Opinion | Plan C (or When bigger ain’t better …)
Recently thousands of smiling Danes flocked to Copenhagen’s harbor to gawk at something that made most of you swell with pride – and not a few of you a bit uneasy. The ‘Maersk Majestic’ is huge! Gigantic! Langeland can’t be much bigger! And to think this tiny country is assembling a fleet of these monsters! Of course, when the first rush of patriotic pride begins to diminish, and we once again modestly admit that the giant was built with Chinese and American money in South Korea. And as for jobs on board, it’s manned by a tiny crew of just 22, some of them no doubt low paid foreign sailors like the rest of the Maersk fleet, we begin to wonder just how Danish this mountain of iron and rivets really is. For if we only talk about size, surely Denmark ought to be allowed to produce something extravagantly showy for once, something that says to the world, “You’ve mocked the size of our mermaid long enough!”
If only it were that simple. If only it were a matter of – if not Mine is Bigger than Yours – than at least – Mine is Impressive, too.
But the sad truth is the new floating symbol of Danish technological prowess and financial muscle is something that is making the world worse off – much worse! The ‘Majestic’ and its sister ships are slowly but relentlessly freighting the world to an unsustainable imbalance that threatens to destroy a decent standard of living for billions worldwide.
This calls for a plan
At the moment, as we in the West ever more desperately scrounge for vanishing jobs as entire industries disappear, we must acknowledge that the last few years have taught us that encouraging real economic revival has proved extremely difficult. Plan A (A for Austerity?) has obviously gotten us nowhere.
Hundreds of Plan Bs have been suggested and a few tried, with US President Barack Obama proposing yet another one, Plan Barack, to the foot-dragging American Congress. But no matter how many Plan Bs are proposed or even successfully implemented – which is highly unlikely in the current climate of bald men fighting over a comb – the underlying economic problem will continue far into the future – for no matter what Americans and Danes do Asians can do just as well and cheaper. And what possible help is it if Americans and Europeans are, in fact, better innovators, if Asians can steal patents as well as the patenters – for now they are even stealing the very best jobs from those very best minds we brag about having?
Here in Denmark electrical and computer engineers are losing their jobs by the hundreds as their jobs are being farmed out to Asians. A good education, a highly skilled technical education, is now by no means a guarantee of a job or a comfortable life in the West. Chemists, metallurgists, computer programmers, engineers, aircraft, car and windmill designers are all now joining the ranks of the unemployed in America and Europe.
The hideous choice the Western world faces is to either accept lowering our standards of living to that of the third world, with the accompanying total lack of unions, job security, health care, decent pensions, pollution and job safety controls etc – or to bravely resort to perhaps the only thing that will work – Plan C.
When East beats West
Before we discuss Plan C let us acknowledge that the globalisation of business has helped bring countless millions out of abject poverty and possibly mass starvation in the East. Never have so many people risen from below the poverty line so quickly. A miracle unmatched in human history is occurring. Yes, many would also point out that what a vast majority of Asians have risen to is also a life of factory slavery where they are treated as less valuable than the machines they man.
But be that as it may, a bad job is better than no job, just as bad food is better than no food. But while the East rapidly changes for the better – at least as far as employment is concerned – the West is collapsing just as fast. The West can now offer the world nothing that East cannot produce cheaper – and soon even better? But as for now, what good does it do the West monetarily if our faltering innovations can be so easily stolen and replicated? And perhaps more importantly, what real good does cash-rich Apple mean to America and not just to Apple’s shareholders, if all of Apple’s products are made in China? Pride of inventive accomplishment puts food on only a few tables at home.
Perhaps the only thing that can save jobs and ensure a decent standard of living, not only in the West, but in other non-Asian areas of the world, is Plan C.
C in short stands for Cure, for Containment, for Continents and for Container ships.
Although it may seem like biting the hand that literally feeds me – Maersk owns Denmark’s biggest super market chains – I must reluctantly point out that although Maersk is the pride of Denmark, its pale blue ships crowding every major harbor of the world, the line is working hand in hand with Walmart to destroy every decent job in America and the Western world.
Can anything be done? Yes, something that is as effective as it is unpalatable and unlikely to be implemented. Yet it is the only thing that might work.
Plan C calls for the containment of container shipping and the containment of continents. If the world were to initiate, let us say, in a decade, a system where the only shipment of goods allowed between continents are raw materials and unprocessed food if factory-made products are confined to their own continent, each corner of the world would be left to develop in an equal way. Why shouldn’t the residents of South America build their own TVs, computers, cars, plastic sandals? Why shouldn’t the Africans, the Europeans?
By stopping all manufactured trade between continents we ensure that the best minds do not fear the loss of their jobs, nor will one area of the world become solely dominant both politically as well as economically.
The East now knows how to grow and prosper, so a quarantine will not permanently derail progress and growth. They have enough citizens to satisfy demand for their products.
Plan C’s call for the end of container shipping between continents is the only option and alternative available to the loss of jobs to an area of the world where workers toil in sweat shops for pennies, and force us to pinch our own.
Finally, a containment of container shipping would save the world millions of barrels of oil burned and wasted by these highly polluting ships possibly decrease somewhat the risk of terrorist madmen smuggling nuclear bombs to our shores in a container.
What is so hare-brained about a scheme that would save millions of jobs, promote equal and balanced economic as well as political world development, save enormous amounts of oil, as well as cut back drastically on air pollution?
Plan C is unlikely to ever be implemented. But not because it wouldn’t work.
In the meantime, as we gawk in wonder at the enormous floating investment, let us never forget that ‘Majestic’ is related to royalty and kings. And kings cannot exist without enough peasants.
The author is a writer.