Globalisation is a fact of life. We live in a global village. But, as always, we need to try to be sure of our facts. There is much debate over the effect of globalisation.
Many say globalisation is the end of the nation state
The idea that globalisation is rendering the nation state irrelevant is held by many people, including scholars. Nation states no longer control financial exchange rates. The world economy or regional economies have taken over. Modern communication enables the movement of huge amounts of money around the world in a moment. International firms can be based in one country, manufacture goods in another, keep their capital in another and hire people in another depending on what seems most advantageous to them.
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Union made a controversial speech in 2010 in which he said that “the time of the homogenous nation state is over … In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion – it is a lie … The biggest enemy of Europe today is fear. Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war … Today’s nationalism is often not a positive feeling of pride in one’s own identity, but a negative feeling of apprehension of the others.”
Dr Myrto Tsakatika, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Glasgow presented a paper in 2002 about the legacy of the “Monnet Method.” Jean Monnet was one of the founding fathers of the European Union. Dr Tsakatika described how Monnet worked on the principle that economic and other close co-operation in the EU would lead to “the inexplicit and gradual redirection of competencies from the national centres to a European centre, in the process of which vague amounts of sovereignty would pass from one level to the other.” To put it very simply, through economic and similar co-operation members of the EU would ‘sleepwalk’ into political union. This shows the possibility of the world drifting into globalisation in a way which could undermine democracy.
Prof Jean-Marie Guehenno wrote a book entitled The End of the Nation-State in which he wrote that we are in a new age of economic globalisation and worldwide information technologies. This new age makes boundaries irrelevant. Instead of nation states he believes in a network of networks.
Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery wrote: “The multinational economy, the social media, the fight against deadly diseases, the civil wars and genocides, the environmental dangers threatening the entire planet – all these make world governance imperative and urgent – yet this is an idea whose realization is still very, very far away.”
In December 2102 the US National Intelligence Council produced a report entitled “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds.” In passing, it is interesting to note that it refers to events which could cause worldwide disruption:
• Severe Pandemic with millions dying within months
• Much more rapid climate change
• Euro/EU collapse
• A democratic or economically collapsed China
• A nuclear war or weapons of mass destruction/cyber attack
• Solar magnetic storms which knock out satellites, the electric grid, and many sensitive electronic devices.
• A collapse or sudden retreat of US power which would probably lead to global anarchy.
It goes on to predict possible world scenarios in 2030. Firstly, it includes the possibility of large scale conflicts leading to a “complete breakdown and reversal of globalisation.” Secondly, it includes the possibility of the US, Europe and China co-operating to stop a large scale conflict “broadly leading to worldwide cooperation to deal with global challenges.” Thirdly, it includes the possibility of a world where inequalities dominate leading to political and social tensions.
Finally, it describes the possibility of “a Nonstate World.” It adds: “In this world, nonstate actors—nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), multinational businesses, academic institutions, and wealthy individuals—as well as subnational units (megacities, for example), flourish and take the lead in confronting global challenges. An increasing global public opinion consensus among elites and many of the growing middle classes on major global challenges—poverty, the environment, anti-corruption, rule-of-law, and peace—form the base of their support. The nation-state does not disappear, but countries increasingly organize and orchestrate “hybrid” coalitions of state and nonstate actors which shift depending on the issue …. Even democratic countries, which are wedded to the notion of sovereignty and independence, find it difficult to operate successfully in this complex and diverse world multinational businesses, IT communications firms, international scientists, NGOs, and others that are used to cooperating across borders and as part of networks thrive in this hyper-globalized world where expertise, influence, and agility count for more than ‘weight’ or ‘position’.”
Robert Kaplan, who was a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, wrote in 1994 about the “increasing erosion of nation-states and international borders” in much of the developing world. It is caused by “disease, overpopulation, unprovoked crime, scarcity of resources, refugee migrations” (often caused by environmental factors such as deforestation, soil erosion, water depletion, air pollution and rising sea levels). He spoke of “the withering away of central governments, the rise of tribal and regional domains … and the growing pervasiveness of war.”
He says that the world has been moving from nation-state conflict to ideological conflict and then to cultural conflict. The real borders are seen as those of culture, religion and tribe and they do not coincide with existing state borders. So, for example, much of the Arab world will undergo alteration, as Islam spreads across artificial frontiers. It is interesting that he adds that “Israel is destined to be a Jewish ethnic fortress amid a vast and volatile realm of Islam.”
Immanuel Wallerstein who was Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, believes that the nation-state system no longer works and that it will break down in the next 25 to 50 years and there will be a time of great conflicts and disorder.
Others say globalisation won’t eradicate the nation state
On the other hand, Professor Kenneth Waltz calls globalisation “the fad of the 1990s” and points out that ‘globalisation’ is leaving out most of Africa and The Middle East. He claims that there was no greater economic interdependence in 1999 than in 1910. He added “The range of government functions and the extent of state control over societies and economies has seldom been fuller than it is now.”
Martin Wolf, associate editor and chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, writes: “Contrary to one common assumption, the modern form of globalisation will not spell the end of the modern nation-state.” He adds: “Globalisation does not make states unnecessary. On the contrary, for people to be successful in exploiting the opportunities afforded by international integration, they need states at both ends of their transactions. Failed states, disorderly states, weak states, and corrupt states are shunned as the black holes of the global economic system.”
Professor Peter Drucker writes: “Since talk of the globalisation of the world’s economy began some 35 years ago, the demise of the nation-state has been widely predicted. Actually, the best and the brightest have been predicting the nation-state’s demise for 200 years, beginning with Immanuel Kant in his 1795 essay “Perpetual Peace,” through Karl Marx in “Withering Away of the State,” to Bertrand Russell’s speeches in the 1950s and …Despite all its shortcomings, the nation-state has shown amazing resilience … So far, at least, there is no other institution capable of political integration and effective membership in the world’s political community. In all probability, therefore, the nation-state will survive the globalisation of the economy and the information revolution that accompanies it. But it will be a greatly changed nation-state, especially in domestic fiscal and monetary policies, foreign economic policies, control of international business, and, perhaps, in its conduct of war.”
He added: “There is certainly need for moral, legal, and economic rules that are accepted and enforced throughout the global economy. A central challenge, therefore, is the development of international law and supranational organizations that can make and enforce rules for the global economy.”
What, then, is the effect of globalisation?
We have noted that the idea that globalisation is leading towards the end of the nation state is controversial. But it is clear that globalisation is going on. The real controversy is about how much it has undermined the sovereignty of the nation state. Despite what Kenneth Waltz writes, it seems clear that there is growing interdependence between nations and there has been a growth of transnational and international organisations. There is also an increasing amount of international law. Modern communication and travel have made the world a global village.
Professor Dani Rodrik writes that the idea that globalisation has condemned the nation-state to irrelevance is a myth. It was national governments who bailed out the banks in the 2008 financial crisis. National governments are re-writing the rules on financial market supervision and regulation. He adds: “Indeed, the erosion of the nation-state ultimately does little good for global markets as long as we lack viable mechanisms of global governance.”
However he continues: “We should not entirely dismiss the likelihood that a true global consciousness will develop in the future, along with transnational political communities. But today’s challenges cannot be met by institutions that do not (yet) exist. For now, people still must turn for solutions to their national governments, which remain the best hope for collective action. The nation-state may be a relic bequeathed to us by the French Revolution, but it is all that we have.”
Jayantha Dhanapala, who was Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations, writes: “Globalisation is an ongoing process, not a completed condition. Against the grand tapestry of history, it has arguably just started. It has grown from a purely economic or technological concept and now implies evolutionary change on a cultural dimension as well. Information communicated through modern print and electronic media is not just affecting commerce, but shaping world-views, relations inside families, and attitudes of citizens to the state. The process, however, has still not significantly touched an extraordinary proportion of humanity and hence has not yet truly earned its title, globalisation …. Nor has globalisation ushered in a golden age of world peace. In the decade since the end of the Cold War, over five million people have been killed in armed conflicts around the world — that is about a million more than the entire population of the state of Colorado. Today, the world is now spending around $800 billion on defence expenditures, over 90 percent of the levels spent during the Cold War. There also remain an estimated 30,000 nuclear weapons that, if used in a global conflict, could eliminate all the various gains of globalisation in just a few minutes.”
Professor Richard Brinkman wrote: “It appears arguable that “[w]hile the nation-state is far from finished, there is good reason to doubt that states hold the monopoly power within the politics of globalisation” (Holton 1998, 106-07). This is not to deny that currently the sovereignty of the nation-state is on the wane and while not dead is experiencing decline.”
How should we regard globalisation?
It is not necessary to see all trends towards world government as part of some sinister conspiracy but it could lead to oppressive results. As Dr Seth Baum, Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, says: “A global government might begin benevolent, but it could turn sour, even becoming the oppressive disaster that the conspiracy theorists fear. And if it does, there would be no other government out there to keep it in check … if we do end up with an oppressive global government, it would probably follow from an initial, benevolent global government.”
The possibility of world government being oppressive and undemocratic is one of the main concerns and we are seeing growing power of the state over its citizens. Martin Wolf writes: “Ironically, the technology that is supposed to make globalisation inevitable also makes increased surveillance by the state, particularly over people, easier than it would have been a century ago. Indeed, here is the world we now live in: one with fairly free movement of capital, continuing (though declining) restrictions on trade in goods and services, but quite tight control over the movement of people.”
Threats to Democracy: Surveillance
Recent developments are a cause of concern. One report is that MI5 and GCHQ have been allowing their staff to intercept communications between clients and their lawyers. Yet the right to confidentiality between client and lawyer is one of the most long-standing and has always been regarded as inviolable in English law.
In September 2014 the UN received a report from Ben Emmerson QC the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. It stated that the fact that intelligence and law enforcement agencies could have access to the communications of every internet user “amounts to a systematic interference with the right to respect for the privacy of communications, and requires a correspondingly compelling justification.”
The report stated that “Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is the most important legally binding treaty provision guaranteeing the right to privacy at the universal level. It provides that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home and correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation”. It further provides that “everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
Emmerson goes on to say: “The suggestion that users have voluntarily forfeited their right to privacy is plainly unwarranted … It is a general principle of international human rights law that individuals can be regarded as having given up a protected human right only through an express and unequivocal waiver, voluntarily given on an informed basis. In the modern digital world, merely using the Internet as a means of private communication cannot conceivably constitute an informed waiver of the right to privacy under article 17 of the Covenant.”
He concludes: “The prevention and suppression of terrorism is a public interest imperative of the highest importance and may in principle form the basis of an arguable justification for mass surveillance of the Internet. However, the technical reach of the programmes currently in operation is so wide that they could be compatible with article 17 of the Covenant only if relevant States are in a position to justify as proportionate the systematic interference with the Internet privacy rights of a potentially unlimited number of innocent people located in any part of the world. Bulk access technology is indiscriminately corrosive of online privacy and impinges on the very essence of the right guaranteed by article 17.In the absence of a formal derogation from States’ obligations under the Covenant, these programmes pose a direct and ongoing challenge to an established norm of international law.”
At around the same time, the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, addressed the Tory Party Conference about the danger of Islamic State militants even seizing nuclear weapons. She said she wanted to revive the Communications Data Bill requiring companies to keep records of people’s internet, email and mobile phone activity, but not their contents, which was abandoned by the government in 2013. Commenting on that Bill, Dominic Grieve, ex-Attorney General, said: “Any restriction on freedom of expression of individuals outside the criminal law is something that has to be approached with very great caution.” Also David Davis, the former shadow Home Secretary said: “These are quite incredible powers to limit democratic rights, rights that people have had for 200 years in this country. It will have real trouble both getting through the House of Commons and indeed real difficulty standing up in front of the court.” It is disturbing, therefore, that the government is persisting in trying to pass such a bill into law.
In July 2014 the House of Commons approved The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill which 15 academic experts in technology law, in a letter to MPs, described as “a serious expansion of the British surveillance state.”
Andrew Caplen, President of the Law Society, commented: “We are concerned that introducing emergency legislation does nothing to enhance the rule of law or address the fact that we are increasingly becoming a ‘surveillance society’.”
In June Vodafone, revealed the existence of secret wires that allow government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks, saying they are widely used in some of the 29 countries in which it operates in Europe and beyond.
Tony Porter, the UK government’s Surveillance Commissioner, commented on the 50,000 government controlled roadside cameras: “There is a very real risk that if systems aren’t adhered to, innocent members of the public could be put at risk of having their privacy impacted upon… There are other concerns that have been expressed … the large data-grab of information and the period of retention of that information.”
So, alongside the development of globalisation we have governments challenging established norms of international law by their sweeping surveillance programmes.
Threats to Democracy: Changes in world politics
In September 2014 Amol Rajan, editor of the The Independent, wrote an editorial in which he said “We have entered a post-American age. Two of the biggest and best ideas that the United States has stood for – liberalism and democracy – are in retreat around the world.” He continued that since the late 20th century “Democracy has taken a pounding. Illiberal powers such as China and Russia are in the ascendant; the Arab Spring was a crushing disappointment; Turkey’s increasingly despotic leader has left Indonesia as essentially the last big Islamic democracy; and a deep antipathy towards political elites has taken hold in Britain, France and America, making governing them very difficult.”
Threats to democracy: Political use of the threat of terrorism
There is, of course, a serious threat of terrorism but there is also a danger of such a threat being used, deliberately or unintentionally, to undermine the rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens. In 2010, the all-party parliamentary committee on human rights concluded the following: “Since 9/11, the government has continuously justified many of its counter terrorism measures on the basis that there is a public emergency threatening the life of the nation…we are concerned that the government’s approach means, that in effect, there is a permanent state of emergency and that this inevitably has a deleterious effect on the public debate about the justification for counter terrorism.”
The main problem with world government, however positive the motives for setting it up, is that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The Corruption Perceptions Index 2014 published by Transparency International “paints an alarming picture. Not one single country gets a perfect score and more than two-thirds score below 50, on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Corruption is a problem for all countries.” The UK gets a high score (78) but there have been stories of corruption in the Westminster Parliament in recent times. We have noted the dangers inherent in growing surveillance, and in seeking to combat the threat of terrorism. We have also seen that illiberal powers such as Russia and China are in the ascendency.
It seems clear from the teaching of Scripture that, however altruistic their motives may be for setting it up, human beings cannot be trusted with world government. The trend towards it in our global village can be seen as preparing the way ultimately for the Antichrist. We have looked at both trends towards and hindrances to world government but conclude that in the long term the trend towards it will dominate. Despite current controversies and Euroscepticism it does seem possible that, in the long run, the “Monnet Method” (drifting into globalisation in a way which could undermine democracy) could prove successful, even on a global level, driven by the need to co-operate over economics and security etc.