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Obama's stimulus and the strikers - the 'lines of tribe' quite a way from dissolving


"Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation"
Dennis Leigh

So despite (or because of) a cultural renaissance
of knowledge and skills sharing, empowering new production models, tools and methods of quite historic proportions, we face a collapse of the banking infrastructure, and the fundamentals of economic orthadoxy. The Obama administration's 'Buy American' clause in the US $900bn stimulus package to ban buying materials and services from foreign companies, like the walkouts over foreign labour in the UK is understandable, if misguided. For we are midway through a shift, it seems, from a society dependent on fiscal capital, to one - with such uncertainty in the markets - built around social capital. If not permanent it is at least the best way to survive a downturn. It is a system which already powers much of the web - from the open source Apache servers, to the Firefox browser, to Youtube videos and Wikipedia pages.

"We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve"
President Obama
A shift to protectionist policies, or the drawing of a dividing line between British workers and European workers is a reaction to the faults of the old system, but seems oddly out of time with the new order. This week alone I've sold books in the US through our US distributor and sales partner, I've renewed a domain name through our Californian web host (and been blown away once more by the quality of their service), paid for templates from a US design company, and shared my private financial data with a US feature filmmaker considering self publishing his book.

It's this sharing of resources and ideas that the web does so well, and simultaneously removes any sense of geographic or nationalistic isolation. As Obama said so brilliantly in his inauguration, "We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself". Yet the currently planned clause in the US bill demanding that all stimulus spending goes only on US sourced materials flies against that, and suggests that rather than help steer the world economy into a new age, America would be seeking to exploit the downturn to strengthen her own position. Given that much of the problems we are facing began in the US mortgage and sub-prime market, its a move that is a little uncivil and - like his silence over Gaza - could weaken the weight of his powerful words. Likewise the worker strikes misdirects anger about the total mismanagement of our economic system at workers who are much like us, rather than the overpaid long-lunchers under whose watch the mess took hold. 

blossom2_mikelens.jpgMandelson is right, we can work anywhere in Europe and should make the most of this, while embracing the happy truth that as more and more business goes online, many of us can in fact work anywhere in the world. If we are indeed shifting to a society held together mainly through social capital - the currency which glues most of the creative, charitable and civil sectors, not to mention your family and social network and the web/open source (and the third world) - then all these movements - from Obama, the stirkers and the factory bosses who are not vauling their local staff, runs against the grain of these times and smells more than a little like dinosaur.

(Creative Commons flickr photos from a 'spring' search by Mikelens (bottom) and Spisharam (top))