The War for Wealth

In the past few decades, technological developments have liberated work from geographical boundaries, radically reshaping the global economic infrastructure.

It is not difficult to see that the global distribution of work is having an enormous effect on the world we live in. But it is harder to predict what the effect that globalisation will have 10 or 20 years down the line.

One view sees the end-point as an equal distribution of wealth across all the world’s nations. But others are less optimistic. Subscribing to the latter view is Gabor Steingart, award-winning journalist and author of The War for Wealth.

For Steingart, the effect of Western economies exporting their industrial sectors to Asia will not be equality but a reversal of the inequality that saw the West grow affluent while billions starved in the East.

The economies of China and India will flourish as ever more of the ‘productive core’ of American and Western European economies heads towards the Orient, he argues, while those economies will wither.

The idea that countries can do without industry and survive on a service economy alone is misguided, says Steingart. “If we allow manufacturing jobs to be offshored without blinking, service jobs will soon follow,” he writes.

While some of the economic success of the West was passed onto the people, largely thanks to the welfare state and trade unionism, Steingart suggests that in China and India the huge availability of labour means that the working class will be continue to be devalued.

He goes as far as to suggest that a possible outcome of this escalating inequality is a continental war in Asia, when the patience of those nations and individuals that do not share in the winnings runs out.

But while he argues that there is potential for catastrophic consequences, Steingart does not suggest that Western organisations try to resist globalisation per se to prevent this fate, nor give up without a fight.

Instead, he calls for a pragmatic approach to our economic relationship with the East. The ideological war between free market capitalism and protectionism helps no-one, Steingart says; its redundancy as an idea is evident in China’s simultaneous success at both.

The War for Wealth begins as a compelling history of 20th century economics. As the author moves from recounting the past to predicting the future, however, it begins to resemble a neo-conservative rant. The author’s proposal for a United States of the West to counterbalance the emerging Asian economies is particularly difficult to swallow.

But for IT decision-makers pondering what the long-term effects of offshoring might be, this book will provide food for thought, if little guidance.

The War for Wealth: The true story of globalization, or why the flat world is broken. By Gabor Steingart. Published by McGraw-Hill Professional. Price: £16.99. ISBN: 9780071545969.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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