the head start we needed to acquire more money and a better military than anyone else. We took over a big chunk of the rest of the world to give us the resources we lacked at home and we ended up dominating world trade.
At one point, one person in four was part of the British empire - on which the sun famously never set.
How did we lose it?
Well the truth is we didn't really lose it. Others just caught up as they industrialised too. On top of this, rivalry in Europe ultimately led to the First World War, which in turn sowed the seeds for the second.
Britain was left weakened and hugely in debt to the US, which on the other side of the world, was coming of age. The US and the Soviet Union came to dominate geopolitics.
And since then, for Britain, it's been downhill all the way? Certainly, regardless of your political leanings, you can find a litany of woe on Britain's post-war decline.
On the right, you'll hear carping about how the country's gone to the dogs. Britain has become a haven for terrorists, burglars and benefit fraudsters, with an 'all-shall-have-prizes' education system churning out debased idiots interested only in drinking and copulating.
On the left, you'll hear carping about how we're still trying to capture the glories of past empire and how we've never fully atoned for the sins we committed during that time.
An Eton and Oxbridge-educated upper class and a nasty, Thatcherite sharp-elbowed middle class conspire to keep the workers and the dispossessed in the gutter. The death of manufacturing means we no longer do anything worthwhile, but spend time shuffling paper and dodging taxes.
The particular iteration of the argument that you get largely depends on which paper you choose to read.
More on the UK economy
Stories of Britain's decline have been exaggerated
How realistic is this 'long decline' view? Newly industrialising economies will always grow faster than old ones. That's exactly what's driving China's 'miracle' economy now.
So you can't compare Britain's progress to China's or even to Japan's, which basically did what China is doing now after the Second World War.
However, between 1950 and 1980, Britain did experience a period of relative economic decline compared with its peers. We were still getting bigger and better and life was generally improving, but it wasn't improving as rapidly as in similar European economies.
For example, from 1960 to the early 1970s, British GDP growth came in at around 2.3% a year. Not bad, but pretty weak compared with France (5.6%), Germany (4.4%) and Italy (5.3%).
But we lost our nickname of the 'sick man of Europe' a long time ago. Since the 1980s, a more flexible labour market, technological developments and a liberated financial sector saw our GDP performance improve sharply. This continued - interrupted by the 1990s recession - right up until the most recent credit crisis.
How the economy went from NICE to VILE
The myth of the manufacturing decline
Yet we were one of the last major economies to emerge from recession. Isn't that because we relied too much on the financial sector?
It's certainly true that financial services form probably too significant a part of our economy. Yet this idea that manufacturing is dead - that "we don't make anything anymore" - just isn't the case.
What is true is that manufacturing is not as important to Britain's economy as it once was: it accounts for a smaller proportion of GDP (around 16%) and it employs a smaller proportion of the British workforce than it once did.
But that's not because the sector has shrunk. In fact, British manufacturing output hit an all-time high in 2007, even after you adjust for inflation. The reality is that we're the sixth-largest manufacturer in the world.
What's actually happened is that the manufacturing industry has managed to produce more, higher-valued goods using fewer resources - ie staff. The whole sector has become vastly more productive.
While Britain has frequently agonised about the productivity of its workers, the problem stems from the public sector and the services sector, not from manufacturing.
What really needs to happen is that these other areas - and I very much include finance in this - need to become correspondingly more productive.
Is China's rise about to become our problem?
Nobody's perfect
I'm not saying for a moment that Britain doesn't have its problems. Lord knows I've highlighted many of them regularly in the past. Our dysfunctional property market is probably one of the biggest economic bugbears we have, impacting on everything from a parent's education choices to our labour force's mobility.
Our energy policy has been shambolic for decades. And it's not good enough to dismiss social issues such as binge drinking and teenage pregnancy with an urbane wave of the hand.
But every country has its problems and many of the issues that seem to exercise the British most - such as social mobility - are pretty vaguely defined talking points that have as much to do with Britain's obsession with the class system, as any genuine underlying issue.
It would greatly improve the quality of British discourse in general for example, if pundits were banned from using the generally pejorative phrase 'middle class' without defining exactly what they mean by it - preferably attaching an income bracket at the least.
Nice problems to have
The fact is that Britain has the sorts of problems that the Chinese would kill to have. And I think that, for all our complaints, we realise this.
We may revel masochistically in every 'quality of life' survey which declares that living in Britain is not as pleasant as growing wine in a small village somewhere in the south of France. But moaning and daydreaming are not the same as living through the fall of Rome.
More to the point, the rise of the likes of China is a good thing for all of us. It isn't pleasant when your place in the world is threatened. The ones suffering the real angst from all this displacement are the Americans. I've rarely seen more press about America's identity crisis than I have during this recession.
But ultimately, capitalism and globalisation aren't zero-sum games and we can tell the US this from experience. We already ceded the title of global superpower to them. But even though the sun now sets on the British empire every single night, it hasn't meant the end of the world.
We live in an increasingly globalised world and our little corner of it, when you look at it on the wider scale, is a land of opportunity and freedom. I for one can't think of anywhere I'd rather live
.
12 REPLIES
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,699
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

Interesting Steve - can you tell us where the quote came from?
John
magnetism2772
Grafter
Posts: 983
Registered: 06-06-2010

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

Globalization is a failure . Now moving onto  England
England's performance in the World Cup shows that if they, the English, want to win anything
then they need to concentrate on home grown talent
instead of countries like  the  USA  and China  etc
you should read 'plots of money '
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2003/aug/20/guardiansocietysupplement2
and address the rising concerns
magnetism2772
Grafter
Posts: 983
Registered: 06-06-2010

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

Globalism  is about keeping the dollar  the world currency  
and America making money from every country in the world  in any of their currency transactions  
globalization makes the  1984 Global Surveillance a reality
it allows Australians to  internally address a foreign  country   and  to own the content of a countries press
it allows Russia to control our Energy
China to buy our  governments bonds
it allows  the Rothschild and an aristocratic empire of global banking to  own the Global Game
and it allows a far right  (nazi)  Europe to   form opinion here
after our relatives fought  to keep it away   from  our shores
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,699
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

magnetism2772
Grafter
Posts: 983
Registered: 06-06-2010

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

well if mr cameron can borrow the  lines from another so can others
Steve
Seasoned Pro
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Registered: 13-07-2009

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

Certainly John It came from here....http://money.uk.msn.com/investing/articles.aspx?cp-documentid=154485476
magnetism2772
Grafter
Posts: 983
Registered: 06-06-2010

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

with 50 % of the world now poorer since globalization
and england   de industrialized in favour of financial services
‘What finally, is the practical application of all this?’
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,699
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

Thanks Steve
Interesting point of view.
John
@giro - my point was the link points out that, as a thread gets longer, the probability of one person using the term "nazi", tends to 1, you managed it in only 4 posts. Well done!
Steve
Seasoned Pro
Posts: 6,697
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Registered: 13-07-2009

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

Your most welcome, I rather enjoyed the read aswell.
magnetism2772
Grafter
Posts: 983
Registered: 06-06-2010

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

if  you believe my point about Europe to be wrong
well I shall have to live with it
but my experience of the the last 30 years of watching  it with Britain  working inside it
now seeing  the rise to the right of England,  France,  and the once liberal Holland , and in the East
many countries in europe remain nazified  and i am merely saying what others already say
I understand but the topic was opened for discussion 
it is not about net etiquette
David_W
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Registered: 19-07-2007

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

Historically, WW2 cost us "the Empire".  A bit of backstabbing from our "allies" which basically forced us down the route of dismantling the Empire and turning it into what it currently is, a commonwealth of nations.  After WW2 one of our allies had only one intention, the complete dismantling of the empire and did everything possible to make it so, almost destroying our country in the process (before WW2, this ally had the intention of causing a war with us!).
The UK is still a world leader in some industries, and we still manage to hold our own (we have the 2nd most powerful military apparently) on the global scene.
Is it all doom and gloom?  Depends on who you ask, some of our ports export more air than anything else (empty shipping containers).  We are though in a strange position for the next few years, Obama is *very* anti-British, the first American leader in a while, so maybe it's time for us to stop looking to the west and look to the east, build greater ties with China and even Russia, as well as with our European partners, at least until Obama is voted out, we could also take advantage of Rebecca Flint who is a pretty big idol in Japan, she could help us forge tighter links with the youth of Japan who eventually will become the future of Japan and if they have a major positive aspect of the UK as a whole it can only be a good thing.
I would agree that the UK had a disadvantage in that we started the industrial revolution, in doing so we had 1st gen tech, other countries would build on 2nd/3rd gen tech so would be able to industrialise more efficiently than the UK could, we also managed to have some amazing geniuses born in the UK, Brunell could draw a propeller by hand that a modern computer could only improve 5%, that's amazing, so many great people were born here, now though, are we producing generations of Jordan wannabes who are influenced more by the X-Factor than the advances of Humphry Davy or Michael Faraday?
VileReynard
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Registered: 01-09-2007

Re: Is Britain Really Going To The Dog's???

Isn't there a problem with the subject title of this thread?
Quote
Is Britain Really Going To The Dog'sHuh

Shouldn't this be:-
Quote
Is Britain Really Going To The Dogs?

Symptomatic really. Grin