Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 60 - 78)



  60. What is the answer?

  A. It could not have been made 200 years ago, therefore it is the consequence of the social-economic conditions of the last 200 years. You cannot take the consequences and then use them as a justification because that is mixing up cause and effect.

  61. Who will buy Amazon books in 20 years' time?

  A. The market will be different, it could be smaller, it could be exactly the same size but it is not geographically located. 20 per cent of the world's population live on less than a dollar a day, they are just somewhere else.

  62. Most people I have talked to on the technology side and on the content side all tell me one of the features of this information age, whatever you want to call it, is that in many respects it is more accessible to a bigger proportion of the population and more people are able to engage in entrepreneurial activities than in the past.

  A. What we are saying is the winners and losers will be different. I am using the term elite in terms of the winners. I am not saying that people who are rich today are the elite. The people who force themselves to win in the new economy are the elite.

  63. The reason I pursued that was because in your own mind, clearly—and the book I shall read with great interest—you are seeking to observe the nature of evolving e-commerce and communications. When a thinking person like you and I use words like "elite" it is clearly extremely important to us. I have to confess I having listened to you for the afternoon and I still do not understand your concept of elite.

  A. Winners then, just use the word winners.

  64. They are different people.

  A. They are not yesterday's winners.

  65. I do share one thing with you, I found this was a typical EU document but as a political and social agenda rather than anything else. Taking a concrete point that has been referred to earlier, you did move from what you now say to be your concept of elite, which is different from what I understood earlier, and you used that as a basis for saying that there is no point in governments or anybody seeking to ensure that the vast majority of people do have the means of access to the new technologies.

  A. I think you misunderstood me. I have not explained myself properly.

  66. Page 7, "European Youth in a Different Age." However dressed up—and I agree with you it is dressed up in a particular way—at the end of the day do you think the British Government, which is one of these governments, are wrong to seek to ensure that our schools, our children and our students as the next generation going through do have ready access to communication technologies?

  A. That is where the elite comes from. Equal opportunities is fundamental. This is what Lord Mackay called the equal opportunities, to make yourself unequal. It is the unequal, to identify these unequal people there has to be equal opportunity. It is the question of how you perceive it. The ideology behind putting computers in school is not about making people unequal it is saying everyone gets the same. That is what I have a problem with.

  67. Where does it say that in the document?

  A. Then, of course, how much do you spend? Once you have identified this new elite then you actually make sure they have extra special equipment so that they can create all of the new products rather than have this bog-standard flat set of technology.

Viscount Brookeborough

  68. I think your book, The New Barbarian Manifesto, and the elite are one and the same thing and they are barbaric. They are totally self-centred, they have no social responsibility. I do not think any nation which is democratic is going to permit it. This is all slightly futile because you are choosing people out of schools, you said yourself, to select them, to be barbaric and once you have them as a government you are selecting them but you, under your terms, want them to have no allegiance to any government, to go out into the world, to forget where they came from and not to have social responsibility. I do not think that is a formula that is going to happen. It is shown partly by Bill Gates in that he is not that way inclined, he is ready to help socially as and where he can. He gives mammoth fortunes into doing it. It cannot be totally without regulation that governments, nations and countries will do it. I agree that this is thin, but---

  A. I think they are barbarians and they are coming. One of the political structures under threat is democracy itself. If you look at the 16th/17th century philosophers, who actually talked about democracy, they said democracy could not happen because ultimately the masses would vote largesse for themselves out of the public purse and then the whole system would collapse.

Lord Woolmer of Leeds

  69. Do you think, Professor, in China these technologies are an enemy to democracy or a help to them?

  A. Democracy is secondary to this.

  70. You just said to us these technologies threaten democracy. I said, in relation to China and India, particularly China, are these technologies helping democracy for the next generation?

  A. I think it is destroying democracy. Democracy is actually bad for business.

  71. My God!

  A. It is basically a problem.

  72. In China?

  A. Everywhere. If you take a wrong sized community, that means that the vast majority are actually detrimental to the economic creation of wealth. If they choose the political leaders, the political leaders have to support the losers. When you have a political elite opposed to an economic elite the economics always wins or there is a collapse. Basically the politics and the economics have to be in tune. Democracy can only work in a right sized community, in a wrong sized community it will cause a feedback of disaster for that community.


  73. Can I come back to the European Union?

  A. An accident waiting to happen.

  74. In a sense you are going through the document and knocking everything on the head and saying, "It is not worth pursuing." You did raise what I saw was a positive issue, right at the beginning, you talked about a Bill of Rights. I am just wondering maybe we can conclude on this, on a positive note, where we might all be together, is this a Bill of Rights for individuals that you have in mind?

  A. Yes and companies. Particularly focused on the idea of tax and IPR.

  75. Have you done any work on this Bill of Rights? I was wondering whether you might be interested in putting in a piece of paper.

  A. I could certainly start thinking about it. This is something I threw in basically because I see it as part of the reason why the Americans are doing so much better than everyone else. I am trying to look at the market and say, "Why are they so successful?"

  76. That is what this Committee will be trying to do as well.

  A. It is the sense that the devil takes the hindmost. If you are successful they actually allow you to keep the profits. That is slightly changing now because President Clinton started doing daft things in 1994 when he introduced an exit tax, which is why the heir of the Campbell Soup fortune went to live in Ireland, because he did not want to pay taxes in North America. It is not all rosy over there.

  77. One can see that in a country which does not have a Data Protection Act in the way that we have, and we have a Directive coming as well from Europe, there has been quite a substantial shift in the States about privacy from individuals concerned about what is happening on the internet. The recent survey undertaken by Andersen Consulting was quite a surprise. Whilst there is still a majority opposed to any legislation in the States there has been a big shift, a second thought, so to speak, about whether they have gone down the wisest course. That has come from individuals, not just from the masses as you like to call them. You have been very generous with your time, I wonder if there is any last contribution you would like to leave with us?

  A. No, other than to say really it does require a totally different mind-set because using thinking that is based on the institutions of the industrial age will misinterpret what is going on. A theory is not only a way of seeing, it is also a way of blinding you to what is going on. Much of what is obvious in economics is based on production processes of an age that is no longer in existence. We really do have to find a new way forward and this is what I have tried to do in this book. This book is basically my nightmare. I like it in Britain, I want it to be a hot spot. I am trying to write down everything that I think is going to turn it into a cold spot and that is what really worries me.

  78. On behalf of the Committee, Professor, thank you very much indeed for giving us so much time and also for your book, which I am sure my colleagues are going to take away and read.

  A. It is not for bleeding hearts.

  Chairman: Finally, could I just say if you have some further thoughts on what you described as your throw away point on the Bill of Rights, if you would care to reflect on that and perhaps drop a note on that, we would be very happy to hear from you[2]. Thank you very much.

2   In the event, the witness did not supply a supplementary memorandum. Back

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