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Question: What statistics illustrate the return of religion?Micklethwait:    Well, there are 2 things.  One, there’s a debate about what’s happening to religion in America.  Our book is about the world.  So it’s possible for God to be back generally and America to become… be becoming marginally less religious. I mean, going from 86% to 76%, it was a bit of a drop in terms of the number of people who say that their… they belong to a specific Christian faith in America, that’s a drop by any other standard of country, it’s a lot.  And our book, like if you look at China, you look at Asia, you look at Latin America, and even if you look at Europe, you see God coming back in most places into personal lives but everywhere into public lives and so the 2 don’t necessarily contradict each other like that.  In terms of the numbers inside America, I think it’s really interesting, if you… most of them, we’ve gone through.  If you look underneath the headline numbers, what seems to be happening is a two-face thing, on the one hand, the people who were sort of not particularly, fervent believers or non-believers are definitely pushing towards… more towards Atheism.  On the other side, the people who are believers tend to be pushing more towards Evangelicals, Pentecostals, towards conservative versions of religion.  And so, to some extent, you have a polarization between those 2 and I think what’s interesting about that is that possibly it means that religion… those people imagine that religion is going to disappear from politics in America, are in for a rude shock because they’ve got both sides are going to care much more and actually to some extent, what seems to be happening in America is that the religious issue used to be the sort of Republican issue, now, it’s becoming the Democrat issue as well.  It’s now about poverty, the environment, all those things as well. So that in terms of the overall numbers, they might be a little judged in America, it always goes in waves in America.  I don’t see any sign of America becoming a non-religious country but the underlying force of what’s driving American religion along is always been pluralism, it’s been competition and I actually see Atheism as the best part of that competition. Question: Why is religion increasingly polarized?Micklethwait:    It’s hard to say, I think a particular thing recently would seem to be Bush.  I mean, Bush took a lot of people who didn’t really care that much about religion and turn them into quite, sort of, savage disbelievers, people who are suddenly confronted with the idea of a Theocracy, confronted with the idea of somebody who really wanted to seem to put the church right in the middle of American life.  That actually persuaded, I think, quite a lot of people that actually God was, you know, just get him out of the system and you see that in the reception of people like Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and people like that.  But I think what’s also interesting about Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens is that they are, you know, they’re reacting to something.  You don’t write a book saying God is not great if you think you’ve won the argument and what’s really interesting from a big global perspective is, I think, for most of the 20th Century, the elite, the global elite, have always identified modernization with secularization and in America, what we see as an outlier or a strange thing but in the end it would come in and what’s happening very much where our book is about is you look around the world at the moment, the more modern lots of countries are becoming, the more religious they’re getting.  Go to… you know, I went to Turkey, go and see Ataturk, you know, he totally believed in pulling Islam out of the system.  Now, very much, you have the modern bourgeoisie who are very much the people Ataturk wanted to create, they’re the ones who’re actually vote for the AK party, go to India, you see exactly the same with the BJP, it’s a modern people who… [Nehru] desperately wanted to create, that’s [Nehru] grandson now, quite a strong religious things, exactly those people are voting the BJP, go to China… the book begins in China on a house church, the people in that house church, were absolutely the modern China, their stem cell scientists, their professors, their bankers, their high-tech executives and for them Evangelical Christianity is almost a sort of way to get ahead in the world, that’s very much the way in which they see it.  And so around the world, whether… you know, this book is not a book saying God is good or God is bad, he exists or he doesn’t, it’s an examination of a phenomenon and the phenomenon is the religion is back in the world, is back in politics, it’s back in public life and that has good and bad consequences.  It has plenty of good things to do with people having choice but we also detail lots of stuff like wars of religion where the culture wars are going global but that is basically is the world that you have to live with, you rather run away from that or else you could start dealing with it. Question: Do you align modernity with religion?Micklethwait:    We actually align modernity with pluralism.  I think that that’s the big category mistake.  Peter Berger, who’s the great sociologist of religion, you know, who one time was a big supporter of the secularization thesis, I’ll give you the most, sort of… the biggest proponent of it, when he switched and suddenly said that pluralism is the modern thing, I think that’s it and that’s the core of why we think an American model, loosely termed, is sweeping the world.  People are choosing which religion to have and doing the same thing as Thomas Jefferson did, you know, they’re looking at the Bible and cutting out the bits they don’t like.  It’s like I want this and I want this and I’m going to change this, it’s a much more individual thing and the reason why that is relevant to politics and public life is if people are choosing their religion rather than just inheriting it then that means when they go into the voting booth, they go into work, they’re not going to leave it at home in the same way that they may have done before.Question: What is the relationship between religion and globalization?Micklethwait:    Well, what’s happening is not so much being caught by progressives, it’s the forces of progress that are driving it.  You look at globalization, you look at technology, you look at… lots of democracy, you know, you’re giving these… when you’re give people a vote… strangely, a lot of religious people go and vote for religious parties, when you give people technology, strangely, it’s the people who actually use it best were often people like the mega-churches that are very, very quick onto these.  If you look at the way that globalization spreads.  I think globalization actually encourages the demand for religion in 2 ways.  As one group of people who think we want religion to be a sort of storm shelter and you see a qualm of that particularly in the Islamic world but you can [focus it, what is it,] rural Arkansas or rural India, you could see these people who think, the world is out there, it’s a frightening, difficult place and religion is a form of protection against it.  By contrast, what we also identified which is sort of an unappreciated bit is for lots of people, lots of up and coming people, visit the mega-churches in America, you don’t see poor downtrodden people there, you see smart, young, suburbanites, they see this as a way to get ahead, to get ahead of other people, very, very true in China, very, very true in Korea, very true in Latin America where we see Pentecostalism spreading very quickly and the one exception is Europe which we can sort of come back to, which is the harder case to make this argument.  But all other areas of the world, for better or worse, you know those things are being aligned and actually it’s going with a… if that’s a sort of demand side that you… a deeper demand side is actually, whether we like it or not, man seems to be a Theotrophic beast in a given… the option to believe in God or some kind of afterlife or some kind of meaning, they will do so and if you want a quintessential example of the sort of modern religion, it’s your president.  Look at Barack Obama, there’s a man whose life… he wasn’t sure about it, he found meaning in a Chicago church and what’s interesting about Obama, I think, is that he is somebody who once you take him on the international stage which is obviously where he’s already on, but once you put that particular element of faith on the international stage, I think you’re going to see a very different reaction to American religion that you have with George W. Bush. George W. Bush typified all the things that Europeans in particular found suspicious and wrong about American religion.  It seemed very hard, very intolerant, it wasn’t the same thing but I think a lot of Europeans could identify with this clever, young, well-educated man, looking for something more to life and discovered it in the church.  I think it’s any accident at all the best-selling religious book is called “The Purpose Driven Life,” that’s what… that’s a bit which is striking a chord of globalization.  So that’s all the demand side, that’s why people are going for it and that’s the last thing on it.  There is now quite a lot of science, again, for better or worse, it shows that religious people are wealthier, healthier and happier than non-religious people.  So to that extent, that “works” and you know, Dawkins is very interesting on that… the other thing which is driving religion, if that is the demand side is supply.  And you have a spread of American style, competitive religion, where you are, you know, you make great efforts to make religion much easier, you make churches more comfortable, you use every form of modern technology, you embed it to every people’s lives and you see that spreading into other religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, as well and you see it spreading all around the world. Question: What is the future of religion in Europe?Micklethwait: That’s a very good question.  That is the area where God is back, is the hardest argument to prove.  That said, I think on one side, it’s clear.  There are 2 parts of this book, one is saying here is the politics, they’re going to be involving religion and there’s also the basic fact of people perhaps becoming more religious generally.  The… on the first bit, that works completely with Europe, I think political Europe is suddenly got religion back into the public square in a way that people, I thought, just assumed that they banished it.  That’s partly because of the arrival of Islam in a big way, suddenly, you know, it’s a big part of domestic politics in a variety of European countries, Sharia, head scarves, where exactly the line between mosque and state should be, what children should be taught, whether a religious schools is a good idea or a bad idea, these are all issues which have suddenly been floating back to the center, you also see it, to a degree, amongst the leaders, you have Blair who famously said, “We don’t do God,” or rather his spokesman did, you know, Blair is now running a faith in politics institute, you have Gordon Brown again so quite religiously inspired, Sarkovsky wrote a book about it.  So the influence of all the East European countries and so within the political world, I have no doubt that the same kind of culture wars and stuff which have been part of the American world are going to be part of the European world in a different way but certainly in a way that Europeans just never imagined the possible. Whenever they looked at American politics, they’ve always… it’s always been a bit where they thought that that’s an abomination, it’s not going to come here, well it is.  So politics, yes, God is very much back in European politics.  The difficult bit is God is back in terms of personal religiosity. There I think the evidence is much more mixed.  On the one hand, church is generally, in most places or main line churches are still going down, I can’t say… I think you can argue that on the edge, it is… things are beginning to happen, you can see Pentecostals grow very, very fast in France, you can see… if you get to the east side of London, you see a multitude of different religions competing, 2 million Britons have been through something called The Alpha Cause which is a sort of… I’m going to simplify massively but a bit like the version of The Purpose Driven Life. There’s a degree of change there which shows things are going, adult confirmation is another change, childhood confirmations are going down, adult ones, people older suddenly deciding I want to commit myself to the Anglican Church, whatever, those are actually going up.  My guess is, overtime, the same sort of forces which has been at work in America, as the European religious market, so yet freer and easier and more competitive, they would work.  If you are a suburbanite in Bordeaux or Birmingham, England, you will have some of the same kind of reasons to drift towards religion, the same search for meaning, the same… in some cases, same sports, storm shelter, all those things will combine in the same ways they do in Birmingham, Alabama or wherever.  There’s too much similarity there for a lot to swing back a bit but no, we’re not predicting the… that we’re going to reach a stage or suddenly or anytime soon where 76% of Europeans have easily identified themselves as Christian.Question: Hasn't evangelical Christianity really just become a self-help movement?Micklethwait:    I think, there is an element of truth in that which the mega-preachers dealt with what we call the [past entrepreneurs], they don’t particularly like that aspect but it has to be said and, you know, Rick Warren’s a very good test case of this.  Actually, if you look at some of these messages they’re delivering, amongst these sort of cuddlier, nicer thing, you know, they’re still quite hard lined on issues like abortion, gay marriage, famously Warren got into trouble with a lot of people prior to his gay [guilt] in the Obama inauguration, I think, you know, that maybe a surprise to people around him that he was suddenly seen as more “intolerant” than people imagined.  In the end, a lot of them… and if you listen to what they actually teach, it’s not quite far from [Princeton] but, you know, it’s got quite a stern message underneath it so I think there’s that militating against it.  Question: What does religion in China look like?Micklethwait:    I think China’s fascinating, we think that China will be the world’s biggest Christian country relatively quickly and we think it’ll probably also be the world’s biggest Muslim country, maybe a bit later because Islam is also growing particularly in the rural west. What’s really interesting about China is as I said, it’s the up and coming people who are joining it.  There is… does seem to be a slight religious split, the Catholics in general are doing better in the countryside, it’s Evangelical more so of American style stuff which is particularly embroidered by Koreans but also by Americans and also by the Chinese themselves, that’s what’s really moving in the cities.  And what is interesting to me because again, our book is an attempt to study this phenomenon, take people inside these house churches, show what they’re like.  But then answer political questions that flow from that and the readings that you get from the regime are very contradictory on this.  On the one hand, it says the regime is prepared to encourage these things, [Eugene Tao] said really quite nice things about religion, even about Christianity, and there’s some element of suddenly Confucianism, the regime is quite comfortable with because they’re looking in a sense for glue to bring these huge country together.  There is… the level of social dislocation in China is gigantic.  As one year, I think it’s 1998 and I may have put it wrong where the number of people moving from the countryside to the towns, in just that one year, is greater than the number of all the people who left Europe and came to America in the 100 years before 1920.  So you have social dislocation on a gigantic level and the regime is aware of that currently has to do with lots of economic problems and they see religion, at least, as a potential piece of glue to hold that society together, that’s the sort of good side.  On the other side, they are inherently worried and suspicious about religion as sort of an insurgency force, various people have told me that the figure who the regime particularly identifies is John Paul II, they think John Paul II… they give him perhaps a 2 greater role in the Soviet Union’s downfall, that they see parallels there. There’s also a famous Chinese rebellion in the 19th Century which was lead by a Christian, you see all the evidence the Falun Gong, all those things make them uneasy.  And what’s happening with the house churches is as they get bigger, they’re already arguably the biggest NGO in China, as they start to get bigger, they start to add things like nurseries and all those things, the one other absolutely brilliant thing about what’s happening in China which is sort of Berlin base is fascinating, is what the regime has been doing is the rules within China basically saying, the rules are complicated but they sort of say when you get 25 people, no meeting can go beyond 25 people without government approval.  When you have 25 people in a house church, once you get 27, 28, the church, because of that rule, is forced to split and because it’s forced to split, it grows so immediately you’ve got 2 groups of 12 who are out there looking for more people. So ironically, the very rules that the Chinese have introduced turned out to be the very things that make the religion grow quite as fast as it does.  And that I think is a big thing.Question: What are the trends in mainstream Islam?Micklethwait:    Islam is a difficult issue.  On the one hand, you have… you know, the big question about Islam is will it have some version… and they hate this word of sort of reformation or enlightenment or some version of that and the kind of negative answer on that is it’s extremely difficult because if you look at the number of the genuine kind of real reformers in Islam or the sort of people who Westerners, rightly or wrongly, might think of was reformers as sort of people who might allow women to say much more in services, all the tough stuff, that’s a tiny, tiny portion of the whole… and the main argument is the reformed tradition of Islam is actually arguing that we should look at things 300 years after the prophet, rather than the prophet’s time.  It’s all based on quite elderly arguments and there’s additional structural reasons why Islam might find it difficult to move.  One is that, when you look at the Koran, the Koran is a literal word of God, you know, it is not like the Bible which is essentially reportage, if you can base it in that way, the Bible is a collection of stories about something people describing what happened, it’s easier, much easier to reinterpret the Bible than it is to change the Koran.  The Koran… most Muslims insist that it has to be in Arabic because this is actually what he said and it’s much more difficult for religion to find ways in which to adapt to modernity that way.  But secondly also on top of that, they have the problem of who they were.  Jesus Christ was a sort of form of special social difficulty, he was causing… he was an outcast, a bit of a… he was described in the old days, a sort of a community organizer, you know, he was causing trouble.  Mohammad by contrast was… the prophet, he was a rule giver, he was handing out laws on how you live.  Again, that makes it harder to change.  Of all those reasons, Islam is harder to change, against that, look around the world, it’s based on what we look at.  America is an area where you have a large amount of Muslims living actually very successfully.  In Europe, again, you have people entering a pluralistic society and again doing pretty well.  You have the experiments now at Turkey and particularly in Indonesia, I think, is really interesting.  All those areas strike me as areas where Muslims will come back and say, we need to… we need to be more tolerant, at least, of other religions.  I mean, if you have a system where there’s anyone who converts away from Islam is immediately under, in some places, is under really severe punishment, that’s really the acid test of the modernity of a religion, how tolerant is it about how people being able to choose what they want and that is a bit which Islam finds particularly difficult.  But within the main heartlands, there isn’t much sign of change but I would be quite optimistic actually about what in the end will come out of European Islam and actually particularly what would come out of American Islam.  And if you want a parallel, there is actually one is that the 2nd Vatican council is actually pushed particularly by an American Catholic who put across… we’ve got to face up to what’s happening around the world and he went back to Rome persuaded then Pope to do it.  And that’s… there is some degree of unprecedented… but I’m not… nobody should expect this to happen immediately.Question: What impact is Islam having on Africa?Micklethwait:    I think the most… I think there’s 2 bits.  I think from the point of view of where is the, sort of, faith taking off in China, I think, is fascinating.  I think from the point of view of where is it dangerous, where do you actually see the repercussions of this beginning, perhaps to cause real trouble. I would give example of Africa where to be very crude and basic about it, you have Fundamentalist Islam pushing down and you have Evangelical Christianity pushing up.  And in the book, I went to the frontline in Nigeria between these 2 towns of Kano and Jos.  It is as you drive along it, you’ll find mosques, mosques, church, church, and they’re battling almost all the way and sadly, in many cases, it does spill over into violence, 20,000… oh sorry, 30,000 people, I think, have been killed in the last 20 years there and to have these epic battles is quite normal and it does have some degree of tribalness underneath.  The difficulty of religion is once it gets in a dispute, it makes it much, much harder to solve, a classic example being the Middle East and the Holy Land.  When the Israeli and Palestinian thing was primarily a secular affair which certainly was to begin with, then it’s easier to say, here’s a border where they’re divided,  you know, most people sort of know what the eventual solution is or should be, but actually you… it’s much, much harder to do it if both sides claimed that God gave them the whole thing ‘cause once it involved fundamental truth, as perceived, when you see it a bit, with a life a bit here, with the abortion debate here, it’s the same thing, you cannot compromise, you cannot give way.  I think the answer is you possibly can give way a bit more than what people have done. You could see the Hamas have been talking about this idea, of course, the land would always be Islam but they’re prepared to let Israel occupy as a sort of temporary lease which is a bizarre way of looking at it.  But underneath it, there is a struggle, repeated struggle between religious people and once religion gets back into politics, that makes a huge difference and in many ways what we’re living through, I think, in terms of the world as we see it.  And America has got one gigantic thing right, it’s got the basic division of church and state, which both encourages religion and on the other hand, provides a way in which religion can foster within a political system.  The bit in which the Americans didn’t get right was foreign policy, they… whereas the Europeans, I think, were always much more scared about what was happening within religion, Americans just certainly weren’t, they didn’t want to think and this goes right the way through to Bush as well.  I mean, it goes back earlier, you look back at Iran, when the Iranian revolution was in preparation, somebody at the CIA produced a report saying that there’s actually a lot of religion in this and easily dismissed as mere sociology which is about as rude as you can get inside the CIA.  When Hisbola emerged, again, the American political establishment tried to save it in terms of left and right and where it worked with the Russians and so on, its name is the party of God.  There was a basic refusal to see this as part of the argument and actually even going through Bush despite that all that sort of God blubbering aspect of Bush, Iraq, it took him a long time to understand the [pseudo-sheer] split, that was absolutely crucial and again and again and again, you find these examples of people, I think America [far from this sanctions] is still very secular in that respect and now it’s beginning to learn and why is that important?  Because you never ever get solutions without bringing the sort of… the people of faith into it, you want to… one example where people have done that is Northern Ireland, people went out and they bought in people from both sides, you have priests, Catholic priests, Boston writers, sitting there and each time there is an atrocity in both sides they stood together and they condemned both sides, if there was a post scenario it was condemned as well as in the Catholic area, transposed the Israeli-Palestinians dispute, you just… it happens occasionally but virtually never… it’s not like each time a rocket lands on a Palestinian house and a lot of people are killed, you do not see a Rabbi and an Imam standing together saying this is… you know, this is deplorable nor do you say it when a suicide bomber goes the other way and that… that… until you get that, it’s going to be very, very difficult for everlasting peace to come through.Quesion: Is the Catholic church in crisis?Micklethwait:    I think Benedict is an interesting figure, to the extent that he seems to be interested in the idea of a kind of smaller, more vibrant, more hardcore church.  That seems to be things that he’s aiming for and there’s a concept which people use sometimes in talking about the European Union of a 2 speed Union where you have an internal bit of, you know, within the European Union aside from the fact that the Germans and Belgians, all are kind of pushing together total integration and then you’ll have a 2nd speed of like the British who, sort of, like bits of the European Union but not the whole thing.  And actually if you apply that to Catholicism and I know it’s something of a stretch from one to the other, I think that’s pretty much what Benedict seems to be aiming for, he definitely wants a sort of more Evangelical Charismatic and quite tough minded Catholicism at the center and then he wants a variety of  them of sort fellow travelers around the outside but his focus is going to be on that little bit I think and you could argue that as with the book, we don’t make judgments within The Economist, we do… you know, we couldn’t argue the stuff he said about contraception in Africa totally sort of fits that.Question: How does a down economy affect religion?Micklethwait:    I think there’s 2 bits of that, I think religion will… firstly, religion was doing pretty well before this crisis so you could argue, you know, maybe it’s going to unset it a bit, I suspect probably not, I think… I think, particularly perhaps in America, that element of suddenly kind of personal crisis, people losing their jobs, people being scared, that will, I think probably drive people back to churches a bit, as I said, these things come in waves and my suspicion is that one sort of big evangelical way may just be questing a bit, I don’t know if the economy in some ways will give it a bit more legs.  The other day, I went to Saddleback Church which is a Rick Warren’s church and he was… there was an event which they expected that a couple of 100 people to come to and instead of which a couple of thousand did and I suspect that there might be some element that we don’t know of depression of economics that worked there, people say that the recession is good for movie theaters and churches, that could yet be true.  In terms of religions role in causing the economic crash, I don’t think that even I can… even, like all authors, I’m always desperate to tie things into my subject matter but I can’t quite do that.   Question: How does religion affect the economy?Micklethwait:    There’s a big argument which I think is very relevant to the modern sort of political situation which goes something like this, when people look at forces like globalization and economics, there has been a presumption particularly amongst the business community that the world of the past 100 years, that the debate of the past 25 years, the basic push of globalization because it’s got technology and it’s got economic logic behind it and because of this a billion people have been dragged out of poverty by this thing, if this will continue and yet, you know, there are less rational things at work and religion, I think is one of these.  That’s where it fits into me, it fits in the sense that people will not, in India at the moment, there is an election coming up, they say they will base on the economy but they will also vote on issues about how exactly you treat Islam, how exactly you deal with that.  There are a lot of irrational things at work within politics and that’s what makes it very difficult for people who are purely technocrats to solve and I think particularly in the business community, there is this presumption that if you have economic logic and technology on your side or piety, that in the end, everything is going to be okay and yes, that’s what… my suspicion is yes, it will be okay but that’s my sort of 60% bet, so to speak, but I think there is another… there is a 30% chance, actually something stupid, political, emotional, perhaps including something in religion will intervene, there are strange forces out there at the moment, if you want to particularly… you know, again, I’m not predicting that this is the same, look back at the lot of the literature of all the first World War, you know, people then… just assume even if there was a war, which most people totally assume there wouldn’t be, that it wouldn’t really affect this fantastic period of prosperity that they’ve had before and in fact, actually, they’ve been tumbled throughout of the war into eventually into the ‘20s but then you had the horrors of the Depression.  There are irrational things there, Peter Drucker, the management thinker, had a very nice line once said, you know, whenever economic logic is confronted, I think, it’s politics and nationalism and it hasn’t always been the form of this one and again, I think, that’s... in those cracks where things are appearing and what happens if Iran and America are at the moment.  There is a logical, sort of compromise, to make if you are the [moolims] in Iran.  You’ve gained a lot, you’ve… partly because of G.W. Bush, you have got a lot more power, what do you do with it?  You cash in your chips, that’d be the rational thing to do but how rational are they? Question: Question: Could the Democratic Party become home to evangelicals?Micklethwait:    I think it’s highly unlikely in the short term that the Democrats will be the party of the Evangelical Christianity. I think it is quite likely in the longer term that they will… in fact, it’s already happened, what’s changed if you look back at the different student, John Kerry and then Barack Obama or the sort of people around him, you have Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton very much running, trying to bring in “people of faith,” talking about their own religious experiences in a way that previous Democrats hadn’t.  There was a desperate effort to bring it in, and as I think you indicated, there are these issues that kind of creation care as they call the environment, there’s development poverty around the world, that’s an area where actually there’s a lot of similarity I think between the sort of likes of Obama and Rick Warren, they’re both looking at all these things.  And I think there’s 2 bits going on, on the religious rite, there’s sort of birth what some people call the new new rite which is much… many ways a much more modern, still quite hard, so very hard lined on abortion, still pretty hard lined on gay marriage but certainly has no wish to be seen as intolerant, particularly in young Evangelicals, you get that very, very strongly. That even if they don’t agree with gay marriage, they go out of their way to say that they have gay friends which may sound… it’s the way that people… sometimes intolerant people try to explain things but it is very much along those lines. On… within the democratic side, I just think the levels to which… you know, you have Howard Dean running, I think, in 2002 or 2004 who put the Book of Job in the New Testament, people were… Democrats used to be completely, utterly kind of 'Christophobic' I suppose that’s the word there, they are not obviously, as a religious man but they didn’t try to emanate that. I think now, Obama, very strongly did and that I think you need to do that, given the fact that most Americans, for better or worse, you need to give the impression that their values are somewhat closer to your and there are a lot of issues like poverty, like the environment where absolutely the Democrats are speaking to that.Question: Where is the next big opportunity in the global economy?Micklethwait:    When in times of investment, you’re very unwise to take investment advice from me, you see as a man who invested in [Euro channels] attempt to go through [Chang Tong to get help] necessarily investors to get money. I think in general terms, the way in which the economy is probably going to recover is going to be through a solid, structural industry and things which people really need, that’s pretty much always what happens when economies come back, you’ve seen that this time and you’ve seen it at some level whereby things like consumer goods and stuff like that, people… and people still want to buy and don’t see it as ridiculously expensive to buy Coca-Cola or washing [bottles] or those type of things.  If I had to look for a kind of a particular bit which I would imagine really coming back, I would focus actually on that… that site which I lead a bit earlier, there is a billion people who have been dragged out of absolute poverty into something which is a sort of middle class life, maybe not by American standards but certainly both standards of India, China, Brazil, all those places and that… those are the people who are just beginning to start to buy stuff, you know, they’re the ones who are buying scooters, if not, perhaps cars, maybe the [Tarto Nano’s], the first [nano’s] the one which is going to bring the people in but on the whole, these are people who… you know, they’re trying to invest in their children’s education, they’re trying to spend on their… on stuff, on clothes, on food, on more than just a subsistence level, they are actually trying to invest in what they’re doing and that I think is a broad class of people in which… if companies are aiming at them have done… could do extremely well.  Question: What most surprises you about globalization?Micklethwait:    I think, a thing like globalization is its unevenness, it’s not a… people always assumed it’s a fact, it’s not, again, as I said earlier, business people see globalization as just there and it’s never going away, they should go and read history books very quickly because the answer is, it can get reversed and in the end, globalization relies on political decisions.  It relies on tariffs being down, it relies on people being… and goods being able to cross borders and just to give you a sort of frightening example, what happens if there is a dirty nuclear bomb in Delhi or in Manhattan? What would that do to shipping stuff around the world?  People will be far more paranoid, it’s those sort of things which could yet unstable it, the underlying bits of globalization, I mean, the… I think you have to look at it as broadly as possible, I see globalization as an ever freer movement of goods, capital, people and also ideas around the world and that is generally why, you know, we are hoping, a kind of great, liberal newspaper, that is why we’ve always been sort of four-squared behind it, for us, it’s economic freedom and individual freedom, they don’t absolutely go together but they come from the same source.   Question: How is technology redefining the global economy?Micklethwait:    Ttechnology can also be used to snoop on you, to tell say where you are going, to collect your records, to side even, I mean… you know, difficult things that technology on all this stuff, again, going back to some of the original arguments to do with cloning, to do with you knowing individual things about which genes you have and how you act upon them and that’s going to be both liberating and also in some cases, possibly frightening in even in a sort of Machiavellian way can be frightening.  So all that’s going to go on, I mean, on the whole, technology poses problems but there is never a bigger problem… you know, the worst thing is always to try to pose it.  You know, on the whole, technology should be left to push ahead.  In terms of the stuff that I’m excited about at the moment, I mean, one particular thing which applies to our industry if you want to look at the newspapers and magazines and forgive me for the selfish aspect to it, is I think the whole aspect of about how people will be reading and looking at newspapers and magazines in the future, I think, is very interesting you have to [sort of let it kindle,] what exactly the difference that would make and technology has a way of coming along in either solving problems or complicating them in a dramatic way and that there are huge things to healthcare as well as [going on], it’s fascinating, but it’s much better with technology just to accept its coming even if you’re personally, somewhat technologically inept like I am, this stuff eventually comes through and changes the world. Question: Do you foresee digital readers replacing print entirely?Micklethwait:    I think there is an element, you know, there’s definitely an element of newspapers that suffered a lot just from the straightforward internet, I mean, from people with computers, people want to get information quickly, they’re much more likely to get it by quickly logging on and… in most cases, not even having to log on, it just appears in front of them. Magazines, so far, have been immune to that, [restfully] immune to that because people read magazines sitting back, they’re more… they’re relaxed and the question is whether the next generation of PDAs and things like that will be good enough to replicate that experience, will we end up having a sort of version of a kindle or savvy reader which is sort of foldable or, you know, could fit in your pocket, I don’t know.  But those I think is a good example of how technology could come… one technology comes along, disrupts an industry and another technology comes along and perhaps changes it for the better.Question: Are we finally breaking down barriers to interdisciplinary collaboration?Micklethwait:    I guess, that’s true.  You can have… we have a long special report coming out on The Economist, all about healthcare and technology where you… in a few years… and it features one gentleman whose name I can’t remember but I think he’s now 90.  And 40 years ago, he was talking about the way in which technology should completely transform healthcare and where we’re going to, you’re going to see your doctor, most doctors still write your information on a piece of paper, each time you go to a new doctor, you have to re-enter the whole thing, patient power is going to grow, there… there should be a pretty dramatic change, I think, in terms of, you know, when people have illnesses, they’re beginning already to go to particular websites and picking up particular information whether you’re using science and [people bringing to marked] doctors, how good they are on this and how good they are on that.  And I think beyond that, there’s this simple element of just having a lot of information about you out there which causes some degree of privacy concerns, on the other hand, makes life gigantically easier, if you… if everyone had a card on them which gave 95% of all their available medical information, that would actually make a dramatic difference in anything, like accidents and all that other stuff.  Because of all the tests people now have to run pretty routinely, you wouldn’t need and also on top of that, you’re going to get all the cross disciplinary stuff, look at the research into cancer, a lot of the stuff to do with the cancer, the new thing that they’re looking at cancer involved stem cells. Actually, what is interesting is the big possibly, big breakthrough in cancer came, not from people who are spending their entire time studying cancer, but actually from people who are looking something slightly different. So I think this cross disciplinary aspect of people suddenly being out to jump from bit to bit, I think, is very interesting and a particular thing which worries me a bit is the degree of specialization we increasingly have in the world.  And if people… people particularly in the academic side, people tend to focus on the narrower thing, you know, it’s no longer… you’re no longer an English Literature Professor, you are Jane Austen’s latest 2 novels, because that’s what you specialize in.  And some of that breadth… there’s an interesting contradiction to my mind at least, looking for the answer between… the broadness is often where the bigger ideas are to be found and yet the narrow specialization and I’ll get back to Adam Smith, people are being forced to go into and it’s a tension between those 2 things which I think is fascinating. Question: What’s the biggest downside of globalization?Micklethwait:    I think there are lots of downsides in a sense of individual people who get caught out by this kind of often cruel process, a particular group of people who had always been vulnerable, have tended to be the workers in richer countries who are more vulnerable to foreign competition, you shouldn’t push that too hard, I mean, if you look at most things, there’s been big arguments about wages in America, why wages in America get down and globalization is usually figured to be the culprit and that’s… most of the evidence is no, it’s not.  The real thing which has kept wages down is technology and the problem is that it’s very hard for a politician to blame computers for people’s jobs going off of pressure on wages, it’s much easier to say it’s the Chinese or the Indians but again, just think through your life and if you think about the difference between banks when there were a lot of tellers and now the fact that you have ATMs to go and get stuff, that had a colossal effect on the industry, far greater than, say, NAFTA, which I remember was sort of going through roughly at the same time but NAFTA attracted all the headlines and that’s the problem with globalization, the basic economic logic of it is always disturbed by the politics of how it’s pushed forward.Question: What was the thesis of your book The Company?Micklethwait:    No, I think the basic… It always changes about things but in terms of the basic idea.  What was called “The Company - A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea,” and the basic idea behind it was that actually this boring institution, the company, the joint stock company, actually was a revolutionary technology. It took an idea about a way to run businesses and ways to bring in outside capital and above all the idea of limited liability and that actually completely transformed the world.  If you want an example going back to what we originally said, you know, when the joint stock company first appeared back in, I think, Elizabethan England and then it helped, in many ways, colonized America.  At that precise time, you would argue that the Islamic world had much, much more advanced commercial structures than the European world did, what happened in fact is that Islam got left behind and one big reason for that was they were unable to come up with a structure partly to do with actual reasons to it, religion and inheritance and stuff like that which can actually deal with joint stock companies.  And that made a big difference. I think the company is still an amazing organization, what comes after the current crisis about it is harder.  I mean, you could argue that to some extent when you look at banks, the concept of limited liability hasn’t gone… it has been very limited liability for the people who are on top of them that they… the full way in which capitalism was supposed to work whereby people who did very well were then supposed to lose huge amounts when they went is true, people on top of banks have lost quite a lot of money but there’s still a general feeling out there that people have got a lot for nothing and what intrigues me on that is a particular thing to do with the company with the way we argue is a revolutionary organization, but it’s always relied on some degree of a franchise from society, whenever companies, whenever corporate Catholicism is seen to go too far, in some direction or other, there’s usually, not always for the better, but there’s always been some degree of backlash. There’s always been some degree of we want this back, it’s worth remembering actually.  The companies exist because of the state. They exist because the state decides to give uniquely to a company the concept of limited liability.  If you get bust or I get bust then it’s us personally. A company has that ability just to keep all its debts within itself and the people behind it, not to be hit for the full bill and that is a privilege given by the state and although in general, I’m much more frightened about there being far too much regulation after the particular… this particular episode, we’re still going through… there’s a reason, at least conceptually, to imagine why people might want to re-examine that relationship.Question: What does Gordon Brown want?Micklethwait:    I think what Brown is really interested by at the moment is the global institutions. That’s what he… you talk to Brown and he would argue, obviously to me, that The Economist great argument… in great, great paper of constitutional reform, look at the global institutions and try to work out what, you know, what you should do with them and I think there is… he’s onto something in one way but there’s an inherent tension in it, is that when you look at these organizations like the IMF and the World Bank and so on. There is an element whereby there is an immediate lack of comical… between the two, on the one hand, you have global Catholicism, on the other hand, you have much less impressive global institutions and then you have this global crisis and people immediately say, well, we want to have a bigger… a much more dramatic superstructure to rule the entire thing.  You could see that on the G20 meeting where they boasted the IMF, which I thought was a very good idea particularly for the emerging world, but fundamentally, in terms of that being a global regulatory answer to this crisis, I just don’t think that works and the reason really is due with America. It’s that this crisis began in America, it was… that was absolutely the epicenter so if you have any dreams of a global regulatory running the world, you would have to imagine a system where by the global regulator will be bossing around the treasury and bossing around… and that’s just not going to happen and so to some extent, there’s a… it’s an idea which theoretically, has some degree of attraction but actually, once you get hit by the practice of it, it’s very difficult partly because you just hit a real posse. I cannot see any American president agreeing to have the IMF telling him what to do or telling her what to do.

 

Big Think Interview With Jo...

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