So what’s wrong with the world?
If you’re a longtime reader of Barataria, you know that I have more than a few quirks. One is that in times of trouble, I always go back to the basics, the fundamental. This is part of my instinct as an engineer to hunt out the errant assumptions or whatever caused the problem.
Before I go much further in the topic I am considering, introduced in the last post, I’d like to lead you down my trail of logic – or lack thereof. Feel free to comment on any point of this which you think is weak or just plain wrong.
The basic premise is that globalization, as we know it, is not working well for many people. It’s certainly brought great material wealth to the developing world and raised billions out of poverty. But that does not mean that people are happy, especially in the developed world.
The growing backlash against globalism is a product of a general unease.
Here is the chain of logic which I have been following to understand this problem in more detail, and more importantly find potential remedies. I realize that nearly everyone has a solution in search of a problem, and we are all prone to fall back on what we think are best practices when things get bad. I think this is not a simple situation, but most likely a complex one that is emergent. Let’s call that the base assumption.
I believe that truly open markets where people freely exchange their time and money for what they desire not only function well, but are essential to a democratic and open society. That is not to say that they cannot be augmented with a strong safety net for the vulnerable, but the core of any free people’s economic system is an open market with equal access to all. Let’s call this my basic political position from which I am arguing, a classical liberal perspective.
Equal access to markets has many requirements. These include information about the state of the market, general knowledge of how it works, and guarantees that everyone has the same chance to participate.
Open markets are not a natural state of anything. They have to be created by general social agreement. The process of creating them includes many things people rely on, such as a stable means of exchange (money) and free flow of information. But in all cases, markets which are truly open for all on a level playing field are created by agreement, tradition, law, and support from institutions such as government.
As markets spread beyond one cultural group, tradition and agreement break down. Different cultures have different definitions of “fair” and other basic social norms.
Nearly any breakdown in agreement or tradition necessitates an increase in law, or the more forceful application of agreements from the top down. Something as complex as a market will invariably create some conflict that, if the parties involved cannot resolve it themselves, will have to be resolved by other means.
Globalization, as we have come to know it, has necessarily required massive intervention by governments to force compromise definitions of basic market concepts so that they can function across borders.
The process of top-down rule-making has indeed included tipping the scales in favor of those with resources to influence the decisions, but most importantly has created a perception that every single aspect of the process has been performed to benefit the most powerful to many people.
The only alternative, to those who see this as a power grab, is to put a stop to all aspects of a global open market.
The opposition to this perspective is weak at best, generally relying on staying the course and generally avoiding any discussion of how the current situation has preferentially benefited the most powerful and wealthy.
Because of this, the most vocal opponents of globalization, especially those with a conspiratorial bent, have come to dominate politics in the developed world and are the only ones with any solid answers to those who feel that change has been too fast or simply oppose the increasingly top-down appearance of the entire system.
In order for people around the world to truly seize the opportunities created by globalization, everyone has to be much more honest about these problems, willing to discuss them, and much more insistent that basic democratic principles apply generally. The approaches based on law and rules, well intentioned as they may or may not be, are simply a barrier to equal access and are necessarily seeping in to local markets as global integration proceeds.
Given the needs of any market, especially the more intense those needs become as it becomes more open, the only alternative to top-down rules and laws is an increase in general agreement among all people, regardless of culture, and the establishment of strong traditions which are inclusive of every cultural perspective.
These agreements and understandings start at the most basic level of human interaction, including not just what is fair but what is ethical, moral, and decent.
Therefor, in order for people around the world to seize the process of global integration and make it truly open and democratic, there has to be a broad definition of every aspect of morality, at least across cultural lines, which is generally agreed upon by all participants, all around the world.
What do you think? I very much would love to know your thoughts on this topic. Thank you.