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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
The need for global cooperation
Issues like climate change, human rights, international crime and financial markets require international agreement and cooperation. 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.
Nowadays nation states are increasingly under pressure to conform to global standards as actions of one nation affect other nations as well. The global elite decides on these issues. The elite believes to acts for the benefit of mankind and that we may 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.2
The elite is first and foremost a social network. Meetings like Bilderberg are just the tip of the iceberg. Gatherings like Bilderberg can nevertheless influence the political agenda. 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 the agenda. As Europe had just been ravaged by two world wars, that seemed a good plan.
Neoliberalism or neofeudalism?
The share of the wealthy of global wealth and income has increased in recent decades. A 2017 report from Oxfam points out that the world’s eight wealthiest people own as much as the poorest 50%.3 Until now there is no global government or binding international treaties so globalisation makes nation states compete 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. Unions had a lot of power. Businesses were struggling because of the competition of low-wage countries. And so the elite started to promote freedom of the markets, privatisation, entrepreneurial spirit and individual liberty. The power of labour was curtailed and wealth inequality began to increase.4
Many jobs moved to low wage countries. People in emerging economies like China and India saw their living standards increase. The question is how the living standard in Europe and the United States would have developed if these changes hadn’t taken place. A global rebalancing of wealth would probably have taken place anyway. People in developing nations are often willing to work hard for a lower pay.
The rise of China and India
Half the world’s population lives in Asia. In China and India live nearly four times as many people as in the European Union and the United States. Equalising wealth means that the relative importance of the European Union and the United States has been declining. If current trends continue, China will become the most powerful nation in the near future. The Chinese economy may be the biggest in the world already. If India is going to follow suit, it can become China’s main contender.
Chinese leaders are preparing for a New World Order under Chinese leadership. Chinese policies include economic colonisation of developing countries like the United States had 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.
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 technocrats. Most believe to work interest of the country but they can obstruct decisions made by democratically elected officials. That is not always a bad thing as technocrats tend to have the best knowledge of the field they are working in.
The deep state also 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.
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, or an outcome of Capitalism, they believe it was deliberately planned by the elite. The elite doesn’t like democracy and human right when these values conflict with their interests.
Their secret agendas make people suspicous of the ruling class. 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. The Dutch call it ‘the dilemma between merchant and pastor’.
The United States political system is corrupt by design. Politicians need to fund their campaigns. They accept money from large corporations and wealthy individuals so they tend to represent their wealthy donors rather than the electorate. It is therefore not suprising that conspiracy theories thrive most in the United States. It is also a business for ‘independent writers’ to constantly come up with new ‘disclosures’ of secret plots.
There may be a lack of high-quality independent investigative journalism. Much of journalism is guided by advertisement budgets so journalism is either non-offending or of an extremist nature. Political division can further promote this process. If people are willing to pay for balanced high-quality content, the situation could improve. When people ignore evidence that contradicts their opinions there is no market for high-quality journalism. Conspiracy theories are just a way of coping with undesired information.
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 life of ordinary people. The rise of populism in Europe and the United States signals a growing discontent. That could easily end badly. It may therefore be a good idea to aim for political reforms tho increase the legitimacy of government institutions and to curtail the power of elite without reverting to extreme solutions.
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. The Swiss have confidence in their government while political debates tend to be rational. Direct democracy it is not perfect. For instance, women received the right to vote in 1970 because men decided about that.
1. Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind. Yuval Noah Harari (2014). Harvil Secker.
2. Who pulls the strings? (part 3). The Guardian (2001). [link]
3. Just 8 men own same wealth as half the world. Oxfam (2017). [link]
4. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. David Harvey. Oxford University Press (2005).