1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Sir John Major’s speech at the Cambridge University Leadership Forum, held at Addenbrooke’s Hospital on Monday 22nd September 2008.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
In life, change is relentless -
That is certainly true of most economic changes over recent decades: not all of them comfortable to our Western prejudices. Here is an irony: first, the West won the philosophical argument for capitalism and free markets: then, many of those whose ideology was lost have ended up benefiting more from free trade than the West.
In the Industrial Revolution, it took Britain and America fifty years to double the income per head of their population: China has done so in ten, and others are set to do the same.
Nor can we comfort ourselves this is simply a phenomenon based on low-
This hasn’t happened because the West became careless -
The moment in 1958 that Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit -
But science has not only changed how we live: medical science is changing the quality and length of our lives. A hundred years ago, no-
Synthetic Biology has brought science and engineering together to design and build biological functions. New technologies are delivering new and better drugs to combat disease, promoting genetic engineering, healthy food, better pesticides, the control and destruction of pollution, and advances in forensic medicine.
Scientists are examining how to combine computer chip technology with pharmaceutical research to target drugs to treat specific parts of the body. Imagine -
A handful of commercial applications are apparent already: nano technology has revolutionised aspects of dentistry, dressings for burns, better sun screen protection. As a layman, it seems to be unbelievably complex: once I learned that one human hair is 80,000 nanometres wide, I realised this was a subject with a potential that is almost impossible to circumscribe.
As science powers ahead there are two consequences we Westerners would be wise to acknowledge.
First, the large financial resources of the developing world enable others -
Fifty years ago, no-
The Soviet Union and the United States were the two super-
Nor did we focus on two socio-
I know that many regard these issues as marginal: a playground for the liberal thinker; easy to put aside. I don’t agree: if we continue to ignore their impact, we will leave a legacy to future generations for which they would be right to condemn us.
NATIONAL RESOURCES AND POPULATIONS
In the last fifty years, the population of our world has grown from less than 3 billion to over 6.5 billion. Most of this population increase is very poor.
It is hard to imagine the disparity between their life and that of someone in our own society -
Here is a cruel irony. As some nations grow and improve their own living standards, they drive up food prices to the further detriment of even poorer nations. The arithmetic is not complicated: if one billion Indians -
That puts up prices -
The rich nations do much to help -
This statistic is even more bizarre when you realise such subsidies cut away the chance for poor nations to sell their agricultural produce -
Now, factor in future growth. Between now and 2050 it is estimated world population will grow to 8 or even 9 billion. This is the equivalent of absorbing two more nations the size of China.
The implications for every human are staggering. At its most basic, let us recognise that the world will need all the food we can grow -
Many opinion formers see climate change as an optional policy, too -
Coal, oil and gas are going to dominate energy supply for decades to come -
Since this is so, the first priority must be to develop carbon capture and storage before it leaks into the atmosphere. And then we need to store it where it is safe -
As dioxides rise, scientists warn of global warming of up to five degrees: this sounds small -
There is much we don’t know. Climate scientists are not able to predict where the flood, or hurricane, or drought risks will be, which does not make it easy to persuade the polluters to stop.
Nor do the time-
Politics offers too many challenges -
We worry about Iraq, Iran, Arab-
We talk sometimes of the Middle East as though it were one problem -
In its diversity, there are tensions between Christian, Muslim and Jew; Arab, Persian, Kurd and Turk; Shia and Sunni; between Monarchies and Republics; Secular and Islamic societies. Some countries have oil, some not. Some are large, others small.
The Middle East embraces nations in which references to the Prophet Mohammed, or the Old and New Testaments, are part of everyday language. For some -
It is a cauldron. It is not a liberal democracy.
As we go forward, the West will need to take account of this. We cannot -
Often we conflate Islam and fundamentalism: and yet fundamentalism is a perversion of Islam, that threatens it as much as us. Bin Laden hates the Saudis even more than he hates the Americans!
It might be a good time to recalibrate foreign as well as economic policy. We have a political genius for compromise -
Not least with Russia. For generations, the Soviet Union was the enemy: the Warsaw Pact and NATO pointed nuclear missiles at one another and a Cold War froze relationships.
Then she imploded. The rump of Russia imploded, too. Then, oil wealth became Putin’s Aladdin’s Cave: a basket case economy became the sixth largest in the world.
It is arguable who started the Georgia conflict: unarguable that Russia over-
How should we react? We can’t be blind to Russian misbehaviour, but -
When Russia interfered over Yukos, Shell and TNK/BP, her own stock market suffered badly. Then came her incursion into Georgia.
(i) In one day the market wiped US$ 16 billion off Gazprom, and US$ 6 billion off Rosneft (State-
(ii) In one week, FEX reserves fell by US$ 16.4 billion.
All this may give Russia pause to think and -
My theme has been that -
Inevitably, there is much I have not touched upon: the high price of oil that will give Sovereign Wealth Funds an extra US$ 1 trillion to invest for every year the oil price stays above US$ 80 a barrel. Nor have I touched on the risks of nuclear or biological terrorism. Or the insecurities created by the arc of uncertainty from Syria to Pakistan.
All these will create headaches for modern governments, but let me add a little balance: despite the economic downturn, we have just enjoyed fifteen years of high growth -
One advantage of global markets is that investment across nations minimises the risk of wars. Science is raising the quality of life. In the last forty years -
China and the US have huge inter-
Sometimes, I think we should be more self-
In a preface to some famous essays, Sir Francis Bacon flatteringly observed to his Patron that “You have planted things that are likely to last”.
So have we -
Through all our history, change has been our ally: if we embrace it in the future as we have in the past -