Being an unapologetic capitalist is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
John Hancock, senior counsellor at the World Trade Organization, was sweating profusely as he told his audience how capitalism was entering a more radical phase that would lead to further globalization of economies, massive dislocations, de-stabilization and perpetual turmoil. And that was the good part.
Speaking the Gardiner Museum last night as part of TVO’s Big Ideas series co-sponsored by the Literary Review of Canada, Hancock credits capitalism as having allowed the West to race ahead of the rest of world. In 1800 the richest economies were four times those of the poorest. By 1914 it was fifteen times. By 1950 it was 26 times. In 2000 it was 70 times.
Now countries like India and China are catching up at a torrid pace. Hancock says the Chinese economy is doubling in size every decade and India is not far behind.
Without once mentioning the impact of rising oil prices or the cost to the environment, Hancock says transportation costs have revolutionized the world economy to the point where it’s economic for countries to ship their garbage to foreign destinations. He says that Charlemagne would be “blown away” to walk into a Shoppers Drug Mart today and see the array of inexpensive products from around the world. This is the new utopia: cheap lighters made in Indonesia.