Globalization’s expansion is rampant, and its consequences are being felt everywhere. Money sloshes from shore to shore. Crime syndicates become multinationals. Trade patterns gyrate and jobs spring in and out of existence. Immigration and the media blur cultural boundaries. Terrorists infiltrate and create havoc. The World Wide Web provides instant gratification. And the future no longer resembles the past.
Globalization disrupts traditional ideas, challenges cultural identity, exposes acts of degenerate human behaviour that few knew about a generation ago, and clouds our self-images. Our national identities are waning. Once, we looked to the past to define what is important; this is becoming harder and harder to achieve and justify. Old information becomes obsolete, old ways become inefficient or ineffective, and old religions seem unable to cope. Conflicts between ideas, cultures and faiths erupt everywhere.
However globalization is not all doom and gloom. To me, it is little more than the industrial revolution being applied world wide. As it was occurring, the industrial revolution was thought by many to be a detrimental development—introducing new ideas, instituting different methods and means, and forcing people to change their traditional manner of earning a living. Nonetheless, few today would deny that it bought great benefits to humankind. In industrial societies, since the 1870s the average life expectancy has nearly doubled, working hours about halved, years of schooling tripled, and the range of consumer goods immeasurably increased.
However, the industrial revolutions that occurred in various countries were simple compared to globalization because each took place within the confines of a nation’s traditions and laws. No such regularizing principles govern the globe’s activities. So we cope. Each nation does its best to patch up and modify existing structures. Organizations, municipalities and schools educate their employees, citizens and students, showing how different cultures can live together in harmony. Minority opinions are given full weight in crafting legislation. Institutions of global scope such as the International Criminal Court, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the European Union, and others of their ilk, are established, adjusted and strengthened. Nations meet to draft international standards, revise trading practices, debate subsidy elimination, enact pollution-limiting laws, constrain land and ocean harvesting, and so on. Immigration policies are developed, money-laundering controls formulated, child labour laws sanctioned, statements of people’s rights prepared, and more.
Behind the bustle of activity associated with the machinery of globalization one senses an ideal—the unformulated, perhaps unrecognized, notion of what is best for humankind. This notion should be made clear to all, so that it might properly influence what is occurring. For instance, a global legal system is emerging and, certainly, one global legal system will eventually have to be created—but ad hoc, in disconnected units, as is now being done? Sub-committees of various international organizations are hacking out multiple statements of right and wrong, seemingly unconcerned about the need for consistency and unification. This is producing a series of disjointed compromises (few of which will fit seamlessly together) and creating a tangled playground that high-priced lawyers of the future will have to unravel.
Much the same is happening with respect to trading practices and human rights, to name just two examples. This multiple approach toward global standardization may be expeditious, but it clearly cannot be the best way to proceed. Far better would be to first develop a centralizing universal purpose, one that encapsulates a grand vision of what human life is aiming toward. Working backward from a single desired goal is how supporting sub-goals and “right” actions are properly developed; it is the only way international laws and controls can be linked rationally together.
To grow as living organizations (whether as individuals, companies or as nations) we must provide the condition that life demands—the freedom to exploit available resources. And this condition must be fostered world-wide. Encouraging growth within one’s own country while neglecting or suppressing it in others will inevitably generate significant disparities and problems associated with inequality. Global media networks, which show the world what some, but not all, possess, turn this prediction into a certainty.
A world view of “correct” behaviour and a global legal system are important pieces of the solution, but they cannot be forced upon all nations. Perhaps a world federation with appropriate admission standards might be developed, much like the European Union where countries desirous of participating must first arrange their affairs to conform to certain principles. These admission standards, for reasons that were developed in Life And Exploiting, must centre upon the provision of freedom for individuals and organizations to exploit, but they must also include democratic measures to control exploitive excesses of any kind, wherever they occur, in any of the member countries.
Concomitantly, if we recognize that every individual is a potential contributor to life’s well-being, we must provide as many equalizing social programs as we can afford without jeopardizing the operation of the other (means- and money-generating) conditions. These three ideals—freedom to exploit, democratic control of excesses, and social progress—can be imagined to be corners forming the base of a triangular pyramid. The pyramid’s apex represents the vision that guides our decision making—the vision that tells all where we intend to go, and why these three ideals form the base as our foundation. Hopefully, a federation built in this way, and that begins as a relatively small group of nations, might end up becoming a global amalgamation of civilized countries.
History tells us how we have solved problems of excessive exploitation in the past. There is no reason to think that similar solutions can’t also be utilized in the future, once we learn how to apply them on a larger scale. Legislation enacted by an elected parliament has typically been our method of control, and is likely to remain so. Thus, global law, seeking to regulate nations, their institutions, and their citizens, enacted by elected representatives, must become a reality before a working global civilization can be fully realized.
But how realistic is it to expect any nation to subordinate itself to an international body of law as matters stand today? The United States, Russia, China, or, for that matter, any nation, would never let troops of an international agency, even one seeking to uphold “global law,” intrude upon their institutions without retaliating. In our conventional view of the world, national interests are paramount, and such interference is unthinkable. But it need not always be so.
Willingness to abide by international regulations by all people, at all levels, and in all walks of life, depends upon these individuals believing such precepts to be more important than other desires or demands. A belief that life’s continuation—our children’s children’s future—is more important than our country’s shorter-term goals (or those of any of its organizations), may give rise to such a willingness, were it made the bedrock of global law.
Stable societies eventually enact laws which parallel those taught by their nation’s significant religion. Globalization can only succeed if the same principle is applied globally. Loyal Rue recognizes this in the concluding chapter of his book, By the Grace of Guile. He writes that a “robust moral order” which embodies a “core of (shared) moral values” is needed to attain and sustain social “coherence and stability.” Exactly so.
One overall vision, generated by a belief in the importance of some meta-purpose, together with an accompanying definition of what this rationally means (the “universal purpose”), must guide global law-making. Only this kind of focusing foundation can integrate, then ensure wide spread recognition and acceptance of the validity of such legislation.
- See “Is Economic Growth Good for Us?,” a public lecture given by Professor Nick Crafts to the Royal Economic Society, December 4th, 2002.
For background material, see Nicholas Crafts, “UK Real National Income, 1950-1998: Some Grounds for Optimism,” available at http://www.ise.ac.uk/Press/currentNews/crafts.pdf.
- In the meantime, companies conducting international business frequently opt to be governed by Vienna Sales Convention rules, rather than the often less-rigorous laws of their own country. Many claim that a comprehensive global trading standard is sorely needed.
- “Economic” refugees, much in the news of late, are just one example of what can result.
- Loyal Rue, By the Grace of Guile, 275.