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9/23/2020 3:47:02 PM
Posted: 12/21/2009 3:12:12 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/21/2009 3:13:36 AM EDT by M-1975]
A little cynicism from across the pond. Interesting comments to this article in the link.


There is scope for debate – and innumerable newspaper quizzes –
about who was the most influential public figure of the year, or which
the most significant event. But there can be little doubt which word
won the prize for most important adjective. 2009 was the year in which
"global" swept the rest of the political lexicon into obscurity. There
were "global crises" and "global challenges", the only possible
resolution to which lay in "global solutions" necessitating "global
agreements". Gordon Brown actually suggested something called a "global
alliance" in response to climate change. (Would this be an alliance
against the Axis of Extra-Terrestrials?)

Some of this was sheer
hokum: when uttered by Gordon Brown, the word "global", as in "global
economic crisis", meant: "It's not my fault". To the extent that the
word had intelligible meaning, it also had political ramifications that
were scarcely examined by those who bandied it about with such
ponderous self-importance. The mere utterance of it was assumed to
sweep away any consideration of what was once assumed to be the most
basic principle of modern democracy: that elected national governments
are responsible to their own people – that the right to govern derives
from the consent of the electorate.

Nor was much
consideration given to the logical conclusion of all this grandiose
talk of global consensus as unquestionably desirable: if there was no
popular choice about approving supranational "legally binding
agreements", what would happen to dissenters who did not accept their
premises (on climate change, for example) when there was no possibility
of fleeing to another country in protest? Was this to be regarded as
the emergence of world government? And would it have powers of policing
and enforcement that would supersede the authority of elected national
governments? In effect, this was the infamous "democratic deficit" of
the European Union elevated on to a planetary scale. And if the EU
model is anything to go by, then the agencies of global authority will
involve vast tracts of power being handed to unelected officials.
Forget the relatively petty irritations of Euro‑bureaucracy: welcome to
the era of Earth-bureaucracy, when there will be literally nowhere to

But, you may say, however dire the political consequences,
surely there is something in this obsession with global dilemmas.
Economics is now based on a world market, and if the planet really is
facing some sort of man-made climate crisis, then that too is a problem
that transcends national boundaries. Surely, if our problems are
universal the solutions must be as well.

Well, yes and no.
Calling a problem "global" is meant to imply three different things:
that it is the result of the actions of people in different countries;
that those actions have impacted on the lives of everyone in the world;
and that the remedy must involve pretty much identical responses or
correctives to those actions. These are separate premises, any of which
might be true without the rest of them necessarily being so. The
banking crisis certainly had its roots in the international nature of
finance, but the way it affected countries and peoples varied
considerably according to the differences in their internal
arrangements. Britain suffered particularly badly because of its
addiction to public and private debt, whereas Australia escaped
relatively unscathed.

That a problem is international in its
roots does not necessarily imply that the solution must involve the
hammering out of a uniform global prescription: in fact, given the
differences in effects and consequences for individual countries, the
attempt to do such hammering might be a huge waste of time and
resources that could be put to better use devising national remedies.
France and Germany seem to have pulled themselves out of recession over
the past year (and the US may be about to do so) while Britain has not.
These variations owe almost nothing to the pompous, overblown attempts
to find global solutions: they are largely to do with individual
countries, under the pressure of democratic accountability, doing what
they decide is best for their own people.

This is not what Mr
Brown calls "narrow self-interest", or "beggar my neighbour"
ruthlessness. It is the proper business of elected national leaders to
make judgments that are appropriate for the conditions of their own
populations. It is also right that heads of nations refuse to sign up
to "legally binding" global agreements which would disadvantage their
own people. The resistance of the developing nations to a climate
change pact that would deny them the kind of economic growth and mass
prosperity to which advanced countries have become accustomed is not
mindless selfishness: it is proper regard for the welfare of their own

The word "global" has taken on sacred connotations. Any
action taken in its name must be inherently virtuous, whereas the
decisions of individual countries are necessarily "narrow" and
self-serving. (Never mind that a "global agreement" will almost
certainly be disproportionately influenced by the most powerful
nations.) Nor is our era so utterly unlike previous ones, for all its
technological sophistication. We have always needed multilateral
agreements, whether about trade, organised crime, border controls, or
mutual defence.

If the impact of our behaviour on humanity at
large is much greater or more rapid than ever before then we shall have
to find ways of dealing with that which do not involve sacrificing
the most enlightened form of government ever devised. There is a whiff
of totalitarianism about this new theology, in which the risks are
described in such cosmic terms that everything else must give way.
"Globalism" is another form of the internationalism that has been a
core belief of the Left: a commitment to class rather than country
seemed an admirable antidote to the "blood and soil" nationalism that
gave rise to fascism.

The nation-state has never quite recovered
from the bad name it acquired in the last century as the progenitor of
world war. But if it is to be relegated to the dustbin of history then
we had better come up with new mechanisms for allowing people to have a
say in how they are governed. Maybe that could be next year's
global challenge.

Link Posted: 12/21/2009 3:53:07 AM EDT
I think this was on here last night in another thread
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