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Speaking to sixth-formers at Portsmouth Grammar School


Portsmouth’s long association with British naval history is very evident today.  It also has a hovercraft service to the Isle of Wight and a busy harbour.  More importantly, it has a very good school, Portsmouth Grammar School, which invited me to address sixth-form students.  They were preparing for A-levels in diverse subjects including mathematics, economics, politics and history.  As is my norm with schools, I spoke for just under 20 minutes to leave plenty of time for questions.

In one question I was asked if joining the global economy was degrading the life of people in poor countries, as the industrial revolution is sometimes alleged to have done in Britain.  I replied that I thought both were untrue.  Pre-industrial life in Britain was not some rural idyll, but a life of degrading toil, squalor, starvation, disease and early death.  Life expectancy was in the low 30s.  The cramped city housing they moved into for factory jobs represented a step up.  Soon they were able to afford decent clothes, furniture, pottery and most importantly, they didn’t starve.

Similarly those in developing countries who move into manufacturing are advancing their quality of life, not degrading it.  They earn more, eat more, and have better access to healthcare and education.  Globalization has lifted more people from subsistence and starvation in two decades than has ever happened before in human history.  Over a billion people in China and India have been lifted into decent lives that abound with opportunities for advancement.  In my book that makes globalization one of the best things that people have done.


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