The direction of history
We are heading towards a single integrated world order, sometimes called New World Order. Humanity is converging in three major ways, intellectually, economically and politically. The spread of religions and ideologies made it possible to unify different peoples under the same set of ideas. Trade and money enabled the cooperation between strangers all over the globe. And the increased cooperation between nation states is paving the way for a closer integration of governments.1
The world is now run by a global elite of business people, politicians, bureaucrats, engineers, journalists, scientists, opinion makers, writers and artists. No matter where they live, whether it is New York, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Dubai or Cape Town, these people increasingly have the same interests, the same viewpoints about the world, the same culture, and increasingly live similar lifestyles. The individuals in these elites have more in common with each other than with their fellow countrymen.1
Globalisation has transformed the world. People everywhere around the globe are now interconnected. They cooperate and compete. Globalisation started more than 500 years ago when Portuguese explorers set sail for Africa to find new trade routes to the Indies. In 1492 Columbus discovered America while trying to do the same. In the centuries that followed the world became more interconnected but globalisation really took off in recent decades when several developments converged. These were:
- the rise of neoliberalism around 1980
- the fall of communism around 1990
- personal computers and digital data storage
- optical fiber and Internet making it possible to connect people around the globe
- global standards for data exchange making it possible for every computers to exchange data with every other computer
- software enabling cooperation between people and businesses around the globe
At the end of the 1970s economies in the Western world were stagnating. It was argued that poor business conditions and international competition were to blame. This marked the rise of neoliberalism. From the 1980s onwards regulations were reduced and the free movement of labour and capital were promoted. It became easier to move jobs to areas with lower labour costs. Entrepreneurs were seen as heroes and making profits became a goal in itself. It was the era of stock market capitalism and financial engineering with little consideration for people, communities and the environment.
The fall of communism gave further impetus to globalisation. In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell. A few years later the Soviet Union was dissolved and the European Union became enlarged. From then on it seemed that there was no alternative to capitalism.2 Countries like China, India and Russia realised that they had to compete on the global marketplace and began to transform their economies. Every country did this in its own way. For instance, India specialised in services and information technology. China became the global industrial powerhouse where everything is made.
Computers and data storage made it possible to store documents and other data like pictures and recordings digitally. In the 1980s the personal computer entered the homes of many people. Computers were also used in businesses but the impact of information technology remained limited. Rxchanging data between computers was still difficult because computers often weren’t interconnected and software suppliers used different formats for exchanging data.2
That all changed with the emergence of the Internet. Netscape turned out to be a crucial catalyst. It allowed people on personal computers to look at web pages anywhere around the world. Netscape turned out to be a killer application that made Internet very popular very quickly. Investors suddenly realised that Internet would change the world and that large profits were to be made. It resulted in a massive overinvestment in everything related to Internet during the Internet bubble of 2000. One of those overinvestments was in optical fiber. As a consequence the price of data transport dropped dramatically.2
Standards for data exchange emerged. Software suppliers were forced to support them and began to focus on facilitating the interaction, competition and cooperation of people around the globe, effectively enabling the world to turn into a global village where people everywhere can participate. This transformed the way people cooperate. The traditional way of organising is top down via command and control. The new way of organising is via teams of people sharing a responsibility for a task or a product, making more complex cooperations possible. China and India were able to develop and they were integrated in the global economy. As businesses used more cheap oversees labour, workers in developed nations were faced with job insecurity and lagging wages.
In 1977 the Chinese leaders realised that communist China needed to embrace capitalism. For two decades progress was into that direction was slow. That changed in the 1990s but doing business in China remained problematic until in 2001 China became member of the World Trade Organisation. From then on China conformed to international law and trade practises and it became attractive to do business with China. Many corporations moved their production to China and China became the industrial powerhouse of the world.
The rise of China and India
Half the world’s population lives in Asia. In China or India alone live nearly two times as many people as in the European Union and the United States combined. The same is true for Africa. If people everywhere around the globe obtain a more equal portion of wealth then the relative importance of the European Union and the United States will decline. If current trends continue, China will be the most powerful nation in the near future. The Chinese economy may be the biggest in the world already.
Chinese leaders are preparing for a New World Order under Chinese leadership. Chinese policies include economic colonisation of developing countries like the United States and European countries have done previously. For instance, China grants loans to developing countries to build their infrastructure. If they fail to pay back these loans, China may take possession of assets like mines, harbours and corporations as payment. If India is going to follow suit, it may become China’s main contender. At the same time the importance of nation states is declining and they may even disappear in the future.
Many businesses have become closely integrated with their global supply chains so doing business has become a global affair more than ever. And issues like climate change, human rights, international crime and financial markets require international agreement and cooperation of governments. The Old World Order was based on the sovereignty of nation states, which means that at least in theory, there was no higher authority than the nation state. All nation states were equally sovereign, at least in theory, and their power was restricted only by the treaties they signed.
Nation states are increasingly under pressure to conform to global standards as actions of one nation affect other nations as well. The global elite influences the decisions on these issues but they can’t completely ignore ordinary citizens. The elite believes it acts for the benefit of mankind and that we need more international cooperation or even a global government. This is reflected, for instance, in the words of the British politician Denis Healey, who had been involved in Bilderberg Conferences in which members of the elite gathered in secrecy. He told the Guardian:
To say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair. Those of us in Bilderberg felt we couldn’t go on forever fighting one another for nothing and killing people and rendering millions homeless. So we felt that a single community throughout the world would be a good thing.3
The elite is first and foremost a social network. Globalists have friends and they have friends and they have friends too. Meetings like Bilderberg are just the tip of the iceberg. Still these meetings can influence political agendas. For instance the European Union has been discussed at Bilderberg and it may well be that these meetings helped to make the elite agree on more European cooperation and integration. Europe had just been ravaged by two world wars so it may have seemed a good plan. But that plan would not have succeeded if most Europeans didn’t feel the same. A side-benefit of globalisation is war becomes less likely because waging war becomes costly. A war disrupts global supply chains. As a consequence businesses may exit warring countries and not come back.
Neoliberalism or neofeudalism?
Many people in China and India have seen their living standards improve. In fact, globalisation may have been the best development aid. Nevertheless, the greatest winners are wealthy oligarchs all around the world. A 2017 report from Oxfam points out that the world’s eight wealthiest people own as much as the poorest 50%.4 There is no global government or binding international treaties so nation states end up competing to please large corporations and billionaires.
In the 1970s the situation in Western Europe and the United States was different. Most people were middle class. Since then a growing divide between the rich and the poor emerged. This coincided with the rise of neoliberalism, which is the idea that more should be left to the markets and that governments shouldn’t interfere.
Neoliberalism emerged in the 1970s when the ruling class was in trouble. The economy was stagnating and unions had a lot of power. Businesses were struggling because of the competition from low-wage countries. And so the elite started to promote freedom of the markets, privatisation, entrepreneurial spirit and individual liberty. Neoliberalism became dominant in the 1980s. The power of labour was curtailed and wealth inequality began to increase while many jobs moved to low wage countries.
There is a conspiracy theory claiming the elite has a secret plan to create a New World Order where ordinary humans will be mere serfs. Rather than seeing the globalisation and the emerging oligarchy as a result of social, political and economic developments, conspiracy theorists believe it was deliberately planned by the elite. They see the elite as an evil cabal. Indeed, the elite doesn’t seem to like democracy and human rights when these values conflict with their interests.
In the decades after World War II the secret services of the United States toppled democratically elected governments and supported dictators while claiming to promote human rights, freedom and democracy. The politics of trade and power often conflict with principles and morals. It is often argued that if you don’t play this kind of dirty politics, you will lose power and the world will not become a better place either.
The political system of the United States is corrupt by design. Politicians fund their campaigns with donations. They accept money from large corporations and wealthy individuals so they tend to represent their wealthy donors rather than their electorate. It is not suprising that conspiracy theories thrive in the United States. It is also a business for ‘independent writers’ in a ‘free market’ to constantly come up with new ‘disclosures’ of ‘secret plots’ to keep their readers entertained.
Investigative journalism of good quality is time consuming and costly. If you don’t come up with interesting finds from time to time, readers may get bored. News outlets are often guided by advertisement income so journalism is either non-offending or of an extremist nature. Political division may further promote this process. If the political climate is moderate and people are willing to pay for high-quality content, the situation might improve. And more involvement of citizens in political decisions may be required.
Politicians come and go but many officials remain within the governmental institutions for a longer period of time. Most of them aren’t democratically elected. Often they are specialised technocrats that have the best knowledge of the field they are working in. Most of them believe to work interest of the public but they can obstruct democratically elected officials. But technocrats probably are not what is meant by deep state.
The deep state consists of the interest groups that have captured the government to profiteer at the expense of the taxpayers. One can think of lobbyists and think tanks who represent the interests of businesses that live off government contracts or benefit from favourable legislation, for instance the Military Industrial Complex. These people work covertly via social networks to influence politicians and other officials.
A better political system
The elite doesn’t seem to care for ordinary people. Perhaps individual members care, but as a group the elite behaves as if they don’t. The elite is living in a bubble and has no idea about the plight of ordinary people. The rise of populism in Europe and the United States signals a growing discontent. If the economy goes south, things may get out of hand. It may therefore be a good idea to aim for political reforms to increase the legitimacy of government institutions by involving the citizens in decisions.
Direct democracy as practised in Switzerland can help to do that. It gives the citizens more control over their government. Making direct democracy work requires a culture of reason and compromise, issues rather than people taking the centre stage, and an adequate education of the citizens. It may be hard to build credible institutions top down so direct democracy may be the best way to achieve that. The Swiss have confidence in their government while political debates tend to be rational. Direct democracy it is not perfect and perhaps it hampers innovation. For instance, women received only the right to vote in 1970 because men decided about that.
Direct democracy may only be a beginning. It gives people more power to shape their own future. And with power comes responsibility. If there is direct democracy then citizens can’t blame politicians for their mistakes. They can only blame themselves. As a consequence they may inform themselves better, consider different solutions and debate them in a rational manner. Perhaps people will venture outside existing ideologies and beliefs and look at the evidence and use logic instead. And in this way the New World Order could be owned by ordinary people and not the elite. Wouldn’t that be great?
1. Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind. Yuval Noah Harari (2014). Harvil Secker.
2. The World Is Flat 3.0. Thomas Friedman (2007). Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
3. Who pulls the strings? (part 3). The Guardian (2001). [link]
4. Just 8 men own same wealth as half the world. Oxfam (2017). [link]