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On paradigm shifts and global governance

An intriguing article that gets at the natural disjunct created by the gap between national political accountability and an increasingly globalized world in which so many other things move across borders.

National Governments, Global Citizens by Dani Rodrik – Project Syndicate.

This is complicated enough in the context of tangibles. It gets infinitely more complicated in the jurisdictional nightmare that is the internet. We use it so intuitively and without thought, and yet our laws and systems have no way to contain, with any real effectiveness, the ease of information flow through borders that are permeable at best and irrelevant at worst.

Rodrik posits an intriguing vision that moves away from the current path we’re on, in which global governance arises out of bodies like the G20, in which the member representatives are there on behalf of state interests, but thanks to indirect accountability, the sense of legitimacy of these sorts of bodies as a whole remains weak and shadowy. Instead, he proposes the idea of reframing national interests in the context of a global vision.

I admit I really like this idea. Part of the problem with groups like the G20 is that they are more about representing national interests in the context of each other, and working together for outcomes that support this. This isn’t problematic in one sense. After all that’s why we don’t have one global nation–because national interests, arising out of regional issues as well as cultural paradigms and so on, are sufficiently diverse as to require representation (and, more cynically in the case of some countries, there are the issues of the sovereignty of power and dictatorship).

But, thinking from a state-based paradigm means that the planet as a whole is going to lose out every time: the best interests of each component part are rarely going to be the same thing as the best interest of the whole. When it’s a state-to-globe orientation, the jockeying for those individual interests are at the forefront.

If, on the other hand, there were the possibility of looking at the big picture, the larger good outcome–a globe-to-state orientation, as it were–and trying to find a state-based Pareto optimality from that perspective instead, the future would feel so much more optimistic.

I don’t know if it will happen–I don’t know what would persuade state-appointed representatives, whose authority, no matter how indirect, derives from individual member states, to reorient their thinking and move towards that global perspective. Perhaps, as Rodrik implies, it might come about if there is enough mobilization around the world and enough demand from the ground up for this shift in thinking.

A strong majority, at every level, would have to say “I don’t mind getting a slightly worse deal, if if means a better outcome globally,” and would have to clearly pass that mandate up the chain of command. If any link in the chain is not onside with that vision, that willingness to give and be somewhat worse off in support of the larger, global gestalt and well-being, then the overall shift in orientation becomes ever more unlikely. It’s possible, yes.

Is it likely? Maybe not. But I can’t help but wish it were.


2 comments on “On paradigm shifts and global governance

  1. Lorinda J. Taylor
    April 6, 2013

    This article interests me because it reflects closely the future I envision in my science fiction novels. After a total global meltdown called the Second Dark Age, the nations of the Earth debate global unity for a century before putting it into effect at the end of the 27th century. I specifically make the point that the citizens of Earth had to agree to give up certain rights and prerogatives in order to make unification work. Click the tab My Future History on my blog to learn more of my views.

  2. Susan
    April 6, 2013

    Thanks for stopping by to comment, Lorinda. I’ve pulled up your link and will go check it out shortly. But yes–this is exactly the issue. At this stage, we’re all so caught up in our conveniences, luxuries and habits that the prospect of giving up some of those seems too onerous for many.

    I do sometimes wonder how close to a meltdown we have to come before a change like that can come about–or whether, as you speculate in your work, it would end up manifesting of necessity, on the far side of some such global disaster. The other work that comes to mind on this topic is _A Canticle for Liebowitz_. As the saying goes, “each time that history repeats itself, the price goes up”. Alas.

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This entry was posted on April 6, 2013 by in Governance, Policy.
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