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Globalisation And Democracy

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If I were to try to encapsulate the defining issue of our time it would be the burgeoning conflict between the opposing forces of Globalization and those of Democratic politics.

The core idea of a Democracy is that the people elect their leaders, who then determine the nations destiny- the premise being that those we elect have a large degree of executive power to act on our behalf.

The core idea of Globalisation is the near opposite of this idea- the Globalist's place their faith not in elected Government but in the power of unelected transnational quangos, like the EU or the IMF, whose roles essentially consist of enforcing supranational rules and agreements that act to bind and limit the very executive power that those voting in national elections imagine they are bestowing upon their representatives.

So the ideas of national sovereignty- and it's expression through the democratic process- and Globalisation are not merely not contiguous- they are diametrically opposed- fundamentally incompatible. Ukip's success are a manifestation of this conflict, as is the ongoing struggle over the introduction of the TTIP trade agreements;

'TTIP’s biggest threat to society is its inherent assault on democracy. One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.'

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/what-is-ttip-and-six-reasons-why-the-answer-should-scare-you-9779688.html

But the notion that Democracy is now an impediment to 'progress' is increasingly detectable in less obvious forms- for instance we hear a lot of talk about 'populism' these days, especially from the EU- the inference being that this 'populism' is a dangerous virus infecting the body politic. But what is 'populism' if not democracy? After all we elect our leaders on the basis of a popular vote- the more popular they and their policies are, the more power they will be putatively given. At what point did this process come to be seen as a threat?

Another manifestation of the conflict between the nation state and the Globalist agenda is in the field of economics. In theory one of the most important powers we invest in our elected representatives is their ability to guide the nations economic destiny. But increasingly those leaders assume the role not of economic leadership, but of interlocutors- their task is not to steer the economic ship, it is rather to explain to the passengers the economic weather as 'the markets' buffet and toss that ship around- and any concerns those passengers might express regarding the direction of travel are met with helpless shrugs and carefully crafted narratives about how 'the markets' have decreed this or that and there's nothing really that can be done.

In fact so deeply entrenched is the Stockholm syndrome our leaders display regarding the power of international finance that to even suggest they might seek to limit that power is regarded as bordering on madness- there's nothing they can do- apparently- to limit the locust march of international financialization as it consumes our societies, sucking out the wealth and leaving them as hollow shells primed for collapse.

The problem is- of course- that increasingly the electorate is becoming impatient with this narrative in which they elect a government only to be told that on all the things that really matter 'there's nothing they can do'. So when a man like Nigel Ferage comes along and says ' Yes- there is something we can do- we can take back control of our own destiny, we can wrest that control away from the unelected, the quango and the transnational and take into our own hands the future of our nation' this resonates- not because people are racist bigots but because they grasp-if only dimly- the true nature of the war now being waged between the power of Globalized institutions and money verses the power of the nation state.

It's now clear that whatever their rhetoric these transnational organisations are profoundly undemocratic- they increasingly regard the democratic process as a disruptive and dangerous force, as something to be contained and stripped as far as possible of it's power to intervene.

The world is gradually dividing up into two camps- on the one side there is the Globalised elite, whose interests are inextricably bound up with extending the influence of the transnational institutions that they control - while on the other side are ordinary people, whose only ability to influence events is via their democratic vote- a currency the Globalists are assiduously seeking to undermine.

Hitherto the Globalists have been winning hands down-in part because the consequences of their ascendance have not been immediately apparent. But of late a change seems to be in the wind- people everywhere seem to be losing patience with supine politicians who frame every argument in terms of the impossibility of withstanding the Globalist agenda- and whose baseline posture is a craven acceptance of the Status Quo.

Ukip is really only a symptom of a much larger phenomena- the gathering repudiation of the quasi religion of Globalisation and it's subliminal message that Democracy is an outmoded and flawed idea and that the really important decisions are best left to those whose very lack of exposure to the whims of democratic control make them ideally suited to the task.

This insidious notion- that democracy is 'inefficient' may be the ultimate mutant offspring of the efficient markets theory- but if the Globalists had the balls to do it this would be their message to the great unwashed- this is what they really want to tell us- that our sad attachment to Democracy is blinding us to the greater truth- that only their enlightened rule, freed from democratic incumbrance- will suffice to navigate the dangerous road ahead.

But there is a lie embedded in this 'truth'- it may well be true that democracy is inefficient- but to level this as a critique is to already engage in a subtle corruption- it is to perpetrate the notion that efficiency is the highest value, that all other concerns are of lesser value- this is the great lie at the center of the Globalist project.

Because efficiency is entirely subjective in it's value. Yes in some cases efficiency is a good thing- when manufacturing consumer goods for example. But in other cases it is not a good thing- when constructing gas chambers to kill as many people as quickly as possible for example.

So we cannot place efficiency at the apex of our value system- nor can we take seriously the idea that because democracy is less efficient than tyranny we should abandon it in favor of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats or bankers.

How will this play out? Personally I think the Globalists have blown it- they assumed that the 'sheeple' would remain forever plaint and easy to control- but in this they have been proved wrong- so we see the establishment in the UK and the EU and even Hong Kong now scrambling to limit the growth of an authentic new force of dissent- not some lefty rabble waving placards but a genuine 'grass roots' shift away from the status Quo and toward something-anything- else. And I don't think they can keep a lid on this new thing for much longer.

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This is good, but is a very British-centered view. There are other countries where democracy looks very different, and interacts very differently with globalisation.

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How will this play out? Personally I think the Globalists have blown it- they assumed that the 'sheeple' would remain forever plaint and easy to control- but in this they have been proved wrong- so we see the establishment in the UK and the EU and even Hong Kong now scrambling to limit the growth of an authentic new force of dissent- not some lefty rabble waving placards but a genuine 'grass roots' shift away from the status Quo and toward something-anything- else. And I don't think they can keep a lid on this new thing for much longer.

Reduced for space

One of the reasons I like HPC,

It is interesting that in the midst of this we have a polarised electorate calling each other sheeple, so entrenched are our opinions

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Maybe someone could explain how the UK as a stand alone economy of 64 million people that is already largely owned by foreign corporations would fare better against those global corporations than the EU with over 500 million people that is able to reign in the powers of those same global corporations for precisely the same reasons that the UK is unable to. Google EU+fines+cartels.

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Maybe someone could explain how the UK as a stand alone economy of 64 million people that is already largely owned by foreign corporations would fare better against those global corporations than the EU with over 500 million people that is able to reign in the powers of those same global corporations for precisely the same reasons that the UK is unable to. Google EU+fines+cartels.

Ownership is irrelevant.

The economy is the people doing stuff.

Are you seriously suggesting that we would stop doing stuff if we stood alone? and that every other economy has nothing to offer us, or us them?

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I'm not suggesting that at all. I just question whether 3 million+ people with sewing machines in their garages competing with T shirt factories in Bangladesh can replace the wages and tax contributions of workers that currently work for corporations that only base themselves in the UK because the UK has access to the EU single market.

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OP...

Fantastic post. I completely agree that what is at stake is democracy. It is impossible for the current system to continue without the destruction of democracy. They are incompatible with each other as you so eloquently describe.

One of the biggest problems with the current system is identifying where power actually lies. Does it lie with the politicians? the super rich? the corporations? the markets? It's easy to argue, but difficult to resolve, but what is clear is that it increasingly does not lie with the people.

Many on here muse that the little people having some political and economic stake in society is just a post-war blip, and we are going to return to some kind of natural state where the masses have nothing and a small elite take it all, (insert reference to Picketty here).

However, I have a problem with that prediction, because never before have we had universal suffrage, and I don't think that is something that will be given up without a fight, a big fight. Up until now, democracy has been thwarted by offering no democratic choice, but as you say, people are cottoning on to this now, and they are moving from disengagement from the existing political process (conveniently dismissed as 'apathy') towards wanting to shake up the democratic process and actively destroy the political institutions that are failing them. The Scottish Yes campaign, was so clearly a rejection of Westminster by the young (and saved only by the fear of the old) that it is hard to believe that in 20 years time there will by any legitimacy for the current political system remaining, and a political system without legitimacy is not a democracy.

I also agree with you that we are witnessing the end of the current era of globalisation, exactly how, when or how dramatically it will change, I think is impossible to predict, but it is clear that there is no way back for the current political and economic status quo.

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I also agree with you that we are witnessing the end of the current era of globalisation

Agree. The US/Western powers are desperately fighting the multi-polar world. That is why they hate Putin - he effectively leads a group of countries who are doing their own thing; setting up BRICS banks, making new banking systems, trading in gold, bartering, leaving the dollar system etc etc.

Russia, Putin and China etc all refuse to bow to the dollar hegemony and the uni-polar globalised world lead by America. Putin is the main driving force which is why he is the main target.

Edited by Errol

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Maybe someone could explain how the UK as a stand alone economy of 64 million people that is already largely owned by foreign corporations would fare better against those global corporations than the EU with over 500 million people that is able to reign in the powers of those same global corporations for precisely the same reasons that the UK is unable to. Google EU+fines+cartels.

Maybe you could explain how the great many Western countries that are smaller than the UK and not in the EU manage.

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Cant disagree with globalism...but you are too kind about Democracy....it aint that great.

Its interesting that both the far right and the far left oppose things like TTIP or NATO...both I think realize that if these bodies end up in the wrong hands, great damage will occur.

Its when the centre right and centre left (ie, the 'establishment') agree on things you need be worried.

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On a policy level however, UKIP seem inconsistent. The (rightly) identify the link between falling wages and the importation of cheap labour...but at the same time profess complete adherence to free trade...the effect of which is largely the same. Highly regulated British business has to compete with poorly regulated third world business...again causing falling wages (or more likely, unemployment) in the EU.

Its really very simple.

You can have western wages with western prices.

or

You can have eastern wages with eastern prices.

You cant have western wages with eastern prices indefinitely.

Personally I'd rather have a job and somewhat higher prices than have no job with lower prices.

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It might be worth redefining democracy from;

a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state through elected representatives.

To;

the chance to tick one box on a piece of paper every 4/5 years for a government comprising of global corporatist sociopaths and the chance to vote again until the 'correct' result is produced.

If anyone thinks we are living in a democratic era, (especially in the digital age when votes on significant issues could be called for and counted in an instant) I'm sorry but you need to wake the ****** up.

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This is because the type of globalisation we are looking at here is the variety which stregthens the elite, because they are rich they therefore know best. Demcoracy is seen as an awkward accessory which if it could be got rid off would rapidly improve everyone's wealth.....

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If anyone thinks we are living in a democratic era, (especially in the digital age when votes on significant issues could be called for and counted in an instant) I'm sorry but you need to wake the ****** up.

Well quite. Its a contentious issue, I know. But in the 35 or so states in the US that have held referenda on gay marriage...all have rejected gay marriage. And still it goes ahead. I believe only Italy and Croatia in Europe have held gay marriage referendum, again both rejected it but got it anyway.

It seems only the Swiss do actual democracy...Odd that they also reject these transnational abominations.

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The swiss also all have assault rifles and ammunition I wonder if thats anything to do with it.

This is true.

People wonder why Pikeys dont really abide by planning regs and get away with it.

Could be because they stick together and have lots of shotguns!

Maybe we HPC'ers should all claim Gyppo ancestry, get armed to the gills and build build build!

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I see can understand the argument in the OP from a very narrow, nationalistic perspective.

Taking a broader perspective, I think that globalisation is actually a net positive for the world's population. It has done more to lift people out of poverty than any national or supranational program / policy. It has weakened the influence of statists and nationalists which I see as a good thing. It has reduced the impact of the "lucky sperm" problem where someone born in the UK has a much better likelihood of a positive life's outcome than someone born in India. There is still a lot of progress to be made.

The problem of the "race to the bottom" is a transitional one. We will reach the bottom at some point after which the entire world's population will have a much more equal chance to achieve good outcomes than they do to-day.

At the crux of the argument in the OP is that someone born in the UK "deserves" a better life than someone born in Bangladesh. I reject this notion outright.

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There is a very strong authoritarian, anti democracy streak amongst the sociopaths of Big business and - particularly - finance. I worked for a Diamond lieutenant ( a military freak) who was fond of reminding us 'this is not a democracy'. He, of course, believed that's why it worked. Except it didn't and he's long gone.

How much power these people actually have is what worries me.

I agree free trade is at odds with sovereign state democracy, and have long argued that protectionism, rather than starting world war three, is needed to halt a catastrophic collapse of our political system in the near future. What worries me is what replaces that, and maybe big business expects the collapse of our democracy and looks forward to replacing it with a more 'Asian' style system.

http://www.businessinsider.com/hans-jorg-rudloff-barcap-work-more-less-benefits-2011

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