There'll be Nowhere to Run From the New World Government

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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.

The dangerous
idea that the democratic accountability of national governments
should simply be dispensed with in favour of "global agreements"
reached after closed negotiations between world leaders never, so
far as I recall, entered into the arena of public discussion. Except
in the United States, where it became a very contentious talking
point, the US still holding firmly to the 18th-century idea that
power should lie with the will of the people.

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 run.

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.

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the rest of the article

December
25, 2009

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