It is well-known that Covid-19 has set back the cause of globalisation. It is ironic that the first truly universal event demanding absolute world cooperation has had the opposite effect. A decent leader of the western world might have seen it work as it should. The idiocy of the USA quitting the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the middle of a pandemic illustrates better than almost anything else how stupid human beings can be when pushed. If the planet survives, I think it will be a lesson passed down the ages – until a generation refuses to believe there was a madman at the helm capable of doing such a thing.
There are very good reasons for what has happened, of course. They are called elections and a primitive form of democracy determines a kind of Gadarene advance into tribal warfare every few years in which the physical victims are mostly the police. But everyone suffers in a stampede of those willing to do the worst and most difficult jobs on earth. Elections mean that you vote for the people you think are most likely to hand out goodies to you – and to fire off the most powerful weapons they have at anybody else.
Global cooperation does not figure in election manifestos except as rhetoric.
There is a glimmer of light on the horizon, one that may not be there for all that long. It is the need to stop destroying the planet. The first step in that direction is to cease ruinous exploitation in an effort to out-perform other countries. Virtually every single league table published is about how successfully the countries in it have wrought a level of extraction to enrich themselves at the expense of the good earth we share. That we don’t seem inclined to demonstrate our willingness to share does not alter the fact that it is yours as much as it is mine. And vice versa.
There is now an overwhelming case for a strong global institution to handle climate change, as Martin Wolf points out in his current FT article. (I hope someone is putting his articles together so that they can be used for teaching. They combine practicality with wisdom.) But it must not go the way of the WHO. Its constitution must include commitment by the signatories for a long period of time. Moreover, there must be some relationship between this, and any other global institutions, and the voters in each member country. Not, I suggest, a direct relationship but some way in which an ordinary voter can effectively express a view about the institution’s performance.
There should be an increasing number of other global institutions, introduced at a pace the intelligent ordinary person can grasp the significance and importance of such moves. They should deal, perhaps in this order, with world economics, global trade, global health, human rights, global nutrition, controlling WMD, country sovereignty. We do not want World Government – that has been shown a number of times. It may come one day, but our method of selecting between the bribers and the bombers has to be refined substantially before that happens.
Until then a fairly simple solution would be to have a Senate, in whatever form each country wants it, of a very few wise people elected by the whole electorate of the country on the basis of world, not country, interests to a world audit forum of not more than three hundred whose job would be to monitor and performance audit the global institutions. Whether the world is ready for this or not, we are in the middle of proving that we need it.
The monumental task of setting something like this up pales into insignificance when we realise that pandemic Covid-19 may be the first of many such events happening fairly soon. The world as we previously knew it was not equipped to deal with it and fell to squabbling about Huawei as a distraction from the real issues. How disgraceful was that?
Grand scheme? Endless politicking? Too many civil servants? Hotbed of corruption?
Yes, all of these. All scary.
So you suggest a better idea?