Jeremy Warner: The parable of the global-trotting brussel sprout and why we need to think locally
A NUMBER of years ago, a story went around that sprouts were being transported from across Britain to an airport, from where they were sent to Poland for washing and packaging before being air-freighted back again for sale in supermarkets located but a few miles from where they were grown.
This is an extreme example of the sometimes insane supply-chain dynamics of modern-day globalisation, but it speaks loudly to widespread disillusionment with the once-unquestioned blessings of free trade. From the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements of the US to the renewed rise of populist politics in Europe, the backlash is everywhere to be seen.
In real terms, Americans are on average no better off than they were 30 years ago; in Britain, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that our real disposable incomes are in the midst of a 14-year freeze. Vast tracts of gainful employment in textiles, potteries, shoe-making, machine tools and many other industries have disappeared, to be replaced by… well, not very much at all outside the now languishing financial services industry and the housing market.