Examination of Witness (Questions 60 -
WEDNESDAY 2 FEBRUARY 2000
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
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
63. The reason I pursued that was because in
your own mind, clearlyand the book I shall read with great
interestyou 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
A. I think you misunderstood me. I have not
explained myself properly.
66. Page 7, "European Youth in a Different
Age." However dressed upand I agree with you it is
dressed up in a particular wayat 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
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
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
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
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
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
Thank you very much.
2 In the event, the witness did not supply a supplementary