BOOK REVIEW

All Connected Now
by
Walter Truett Anderson

FUTURECASTS online magazine
www.futurecasts.com
Vol. 4, No. 6, 6/1/02.

Homepage

Accelerating change:

  With "All Connected Now: Life in the First Global Civilization," Anderson provides a broad survey of the globalization process. He goes beyond the usual economic aspects - and even beyond the political and social aspects - to cover biological, epidemiological, ecological, and information aspects as well. He offers a description of accelerating processes of change - wisely avoiding predictions of ultimate outcomes.
 &

Perhaps even more than the explosive growth and availability of information, the increase in interconnection - in links between economic, political, cultural and biological systems - is driving a complex array of changes in many ways that are beyond our understanding.

  The division of the book into four separate categories of globalization - economic, political, cultural, and ecological/biological - is for purposes of analysis and presentation only. In reality, these aspects of globalization are all thoroughly interrelated and inseparable - "all of a piece." For example, ecosystems are being constantly changed at an accelerating rate as things move about the world. They are "altered and re-altered by interactions of human economics, human politics, human culture."
 &
  Anderson properly stresses the "communications" aspects of modern information/communications technology. Perhaps even more than the explosive growth and availability of information, the increase in interconnection - in links between economic, political, cultural and biological systems - is driving a complex array of changes in many ways that are beyond our understanding.

  This is a fine, thought-provoking book - useful for all who wish to keep abreast of their rapidly changing world - and well suited for inclusion in the supplementary reading lists of pertinent economics, political science and sociology courses.

  Plants, animals and microorganisms now rapidly commute about the world - diseases emerge from longtime confinement in limited regions - and global climate change, ozone depletion, ocean pollution and species extinction are all evidence of the extent to which every individual is impacted by the activities of everyone else. New technologies spread rapidly. Increasingly, people all over the world are becoming aware of influences on a global scale. 
 &
  And it has all been accelerating - at exponential rates.
Currently driving this acceleration is human mobility, information technology, communications technology, genetic information, international civil organizations, and international trade and investment.
 &

"Creative destruction" undermines companies, governments, cultures, ecosystems, lifestyles. It generates anti globalization forces - and vast new opportunities for those alert enough to recognize and take advantage of them.

  We have entered an age of open systems, Anderson emphasizes. 

  "There are no longer any closed cultural systems in the world, nor are there any closed biological systems; every culture develops new points of articulation with other cultures, every ecosystem is visited by exotic foreigners and affected by global events such as climate change. The boundary conditions of all living things are altered by new technologies such as organ transplantation and genetic engineering. - - - We now live in a new world of dynamic, open systems, in which boundaries shift, open, fade, even disappear entirely, and new, often strange linkages are made."

  The political and economic implications are clear. A globalized world requires more global policymaking. A world of open boundaries requires new awareness of new possibilities and problems. "Creative destruction" undermines companies, governments, cultures, ecosystems, lifestyles. It generates anti globalization forces - and vast new opportunities for those alert enough to recognize and take advantage of globalization.
 &
  Even opposition to specific aspects of globalization takes place through and thus furthers other aspects of globalization.

  "Specific manifestations of it may be guided, shaped, governed, and conceivably even reversed, but the larger process is no more reversible than evolution itself."

Awareness:

  By the end of the 20th century, the existence of a global civilization "was an obvious reality, as a result of escalating changes in the world's economic, political, cultural, and biological systems and, no less important, increasing recognition of such changes."
 &

 

 

Man no longer treads lightly upon the earth - and is increasingly aware of his environmental impacts - and of the environmental interconnections of the globe and all its life systems.

  Anderson provides a brief review of these changes. The end of the Cold War and the appearance of new information and communication technologies greatly accelerated the process.

  • Military: The author views the Cold War as an entirely new type of conflict. It was certainly different from the first two world wide conflicts of the 20th century - the unlimited savagery of WW-I and WW-II.

  However, as fought, the Cold War was just a reversion to the types of limited war conflicts that predominated before the Napoleonic Wars ushered in an age of unlimited war. The only real change was that it was the risk of nuclear warfare that served to keep the military aspects of the Cold War conflict limited in scope. 

  • Politics: Despite failures and difficulties, "systems of global governance and politics proliferated through the final decades of the [20th] century."
  • Culture: "Print culture" has been supplemented by "electronic culture," "surging through an ever growing new system of symbolic communications" - now viewed not as a static entity, but as dynamic, continually re-creating in ways that reflect popular needs and experiences. It includes "the sum total of all the symbols - - - that are flowing over the wires and through cyberspace, stored in libraries and printed in newspapers, and passing between people in the billions of conversations - - - and being continually reinvented in the minds of individuals who experience them."
  • Biological change: Man no longer treads lightly upon the earth - and is increasingly aware of his environmental impacts - and of the environmental interconnections of the globe and all its life systems. His environmental impacts march "hand in hand with the growth of global environmental politics and governance."

  "The environmental movement ended the century as a major political and social force, global in scope. It is of course not a unified or internally consistent one, and the global politics of environment are at least as confused and contentious as other kinds of global politics. But the appearance of such a movement and its continuing success in mobilizing public opinion signify an evolutionary turning point no less momentous than those associated with the age of exploration."

  • Economics: The extent to which national economies are now linked worldwide are reviewed (and somewhat overstated).  Recent financial crises, Anderson correctly points out, have emphasized not so much a need for international regulatory super agencies as the need to eliminate particular governance weaknesses within the particular nations that became a part of those crises. For example, many nations are now finally enacting bankruptcy laws and establishing bankruptcy courts.

  However, the lack of rule of law and enforceable property rights remains a widespread problem as does a wide variety of other weaknesses of economic governance afflicting individual states.
 &
  It is obviously true that national economic systems are increasingly linked and impacted by worldwide conditions. However, strong national currencies can still shield national economies from the worst aspects of financial crises sweeping nations with soft currencies -- and good economic governance at the national level still determines relative prosperity and separates the prospering nations of the world from the poorly governed impoverished and stagnant nations. The various governance strengths and weaknesses that predominantly influence the varying economic performance of individual nations are correctly acknowledged by Anderson, but this is not an economics text, and the particulars are beyond its scope.

International trade:

  International trade linkages have a long tradition. Human trade is evident throughout human history (and prehistory, too). For the last two centuries, trade policy has been torn between protectionist and free trade arguments and interests.

  Trade liberalization and technological advances since WW-II have together removed barriers to international commerce. Multinational corporations proliferated and grew in importance. The end of the Cold War permitted a great expansion of globalizing trends. Although many barriers remain, the current system "is the most open system that has ever existed."

  The recent Bush administration turn towards  protectionism for steel and agriculture constitutes a triumph of political expediency over national interest. The current turn towards protectionism remains far from the trade war dimensions that prevailed before and during the Great Depression - and the U.S. market remains the most open of all the major nations. However, if this protectionist trend continues, it can ultimately bestow upon the nation and the world its next severe depression.

  Money pegged to gold has been replaced by money pegged to the dollar and other hard currencies which are, in turn, pegged by market disciplines more ruthless and uncompromising than the gold standard abandoned in 1973. The softest currencies are left to float at the mercy of merciless markets - with ruinous rates of inflation whenever discipline flags. "All countries are now on what financier Walter Wriston has aptly termed the 'information standard' - and on it whether they want to be or not."

  There are advantages and disadvantages to both fixed and floating currencies. Anderson correctly notes that the influence of the global money markets vastly increased after 1973, but the technological advances that he cites actually had less to do with this increase than the removal of gold as a barrier to market fluctuation. Fixed prices kill trading markets - until it is suspected that the fix can no longer be sustained.
 &
  There were many - including learned economists who should have known better - who were jubilant at the abandonment of the gold standard. These people were incredibly ignorant of the fact that gold was actually a shield from market disciplines. During times of crisis, gold temporarily permitted recourse to some discretionary political policies that otherwise would have been immediately punished by the money markets. Because it then had such a huge gold hoard, this "temporary" shield lasted for the U.S. for more than two decades after WW-II.
 &
  A fixed currency also permits nations with less reliable monetary histories to access otherwise closed sources of credit at materially lower borrowing costs. Fixed currencies thus face far less rigorous market disciplines - but when lack of discipline is sufficient to cause collapse, their failure is then far more financially traumatic. Floating exchange rates limit the financial holes that irresponsible governments can dig themselves into before the market reacts.

International governance:

  Global governance is an increasingly elaborate "system of systems." It is largely unplanned and constantly evolving - although planned and official initiatives remain an important part of the process. Few people are even aware of more than a few aspects of the global governance complex - and even fewer have even a general understanding of it.
 &

  The increasing points of international interconnection combined with the inevitable emerging of new problems and conflicts, inevitably generate new arrangements of governance to deal with them.

  "Multitudes of governance systems come into being, change, overlap, sometimes conflict. They perform as many different kinds of activities and interact in as many different ways as the myriad organisms in an ecosystem. Among the players in this huge global ecology of governance are nation-states, regimes, international organizations, NGOs, transnational corporations, the international news media, and various networks and global markets that have quasi-governmental functions."

  Nation states "remain the key element of the global system." Starting at the end of the 19th century, an increasing number of international regulatory arrangements and agencies were created for the transnational management and control of economic, social and cultural processes. These were joined by  military treaties, associations based on prior imperial influence, various regional groupings of  nations, and broader international governmental organizations like the UN and WTO.
 &
  Increasingly complicating this structure are the thousands of international NGOs - secular and religious, licit and illicit. Other factors include the multinational corporations, the communications media, networks like traditional international commodity and money markets, the world wide web, and loose alliances of mutual interest - global "public policy networks" - comprised of international government as well as corporate and other private agencies with similar interests.
 &
  A prime example of the latter is the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research ("CGIAR"), "arguably one of the most important contributions of global governance to human welfare world wide, considerably more productive and successful than many richer and better-known institutions." (CGIAR is proof of the proverb that enabling people to produce their own food and other necessities is better than handouts.)
 &
  Increasingly, officials and participants in all these agencies and factors interact across national boundaries with those of similar interests.
 &

International human rights:

 

 

 

 

&

  Internationally recognized human rights is a concept that "has not yet fully displaced the old one of national sovereignty and power politics." However, it has clearly made great strides, and Anderson is confident it will eventually be widely established and will "create a global civilization worthy of the name."

  With the proliferation of nuclear weapons, there are in fact increasing numbers of nations - with their ongoing disputes - that cannot be subjected to international physical interventions justified by concepts of international human rights or war crimes violations. Indeed, freedom from international meddling is a powerful incentive for joining the nuclear club.

International culture:

 

"Pluralism" describes a world of cultural open systems, in which we are far from neutral about our values and beliefs and arts and customs, in which all cultures continually change and interpenetrate, and in which no culture is nearly as pure or separate as purists and separatists would like to believe.

  Global culture is a process of transition - proceeding from traditional cultures to cultural "hybridizations" that are infinitely variable in content and direction.

  "As information circulates ever more freely, all the things we subsume under the heading of 'culture' become less isolated and distant from one another."

  The internationalization of sports is a primary example of cultural globalization, and "language interpenetration" is one of its most significant. Responses to this diverse phenomenon vary widely. Especially in the religious context - but also in tribal and ethnic contexts - fundamentalists battle - sometimes fiercely - to block and even reverse this process.
 &
  Anderson rejects both orthodoxy at one extreme and moral relativism on the other in favor of a pluralist view.

  "Pluralism -- not relativism and certainly not homogenization -- is the essence of the global culture. It describes a world of cultural open systems, in which we are far from neutral about our values and beliefs and arts and customs, in which all cultures continually change and interpenetrate, and in which no culture is nearly as pure or separate as purists and separatists would like to believe."

International civil society:

 

NGOs spread concepts of self governance since members  govern their own organizations.

 The spread of voluntary international nongovernmental organizations operating on democratic principles spreads concepts of individualism since people join as individuals rather than as members of tribes or communities. It also spreads concepts of self governance since members are responsible for working out their own systems of organizational governance. It also spreads concepts of world citizenship - "a sense of being a member of the global polity with a right, even a moral obligation, to take some active part in it."
 &
  These organizations represent, among other things, the "growth of a global civil society."
 &

Internationally impacted biosphere:

 

Man has become the major force in the "never-ending process of transformation" inherent in ecosystems.

  Man has for millennia been transporting other life forms - both deliberately and accidentally - as he travels about the globe. He has become the major force in the "never-ending process of transformation" inherent in ecosystems. Anderson provides an extensive chapter on the characteristics, benefits and problems of this process. What is new is its modern acceleration.
 &
  Biosphere change is also being driven by changes in habitat
- worldwide as well as local. The chemical and physical characteristics of the waters, surface and atmosphere of the earth are increasingly impacted by man's activities - and are becoming important issues of local, national and international governance.
 &

International information flows:

 

 

The information revolution has produced something quite new:  "(1) the knowledge that an extensive and growing system of global communications exists and (2) the idea that information is something of value."

 The familiar ground of modern information technology and global information systems, and their manifold impacts on all aspects of modern life, are outlined. The information revolution has extensively altered governance and cultures and traditional economic activities like agriculture, industry and services.  However, it has also produced something quite new:  "(1) the knowledge that an extensive and growing system of global communications exists and (2) the idea that information is something of value."

    "The informatization process brings both technological and cultural change; it speeds up the development of devices for storing, processing, and communicating information, and it also causes a shift in ways of thinking about information itself."

  A brief historic review of the previous advances in information and communications technology based on telegraphy and its impacts is provided. Mechanical telegraphy using extensive strings of semaphore or signal light towers preceded electrical telegraphy. Both had important economic, political and cultural impacts. "So electronically based economic  globalization was well underway by the second half of the nineteenth century."
 &

  Now, a new realm - "cyberspace" - has been opened up for people to access, use, and deal with. Autocratic governments have been trying in a variety of ways to control the content of what their citizens can access. Democratic governments have been wrestling with the problems of where to draw lines between legal and illegal content.

  The internet delivers equally all kinds of information - digested and undigested, logical and illogical, objective and propagandistic, legal and illegal. Like the telephone - but far more efficiently - it facilitates communications equally for good and ill purposes.

  The author duly recognizes that there will be bumps in the road of communications development - such as the overreaching of the Iridium satellite system.

  "[B]ut there is little doubt that the communications systems will continue to reach around the world. Powerful forces, including the push of technological progress and the pull of consumer demand, guarantee it. And as the communications system grows in scope and complexity, the informatization of global society will proceed with it."

  This is a third industrial revolution -- following the first based on the steam engine and the second based on electrification -- and "even more than the first two, [it] is a force of globalization."

  Obviously, the collapse of the dot com bubble and the current problems in the telecommunications industry are mere bumps in the road and do not at all undermine the author's conclusion.

Biotechnology and bioengineering:

 

 

 

 

&

 With respect to biological and ecological developments, the impact of information technology is especially profound. Real time ecological data from observation satellites is now available worldwide - a "cyber-Gaia" phenomenon. The availability of medical expertise and epidemiological information are similarly improved. A revolution in genetic science proceeds at accelerating rates. Vast amounts of data are accumulated, made available and analyzed.

  "New information about living systems -- genetic information, environmental information -- comes pouring into the world in unprecedented quantity and detail. As it does, we are required to stretch our imaginations, revise our institutions, and build better computers to deal with it."

New levels of complexity in organic life are revealed "somewhat as physicists' exploration of the atom revealed new levels of complexity there."

 

Anderson somewhat inconsistently notes that those with access to the data have become "surprisingly diverse" - including not just governments and multinational corporations, but "grassroots environmental groups, and indigenous peoples" as well.

  Biotechnology and bioengineering are thus poised for dramatic - and sometimes controversial - development. Genomics has already progressed to proteomics, and the results increasingly impact both economic goods and processes and medical services. New levels of complexity in organic life are revealed "somewhat as physicists' exploration of the atom revealed new levels of complexity there." Anderson briefly summarizes some of the widespread and spectacular possibilities, as well as some of the dangers and controversies.
 &
  The author is concerned about the widening inequality of access to the manifold benefits of these revolutionary developments. He notes the many government and private aid programs designed to make these benefits available to poor nations, and the posting of vast databanks on the world wide web, but frets that "nevertheless it appears highly probable that most of the great breakthroughs in the near future are going to be products available only to rich people in rich countries."

  Anderson here falls prey to egalitarian propaganda. He grossly overstates the problem in rich countries. It was not so long ago that the same complaints were made about computers - now available at only about twice the price of ordinary television sets. Because of the need for mass markets, the ordinary processes of capitalism will make products available to the broad middle class as well as the rich - and do it far more quickly and effectively than any government substitutes. Major benefits will eventually extend to all who take part in economic activity.
 &
  If the governments of poor nations really want their peoples to quickly enjoy access to the benefits of modern technology, they need only modernize and liberalize their economic governance. Poor nations remain poor not because of insufficient aid from rich nations, but because of restrictive and corrupt  governance from their own political leadership, and the failure to provide enforceable property rights and rule of law legal systems. Until governance is improved, aid is frequently wasteful and often even counterproductive. The many miracles of capitalism place within their own hands the means of delivering poor nations from poverty.

  Anderson covers gene banks - globalized public health concerns and efforts - and remote sensing systems such as observation satellites and underwater microphone systems. He somewhat inconsistently notes that those with access to the data have become "surprisingly diverse" - including not just governments and multinational corporations, but "grassroots environmental groups, and indigenous peoples" as well. (As usual, egalitarian concerns concerning access have proved both overstated and misstated.)
 &

Organizational impacts:

 New communications links have made possible more flexible organizational responses from both public and private entities. Downsizing, stripping away layers of middle management, contracting out, and expanded use of networks and task forces are among the techniques improving productivity and the availability of "client centered" processes.
 &

 Business - driven and guided by its "bottom line" objective criteria - is perforce at the forefront of the organizational revolution.

 

More than ever - as capitalism evolves - the customer becomes king. The desires of individual customers drive the policies of huge corporations.

  Accelerated data flows must be assimilated in a constant learning process and responded to flexibly with pertinent structural and functional changes. "Such organizations are said to be 'flatter,' less hierarchical, more like information networks, with permeable and flexible boundaries."
 &
  Business - driven and guided by its "bottom line" objective criteria - is perforce at the forefront of this organizational revolution. To facilitate this ongoing process of organizational change, businesses increasingly depend on management experts and rely on business school instruction. Survival itself depends on the flexibility and competence with which businesses respond to the tidal wave of change. Of 43 companies cited as "excellent" in Peters and Waterman, "In Search of Excellence," in 1982, about two thirds were in "moderate to serious trouble" within five years.
 &
  Responsiveness and flexibility require bottom up as well as top down learning initiative. Success - even survival - depends increasingly on being able to respond instantly to the unique desires of individual customers. More than ever - as capitalism evolves - the customer becomes king. The desires of individual customers drive the policies of huge corporations.
 &

World governance:

 

&

 The broad transformations in international governance processes are reviewed by Anderson. "The nation-state continues to be a key element" in the global system. However, functions shift constantly on pragmatic lines - devolved to local entities or outsourced to private entities or delegated to international entities. National and local decisions are increasingly impacted by other states and "nonstate actors."
 &

 

 

Some NGOs perform noble works - with great efficiency and effectiveness. Others are obstructionist and incompetent and parasitic.

  A "global civil society" - including organizations and individuals of all kinds - without official authorization - increasingly find ways to shape local and national government policies and world events - for good or ill. Modern media and communications are used to bypass government channels and sufficiently influence popular opinion to force policy responses.
 &
  Nonstate actors engage in a variety of international activities previously the province of state agencies. Some perform noble works - with great efficiency and effectiveness. Others are obstructionist and incompetent and parasitic. They are created by individuals and all kinds of organizations - including governments - for all kinds of purposes - agitating for or against on all kinds of issues.
 &
  Unfortunately - all too frequently - instead of facilitating the processes of compromise and accommodation that are at the heart of all governance of politically free peoples and sovereign nations - this process often solidifies positions. Organizations of similarly minded people can cause a hardening of differences and often an increase in political rigidity.
 &

Nationalism:

 

 

&

 The national myth is presented by Anderson as primarily a combination of ethnic ties and geographic ties. He notes that the notion of blood ties often breaks down.

  "Most nationalities are in fact the products of much blending, and the people of one nation are likely to be closely related to their neighbors -- and their enemies."

National identity is now accompanied by an increasing array of other "communities, networks, and placeless villages that create new kinds of social cohesion, new grounds for defining personal identity, and also on occasion, new flavors of parochialism."

  The geographic dimensions of nationhood, he contends, "are as symbolic as the others," since most people are unfamiliar with much of the geography of their own nations. The cultural aspects, too, are clearly artificial. The "system opening process" engendered in recent decades raises questions about the "naturalness" of nations.

  What is not artificial is that all citizens within a nation have varying levels of status and share certain attributes of citizenship - and that their fate and the fate of their descendants is intimately tied to their status and the fate of their nation. 

  Anderson recognizes that Kurds, Kosovars, Israelis and Palestinians, and many others, still view their well being as intimately tied to their national or lack of national status. (This view is obviously correct.)
 &
  The state is not in fact withering away. Instead of people becoming a worldwide homogeneous mass, national identity continues. However, it is now accompanied by an increasing array of other "communities, networks, and placeless villages that create new kinds of social cohesion, new grounds for defining personal identity, and also on occasion, new flavors of parochialism."
 &
  A great variety of new, increasingly open social groups, "united by everything from political conviction to recreational interest to sexual orientation, are emerging as new kinds of global villages." Common political, environmental, economic and military interests spread ties across borders. Anderson cites as examples the various women's movements, gay rights organizations, and religions - which like many other societies are becoming increasingly open and overlapping with other types of societies.
 &
  Increasingly,. people have multiple identities - they are "multi community people."
 &

  The concept of  "global village" is thus at best a half truth. It is still the nation state whose laws provide protection for the rights of this diversity and that "remains the best remedy for most of the challenges posed by diversity." And the new social order is quite different from the old parochial "village." It is "newer, problematic, and a lot more interesting."
 &

Possibilities  of globalization:

 The prevalent ideological divides of the modern world are reviewed by Anderson. There is the right-left divide of neo liberals advocating relatively free trade and minimalist governance versus statists seeking global institutional governance. There is the globalist-tribalist divide of fundamentalism versus globalization. And there are various gradations and permutations among each of them.
 &

  The "globalist right" is presented by Anderson as populated by dynamic, confident people with a Darwinian view of those left behind. This assumes that, because there are big winners in globalization, there must also be "big losers."

  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. With capitalism, the pie grows, so that all may benefit even if some benefit more than others. Statistical analyses purporting to show that the poor did not benefit from the economic growth of the last quarter of the 20th century are obviously phony.
 &
  The poor are never poor because the rich are rich. They are poor because of political or personal factors, not economic factors. Frequently, envy of the rich is used to keep them poor. Indeed, when political and personal factors permit, the existence of great wealth facilitates the rise from poverty.

  The "globalist left" - or "third way" - is presented as combining the dynamism of globalism with a host of welfare state, environmental and labor protection policies.
 &
  Anderson correctly notes that versions of this globalist left - ranging from "third way" to "compassionate conservatism" - will remain a prominent part of world politics. The "globalist center-left viewpoint - - - may be far more widely held than can be measured by the numbers of people who have declared their allegiance to the Third Way or any other formalized political grouping."

  The political reality is that all mainstream political leaders in modern states use the resources spun off by capitalist systems to please enough of the electorate to win their elections. There are very few "small government" politicians in office.

  Arrayed against globalization remains nationalist, protectionist and fundamentalist forces, as well as a disparate pessimistic antiglobalist left that continues its fight against capitalism even though the collapse of socialism leaves it with no real alternatives. The latter gain real influence by alliance with protectionist forces seeking to block globalizing changes that threaten vested interests.

  However, the spread of various forms of capitalism and democracy continues fitfully onwards - creating "a new era of global conflict and cooperation."

  As during the 20th century, national and local governments in modern nations will continue to expand their roles and the benefits they offer their supporters - limited only by the ability of their economies to sustain the burdens of those benefits. These limits will periodically be exceeded. California's current financial problems are an excellent case in point.
 &
  For those political systems unable to reform or retrench as needed, periods of economic stagnation or retreat can extend indefinitely - as currently in Japan. Nor will Keynesian palliatives - monetary expansion and/or budgetary deficits - provide more than temporary relief in the absence of needed reforms.
 &
  For some less developed nations - as in Argentina - sustained economic progress remains impossible without the establishment of sufficient monetary and budgetary discipline and good governance that facilitates commerce.

Challenges:

 

 

 

&

  Anderson presents three examples of the challenges facing the global community. These are "whole-system problems" requiring "whole-system responses" that join all in "a single community of fate." Climate change, the AIDS epidemic, and population impacts are worldwide phenomena. World wide, there have been a wide variety of responses - a messy mix rather than a series of neat policy responses.

  The small pox vaccination program was an example of a successful "whole system response." The polio vaccination program will hopefully be another. 

Choices:

  A cornucopia - or puzzlement - of choices is presented to people by this world of accelerating  change, increasingly open systems, and complex interconnections at many levels. Choices can liberate or overwhelm. However, choices bring only frustration for peoples lacking the freedom to even make them.
 &

Freedom is thus a key for dealing with the multitude of problems of change and complexity and for taking advantage of the cornucopia of opportunities.

  Freedom is thus a key for dealing with the multitude of problems of change and complexity and for taking advantage of the cornucopia of opportunities. Anderson accepts the notion put forth by economist Amartya Sen that there are five distinct types of pertinent freedom.
 &
  Political freedoms, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees, and protective security, are viewed as goals of modernity. Along with democratic systems and freedom of enterprise, there must be access to services such as education and health care that enable all to participate, information upon which rational choices can be based, and a social safety net to catch those who inevitably fall through the cracks.

Propaganda games:

 

 

 

 

 

Using the terms "freedoms" or "investments" to define social welfare programs doesn't change their real character as budgetary expenditures - it can't change the real problems governments have in providing them.

 

 Propaganda myths can confuse intellectual discourse in minor or major ways for years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

&

  Some semantics propaganda games are here accepted by Anderson. By including various aspects of social welfare within the concept of "freedom," he obfuscates rather than clarifies some vital ongoing policy debates.
 &
  He is obviously correct in identifying freedom as the necessary ingredient for dealing with the problems and taking advantage of the opportunities of rapid change. Political and economic freedom, and the rights of individuals under modern rule of law legal systems, are essential ingredients of modernity.
 &
  However, the provision of various social welfare services is an economic function that - whether or not desirable as a policy matter - is something governments do inherently poorly and inefficiently. Using the terms "freedoms" or "investments" to define social welfare programs doesn't change their real character as budgetary expenditures - it can't change the real problems governments have in providing them. Travel far enough down this road, and you reach socialism - which is an effort to provide freedom from all economic needs - and results in invariable disaster.
 &
  Nor are these propaganda games benign. They can confuse intellectual discourse for years in both minor and major ways. Anderson falls prey in a minor - a very minor - way at the end of his book when he uses an obvious propaganda myth as an analogy.
 &
  Globalization and technological change, he reasons, are both "fairly easy to move forward yet extremely difficult to put into reverse." "Both processes have some similarity to price advances, which, as economists have noted, tend to be flexible upward but not in the other direction: slippery up but sticky down."
 &
  Left wing advocacy scholars - like John Kenneth Galbraith - asserted this obvious stupidity with respect to manufactured goods like steel to exaggerate the pricing power of large corporations and disparage the effectiveness of imperfectly competitive markets. It was a part of their argument in favor of socialist policies. If markets are ineffective, you might as well have government ownership.
 &
   Of course, there are monopolies and effective cartels - usually effective only because of government approval or even active support. Otherwise, however, economic history clearly demonstrates that even imperfectly competitive markets force even major corporations to pass on to their customers the vast majority of the benefits of improvements in product quality and productive efficiency.
 &
  In short - under capitalism - through the ups and downs of business cycles - manufacturing prices have always trended downwards in real terms. They are inherently not as volatile as commodity prices - but actually far more "sticky" upwards than downwards.

Borders:

 

 

 

 

 

&

  A wide variety of more or less permeable "borders" - political, religious, class, geographical, societal, etc. - limit and sometimes block these freedoms. The degree of openness of these borders is a matter of constant political, military, legal, religious and societal strife.
 &
  Migration provides a prominent example of the limitations and problems of borders. Anderson correctly puts his finger on a key limitation of modern globalization. Even as goods and capital flow more freely, labor remains largely - although obviously not completely - confined to national, linguistic and cultural boundaries. He believes that these boundaries must eventually break down, leaving people increasingly free to live and work anywhere they wish. (This is overoptimistic for the foreseeable future - even without the heightened security concerns of the post 9/11/01 world.)
 &

Global governance:

 

 

 

 

&

 The global governance system is "multicentric." There are multiple centers and layers of power and function. Although increasingly interconnected and interdependent and complex, "we are not even remotely close to establishing an authoritative central government or even a popularly elected global parliament." Instead, "many different systems and different kinds of systems" interact - "like the multiple organisms in an ecosystem."

  "This won't necessarily be neat, peaceful, stable, or efficient; despite what some nature lovers may believe, ecosystems aren't necessarily neat, peaceful, stable, or efficient either. But it will be in a continual process of learning and changing and responding to feedback."

Please return to our Homepage and e-mail your name and comments.
Copyright 2002 Dan Blatt