Thursday, June 16

Simon replies to Yes and Back Again

You say Governments better listen, but in cases such as China there are two problems: they don't want to listen and they don't have the mechanisms for listenening. China has never had a system of feedback from "the people" - if there was an issue, the only form of redress would be to take a petition to Beijing and try and see the right person (and this continues today).

That's what I was getting at -- central planning doesn't work but China (and others) have long had a top-down model of governance. Human history tells us that's been the more common model. Call it tyranny, call it dictatorship...even today it is the "preferred" governance model for a lot of places. Even those trying to transition to democracy are finding the path bumpy to say the least. Look at Russia for an example of one that is now rapidly backsliding into its preferred model. How does the Bush Doctrine deal with this?

Secondly I (being from an economics background) disagree on your analysis of world trade. I get your drift -- that world trade meant making deals with the devil. But the fundamental argument comes down to whether living standards can influence politics or is it vice versa? By that I mean if a country's population has rising living standards, people start to have something worth saving, fighting for, protecting and defending. That means they want a voice in how things are run, especially when they are run contrary to their interests.

Globalisation and free trade encourage that trend. From my reading of your post you see it the other way around. You actually hit on a key difference -- today trade is much "freer", thanks to the WTO. The managed trade of the Cold War was an artifice to support political ideologies. Now trade is a way to raise living standards and encourage understanding across nations and cultures.

I'm not convinced by the co-operation amongst nations argument either. Even Bush and co. attempted multilateralism for Iraq via the UN, even though it was rebuffed. The Iraq war can even be cast as Bush's attempt to strengthen the UN or at least multilateral institutions, by giving force to resolutions. Also witness his putting Wolfowitz into the World Bank.

Multilateral institutions matter -- what they face is how to recast themselves now the Cold War is over...something they should have done 15 years ago but are only getting around to now. And where you quote Belmont, he notes the EU as one of Chirac's great institutions. And indeed it is -- it can be argued the EU has helped solidify the transitions of Eastern Europe, as far afield as Ukraine, and helped human rights and freedoms in Turkey and the Balkans. Like it or not, you've got to give it to the EU. It has been one of the best institutions for spreading freedom and democracy in modern times.

I think the problem with your argument is it mixes up notions of multilateralism with notions of a multipolar world. I'm all for the former and against the latter. That's not a contradiction. A world lead by the US, with the support of the Anglosphere and like minded nations is the best defence (and if needed, offense) against tyranny and dictatorship. That's what we're seeing now.

As always, interested in your thoughts...and I need to ponder some more.


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