This new book by Walter Wriston, The Twilight of Sovereignty, is a clear overview of our present predicament. We are in a global market without full realization of its implications. Petrarch and Boccaccio, Lorenzo and the Medici did not know they were in the Renaissance. The name was applied by historians who looked back on a previous time in world events.
Boccaccio and the Medici did not know they were in the Renaissance. Neither do we realize that we are in a cybernetic revolution. Nor did Adam Smith, James Watt, Alessandro Volta, and Thomas Edison think of themselves as the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution. There were great dislocations involved, but they were not understood in perspective. As we look back at those eras, we see the periods as the great transitions which they were, and we give them names.
Today we are in the cybernetic revolution. Information knows no boundaries. The market is world-wide. Technology has enabled us to perform the same tasks with many fewer people. This means a certain amount of unemployment. It also signals a new demand for entrepreneurs and new skills. Wriston recognizes intelligence and learning to be the most valuable capital of any business or government.
Leonard Read wrote an essay, “I, Pencil,” which portrayed the interdependence of our modern market. Wriston does the same thing with automobiles. He shows up the fallacy of our modern mistaken demand for keeping all work, sales, purchases, jobs, and money within our own borders.
No nation can control its own information or its own money. When the market opens in New York it is open to the world at the same time. Information knows no borders. Tokyo, London, Paris, and Berlin are involved in our market as we are in theirs. The market is global.
From his pinnacle of world finance as CEO of Citicorp, Walter Wriston was acutely aware of all of these global factors. His book understands our present predicament, and suggests ways the market can operate if it is free from government domination.
Governments and corporations alike are losing their sovereignty. Wise leaders will recognize this, and there will be a rebirth of individual liberty in a world-wide context.
Dr. Gresham is President Emeritus of Bethany College and a Trustee Emeritus of The Foundation for Economic Education.