Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Western democracies still attractive places to be fed up

Risk managers and futurists who rank the winners for the new century picked the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) well before the financial crash of 2008. Today, it’s conventional wisdom among decision-makers. At ground level, however, the story is more complicated.
Capitalists wake up worrying about the morning’s market. Western business leaders fear that their politicians aren’t strong enough to lead and that government economic relief, including tax cuts, will only be temporary. On the other hand, capitalists in Russia and China talk off the record about leaving.
Western political incumbents get very worried when a majority of the people openly declare that their country is “on the wrong track.” It’s not known how leaders in Moscow and Beijing feel about stories that their best and brightest imagine simply getting out.
The US Census Bureau’s latest population forecast anticipates annual US net legal immigration of 880,000 per year. That’s the mid-range; it assumes continued decade-long waiting lists and little progress in Washington in modernizing immigration law. The Bureau has no reason to worry that millions will continue to join the queue.
Here are two stories about malaise in China and Russia—the most powerful BRICS—that put the crisis of confidence in the West in perspective.
Last week, The Globe and Mail ran as story from Beijing by Louise Watt entitled, “For China’s wealthy, a fond wish: to leave.”
“The United States is the most popular destination for Chinese emigrants, with rich Chinese praising its education and health-care systems. Last year, nearly 68,000 Chinese-born people became legal permanent residents of the United States . . .
“In China, nothing belongs to you. Like buying a house. You buy it but it will belong to the country 70 years later,” said Mr. Su, lamenting the government’s land leasing system.
Getting a foreign passport is like “taking out an insurance policy,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, who compiles the Hurun Rich List, China’s version of the Forbes list.”
This week, The Economist is even harder on Russia. In a briefing entitled “Time to shove off,” it reported:
“A recent opinion poll by the Levada Centre shows that 22% of Russia’s adult population would like to leave the country for good. This is a more than threefold increase from four years ago, when only 7% were considering it. It is the highest figure since the collapse of the Soviet Union, when only 18% said they wanted to get out. Those who are eager to leave are not the poor and desperate. On the contrary, most are entrepreneurs and students.
The Levada Centre recently conducted a survey of people aged 25-39 living in large cities and earning five-to-ten times the average income in Russia. Almost a third would like to emigrate permanently.”
These stories do not argue that the BRICS will lose. And they certainly don’t make it easier to believe that history will be quiet elsewhere as the West sorts out its finances. However, they should remind conservatives as well as liberals that our social, political and economic systems still beat the alternatives—and are worthy of respect when we think big about fixing our problems.

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