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And Roman history is replete with insane and murderously self-destructive leaders as well, so the real historical question when it comes to empires isn't the common one: Why did Rome fall? Rather, it is why, given its well-known history of self-destructive action, poor leadership, and economic unsustainable, did Rome last so long?
In reality the US could disappear tomorrow and after some rather fraught re-adjustment, the rest of the world would continue without skipping a beat.
There would be wider and easier access to energy resources, improved economic stability - crises and depressions being one of the prime US exports - improved peace and security, and a useful resurgence of European social democracy as a viable political model.
It's completely possible that it would be as you say. But it seems just as likely that transnational activities could all but cease for most people who engage in them today, as they did after WWI, when some of the European empires began to lose their colonies and curtailed trade and migration with everyone except the Americas.
What would be the consensus discourse for international law
There's a consensus discourse on international law? Now that is going to be news to Russia and China. And Serbia. And Libya. And I really could go on here...
and security of property and personal rights for foreign peoples trying to engage in commerce, cultural exchange, and even love affairs across national borders.
"How badly will we piss off this guy's country of origin if we lock him up and beat him? Can we afford to piss off this guy's country of origin like that?"
How is that different from the way things work right now? Except, of course, in the sense that white, English-speaking people are going to find themselves on the sharp end of the stick a little more often, and brown people and Russians a little less often...
Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.
China and Russia are perfect examples of this, since their internal political discourse is often so contrary to the liberal one. Their external discourse, however, is completely consistent with liberalism as actors from those countries relate with others in any number of spheres, from business activity to participation in liberal institutions such as the UN. Property rights and individual liberties do form the basis of the way they relate with everyone outside of their own countries, and it is because they <i<have to</i> in order to have those relationships with anyone from the American-dominated world, which is almost everyone else.
My hypothesis is that without a powerful sponsor to champion a world-consensus on basic things such as individual rights to private property and freedom from government persecution, globalization will be reversed and transnational relationships will dwindle, like they did in the early part of the 20th century when colonial empires started to crumble. That development can actually be a good thing for many people, but it would be a bad thing for others who currently enjoy the benefits of transnational relationships, including just about anyone who uses the internet as we do to communicate with others around the globe.
Note that this does not speak at all to whether specific values promoted by the liberal discourse of America and its allies are inherently good or bad - just to the ability for that discourse to provide a common, universal ground for rules and norms of transnational behavior, reducing the risks of engaging in those relationships. Empire provides a universality of discourse within it, and it is the global extent of the American empire that provides for the phenomenon we call globalization today. If my hypothesis is correct, the caveat would be that if the American empire were not global in extent but reduced to something much smaller, transnational relationships of the kind we see all over the world today would be reduced to regional areas of respective empire-like domains, just as they were in the 19th century.
What's some falsifiable evidence that would invalidate my hypothesis? I think historical evidence showing that there were, in fact, as many transnational relationships between imperial domains in the 19th century as within them would compel me to rethink it.
The discourse is what we know as "liberalism," or rights-based discourse, which provides for individual human rights and private property rights as the basis upon which other discussions of how to interact across borders begins.
There is no discourse on individual human rights and private property. What there is is a "consensus discourse" that what English-speaking white people do is always right, and what everyone else does is always wrong if they disagree with English-speakng white people. How can you tell the difference between this and a rights-based discourse? Because when Russia or China tries to interact with the world in terms of a rights-based discourse - when, for instance, Russia tries to get paid for the gas it sells to Ukraine - the world pretends to be offended.
My hypothesis is that without a powerful sponsor to champion a world-consensus on basic things such as individual rights to private property and freedom from government persecution, globalization will be reversed and transnational relationships will dwindle
Leaving aside the fact that no such discourse actually exists, except as ritualised genuflections, the fact remains that the second-tier economic and political blocs - India, China, Europe, NAFTA, Mercosur and ASEAN - have fully the weight in both economic capacity and population that any pre-WWI empire. If the empires of the 19th century could guarantee transnational relationships, these organisations can do so as well, and for the same reasons.
What you will see is not a cessation of international relationships, but the cessation of the US function as a clearing house of international relationships. You'll see economic blocs engaging in bilateral relationships with each other, rather than bilateral relationships with the US. Now, from the perspective of the US, this will, of course, look like a diminution of the volume of international relationships. From the perspective of the rest of the world, however, it will look like a diversification and restructuring.
The joker in this game, of course, is that the transnational corporations will die in this change. If you view transnational corporations as media of exchange between different societies, this will look like a diminution of international exchange. But the honest way to analyse the transnats of today is not as exchange between the different societies in which they are based. The honest way to analyse the transnats is as quasi-sovereign societies of their own, with which other societies can interact. And in that picture, destroying the transnats of today is similar to Germany and Russia carving up Poland, or treating the -zone as one country for purposes of measuring international trade. In absolute terms it is a diminution of international trade, but in terms of trade between the surviving nodes of the network it is not necessarily so.
There is no discourse on individual human rights and private property. What there is is a "consensus discourse" that what English-speaking white people do is always right, and what everyone else does is always wrong if they disagree with English-speakng white people.
My hypothesis is that without a powerful sponsor to champion a world-consensus on basic things such as individual rights to private property and freedom from government persecution, globalization will be reversed and transnational relationships will dwindle.
...may well be true and predictive of the nature of international relations if/when the USA is no longer able/willing to bear the costs of being the global hegemon. But the benefits of that hegemony are now going almost exclusively to the financial elites in the USA, so a decline of the power of the USA on the international stage MAY result in at least a relative improvement in the position of the vast majority of the population vis a vis the elite. And it may be found that the majority of the benefits of hegemony can be had at half or less of the costs. It is a long way from a unipolar world to a multilateral world with no one dominant player and there may well be many meta-stable nodes along that spectrum.
Among other possibilities is that many of the formal values of the current international system will come to be voluntarily accepted by more nations than will accept the current coercive system. That would be consistent with a fairer application of those values as embodied in rules. That is, of course, the optimistic outcome....
As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
His assertion and your objection are part of that ongoing discourse, how ever much some may find it objectionable and hypocritical.
I'm not disputing that there is a Washington Consensus discourse. I'm disputing that it has any but the most strictly ceremonial connection to individual rights and private property.
Claiming that there is a unifying international discourse on individual rights and private property is akin to claiming that Islam provides a unified discourse between Iraqis and Iranians because both genuflect towards Mecca. The actual international discourse is in terms of clients and sovereigns - a discourse that is not particularly American and which does not need an American hegemon to continue functioning. Pretending to a universalist discourse when in fact employing a colonial one is a typical conceit of colonial powers, and not one that particularly endears them to their colonies.
"liberalism," or rights-based discourse, which provides for individual human rights and private property rights as the basis upon which other discussions of how to interact across borders begins.
when these ideas first took flight, there was a comfortable gap between our climate-shifting planetary predations, and the ability of the biosphere to put up with us.
the liber in these 'liberal ideas', what made them liberal, was the championing of the individual's right to be treated with dignity, and he and his family's hard work building their home/estate not to be idly robbed from him by royal or state fiat.
very fine, and historically apposite.
but now individual rights are owned by corporations larger than states, mushrooming taxes force old people off the land they have worked for generations, sustainably, (if without contributing much to national exchequers or GDP), and eminent domain laws make mockery of these claims. so, establishing these baseline rules is fine and dandy, but they're riddled with loopholes and not lived up to more than very partially even by their loudest exponents. perhaps the ideas outlive their authors, or are failed by them, notwithstanding their ability to stay alive and morph with circumstances to new iterations.
riches were first accumulated by industrious farmers living in harmony with the land, if they grew 4% a year they could reproduce and expand until resources stopped them, and in many cases great civilisations waxed and waned, but surely capital(ism) originally consisted of that?
in our wish to organise our societies better we have troubleshot many ideologies regarding social justice, rules of law etc, any one only has to browse the bible lightly to see how many of those rules, bitterly defended to the death, are now obviously quaint or deranged.
either these noble old ideas need completely new bottles, or we can evolve more intelligent ones. they look great on paper, but are aspirational affirmations at best, and frequently lip-serviced with a nudge/wink, as in 'we know what's really going down, but let's go on with the charade'. america and its hegemon control are boasting a leveller playing field and a more humane approach to ideational international governance, but the rhetoric does not match the facts on the ground. will we expect a fairer system to flow from the chinese, bric group, the russians, the EU? all bets off. your point is well taken, and its easy to let carping perfectionism be the good's enemy, the main point i think is does it matter whose hand's on the tiller as long as we take a saner direction and ecologically and socially aware philosophy than the liberal ideas so endorsed (and betrayed), and cyclically (and i believe at least somewhat cynically) reiterated set of which you speak?
(not you being cynical, just to be a little clearer!)
thanks for adding so much solid counterpoint and interesting ideas to these discussions at ET, santiago.
apologies for the jumbled syntax too, a storm brewing, and my sinuses registering the barometry...
The power of knowledge is in mortal combat with the knowledge of power. It really is that simple... That's the Edenic apple we are all munching on.
This isn't the Anglo view of liberalism at all.
In practice there are two views of democratic liberalism. One accepts the usefulness of compromise and the limitation of absolute freedoms in return for freedom from anarchy and monarchic tyranny. It offers peaceful co-existence and enhanced opportunity at the cost of some relatively nominal membership fees.
In the other 'freedom' and 'liberalism' are plain synonyms for 'artistocratic privilege.'
The sleight of mind promoted in the class war has been to persuade peasants that the middle classes battling on their behalf are actually threatening their (nonexistent) right to personal kinghood.
The Anglo model is essentially baronial, not liberal.
The Anglo interpretation of democracy is based on the right of every individual to become emperor in their own personal realm, with privileges that include lack of oversight, lack of accountability, selfish accumulation without overt consequences, the creation of subservient hierarchies, and - ideally - freedom from tribute.
The basis of the anti-government and anti-tax movements in the US isn't so much about taxation in the abstract, but in the fact that the existence of a federal government and an IRS directly undermines the sacredness of individual droit de seigneur.
You can't be a real emperor while you're still legally bound by other people's rules and demands.
In the limit this is ideal of personal kinghood is grandiose, immature, and adolescent.
But it's still the key guiding narrative in right-wing US politics and in business.
Europe meanwhile, after many centuries of this kind of thing, has realised that it's a spectacularly stupid and self-destructive way to run a culture.
It doesn't matter if the US model survives for the next few centuries in some form or other. What matters is the devastating loss of innovation, creativity, original thought and possibility that it trails in its wake - and all of those things are the foundations of real rights and freedoms, not the dishonest and strictly limited plastic freedoms that are the best the US model can offer.
including just about anyone who uses the internet as we do to communicate with others around the globe.
I would like to note that the telegraph was established as the first international wired communication system, with common standards during the 19th century. If Internet needs USA as global dominator, then was Britain the global dominator that the telegraph needed? Or did it not need a global dominator?
A vote for PES is a vote for EPP!
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Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
However, I bet the same - higher number of cables within political entity then between - can be said about the internet. For example, our own little branch of Echelon FRA collects data at the rather few nodes were traffic enters and exits Sweden.
A vote for PES is a vote for EPP!
A vote for EPP is a vote for PES!
Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
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