Open v closed divide some thoughts

Open v closed divide some thoughts

The Open vs Closed Divide: Exploring Modern Politics

Open and closed sign

In today’s political landscape, the divide between open and closed has become more prominent than the traditional left and right divisions. This distinction encompasses both economic openness, such as immigration and free trade, as well as cultural openness, embracing diversity and inclusivity. The concept of open vs closed politics has gained traction, supported by a recent opinion poll commissioned by the think tank Global Future. The poll revealed that the divide is not only generational but also a defining characteristic of open-minded and closed-minded voters.

The Force of the Open vs Closed Argument

The open vs closed argument holds significant weight, as evidenced by major political events. Donald Trump’s victory in the American presidential election by espousing nationalism under “America First” rhetoric is a clear example of the closed mindset prevailing over Hillary Clinton’s globalism. Brexit, too, saw the British public opting to “take back control” from the European Union, illustrating a desire to challenge the perceived closedness of the EU.

However, it is crucial to exercise caution when applying the open vs closed framework too rigidly. The dichotomy presents a simplistic view of a complex reality. Those who champion the open side of the spectrum do not always consider diverse viewpoints, nor are closed advocates completely resistant to openness. Various factors demonstrate that not all aspects align seamlessly with the open or closed category.

The Complexity of Openness and Closedness

The first challenge lies in defining open and closed as absolutes. Very few individuals advocate for an entirely open or closed society. Instead, most people perceive these concepts as points on a spectrum rather than opposing absolutes. Moreover, one can argue that having strong borders can be seen as a way to manage openness effectively. History reflects this idea, with many prosperous commercial centers throughout the ages, such as Constantinople and Athens, combining the traits of openness with the safeguard of walls.

Additionally, different forms of openness do not always converge. For instance, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, supports open attitudes towards lifestyles and immigration but emphasizes economic closedness, advocating for national ownership of utilities. On the other hand, many Brexiteers may align with closed positions on cultural issues like gay marriage and immigration, while still supporting foreign ownership of British companies.

Singapore serves as an international example of the complexity surrounding openness and closedness. The city-state boasts a highly open economy for global commerce while simultaneously employing carefully managed and controlled aspects, demonstrating a highly qualified openness.

The Limitations and Nuances of Open-mindedness

Another crucial aspect to consider is that self-proclaimed open-mindedness may not extend to ideas that individuals disagree with. Often, tolerance and inclusivity only apply to concepts that align with personal beliefs. Various instances demonstrate this phenomenon, such as radical students refusing to provide a platform to speakers with differing opinions. Moreover, unspoken biases and prejudices create closed-mindedness, making it difficult for conservative academics and students to express their views without fear of professional repercussions.

The Changeability of Attitudes Over Time

Presuming that people will maintain the same attitudes as they age is an oversimplification. The Global Future report assumes that increasing openness among future generations is inevitable due to the older, closed-minded individuals dying off. However, attitudes often change over time as responsibilities, and circumstances evolve. Young people without significant obligations tend to embrace more permissive attitudes towards behaviors like drugs or social disruptions. Conversely, those who have purchased homes, committed to careers, or started families develop more conservative perspectives.

Interests and Circumstances Shape Openness and Closedness

Ultimately, people’s support for openness and closedness depends on their personal interests and circumstances. Individuals tend to favor openness only if it aligns with their economic benefit. Those who support globalization often possess skills in high demand and can adapt to changes in the global marketplace. The policy implication, then, becomes the need to invest in education to provide more people with the skill set necessary to navigate the complexities of a globalized world successfully.

However, less altruistic reasons contribute to middle-class support for openness. Many professions intentionally create barriers to global competition through various forms of rent-seeking. By shielding themselves from global forces, they can endorse openness while protecting their own positions and assets. Examples include the financial services industry, which turns to national governments for bailouts during economic downturns and actively engages in lobbying efforts to maintain their privileges.

The Illusion of Openness in Various Spheres

The illusion of openness can also be found in various sectors and institutions. Universities, often celebrated for their progressive values, demonstrate complexities in their own practices. Although they pride themselves on their bohemian and open-minded ethos, attaining tenure, a coveted position offering lifelong job security, creates a closed system. Universities function as modern-day guilds, granting membership based on academic achievements and adherence to academic norms. Additionally, the academic publishing industry capitalizes on academics’ need to publish for career advancement, leading to the proliferation of specialized, and often unnecessary, journals.

Moreover, towns with significant concentrations of knowledge workers often grapple with strict planning laws that drive up housing costs and restrict access. These regulations protect the interests of certain groups, further emphasizing the self-interest and closed practices within seemingly open-minded communities.

The Meritocracy Divide: Exams and Beyond

While the distinction between open and closed holds some merit, a more effective lens to examine modern politics is through the prism of meritocracy. The divide between those who pass exams and those who do not showcases a more comprehensive framework. Passing exams grants access to careers shielded from the downsides of globalization, with ample job opportunities in sectors protected from global competition. Additionally, those within this meritocratic circle often develop a narcissistic cosmopolitanism, solidifying their shared perspective through university experiences.

Conversely, individuals who fail exams experience a more precarious world, vulnerable to the shifting tides of globalization. This group fosters a sense of resentment towards the self-satisfied elites who claim to be open-minded while safeguarding their own positions. As a result, there is a growing willingness among these individuals to disrupt the status quo.

The Future of Openness and Closedness

In the coming years, support for open economies among the middle class may shift drastically due to two significant factors. Firstly, advances in technology, such as automation and artificial intelligence, will replace many cerebral jobs. Secondly, individuals from emerging economies, educated to Western standards, will increasingly compete for jobs traditionally held by the middle class. As a response, middle-class protectionist sentiments are likely to rise, challenging the traditional support for open economies.

In conclusion, while the open vs closed framework offers valuable insights into modern politics, it is crucial to acknowledge its limitations and complexities. The dichotomy does not neatly encompass the full range of attitudes and beliefs held by individuals or various institutions. Examining politics through the lens of meritocracy provides a more comprehensive understanding of the motivations and divisions in today’s society. Only by recognizing the nuances and interconnectedness of these issues can we truly grasp the intricacies of modern politics.