Futurology blog: what’s the next trend that’ll disrupt our world, financially, socially or just pointlessly?

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Could the credit crunch trigger a real global economy?

One of the problems of the world is the extreme concentration of highly educated, highly talented people in just a few major centres. It’s only obvious that spreading out the cream will be to the world’s benefit. And now it’s likely to happen.

In the USA and UK, there are still some derivative pigeons flying around aimlessly in the air. But the great big clouds of them that have already come home to roost will soon be kicking and pecking the rest of the economy to bits and pooing on the pieces.

A lot of short-sighted observers are proclaiming that the rest of the world will get off lightly. What a joke. The S&P 500 and the FTSE 100 are mostly global corporations. And most of the banks are global. So there’s going to be a big mess of horizontal dominoes fairly soon. But still, some economies will suffer less than others. Which will have a very interesting result.

Right now, London’s hottest newly unemployed bankers are heading off to Dubai. (Presumably the Arabs want their banks to go belly-up as well, I’m not sure.) And as sector after sector gets hit, more and more highly qualified people will jet off to wherever they can still scratch a living.

Back in 1929, there was no global economy to escape to. But this time around, hotshots who followed their natural career paths to New York, London, etcetera will end up all over the world map. Every age group, from middle-aged parents to young execs to grads. Because it’s a lot more fun to earn a living in some faraway place than it is to rot back home, waiting for your home to be repossessed or simply waiting in an unemployment office queue.

Places like New Zealand and Tasmania and Argentina and Chile and Tunisia and Panama and I don’t know, all kinds of places that ambitious people totally overlooked before can now expect huge injections of professional talent and can-do willingness to succeed. Even the less developed places will gain – anywhere where’s there’s enough people to constitute a market will be attractive: Vietnam, the Philippines, Cuba, Peru.

Many, many years, Scottish engineers sailed away from their home and kick-started all kinds of progress in unlikely places. Now it could happen again, but across every kind of economic endeavour. Most will have never lived abroad before. Others will actually be returning home to countries they left after school or graduation. Sure there’ll be plenty of failure along the way, but in ten years’ time, the global economy could just become a lot more level.

It’s the talent and knowledge diaspora that the international development quangos could have only dreamed about.

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