Freedom in the Global Village

Mr. King is Editorial Director of the Foreign Policy Association as well as a freelance writer.

The vocabulary of the space age, with its colorful labels like "space­ship earth" and "the global vil­lage," has been eagerly grasped by the champions of world govern­ment as a dramatic means of il­lustrating their cause. We are all "riders on the earth together," they proclaim, and it logically fol­lows that the only means of sur­vival in our journey through space is to function as a single society led by a single government.

With just as much enthusiasm, proponents of individual freedom have attacked these utopian dreams. Those who feel defensive about the creeping encroachments of big government find the new slogans uncomfortable. They can’t resist the impulse to deride phras­es like "spaceship earth" because to accept them would seem to be a step toward accepting some form of centralized global authority.

But the whole idea of a global perspective is not really that frightening. In fact, you can make a good case for the thought that acceptance of the spaceship earth analogy should lead us in the di­rection of less government control rather than more.

In the first place, we should be able to accept the premise that we are indeed living in a "global vil­lag." Modern technology has been largely responsible for that; and humanity can no longer live in isolated pockets. Barbara Ward was quite right in saying: "We have become neighbors in terms of inescapable proximity and instant communication. We are neighbors in economic interest and techno­logical direction. We are neighbors in the risk of total destruction."¹

Modern problems, such as ecol­ogy, urbanization, and population, have also made us realize that our spaceship is a pretty frail craft and what happens in one part of it is going to affect other areas as well. Businessmen have known this for a long time—at least in terms of economics—but we’ve been slow to grasp the idea in other areas that are just as im­portant to our lives as profit and loss statements. In the future, the interrelatedness of man is likely to become more intimate rather than less so. I think few people would disagree with the prediction of political scientist Bruce Russett that, in the decades ahead, "people will be much more closely involved than ever before…. ‘One World’ has a meaning beyond the under­standing even of those who lived just a generation ago."

In other words, we find ourselves living in a sort of dualistic society—the local (or national) culture on the one hand, the global on the other. Geographer Robert Harper explains the two culture systems this way: "In the Congo, most peo­ple still live in the locally-based system focused on their own piece of earth real-estate, but Leopold­ville is a city with regular com­munication and traff¹c with the worldwide network…. Mexico is both Mexico City, with its rather important position in the interconnected world, and the Indian vil­lage, that is only peripherally tied to the world beyond walking dis­tance from the villag."³

Homemade Pride

In most of our behavior, how­ever, we act as though we were not aware that there is a global so­ciety as well as a national on. We are impressed by our own unique­ness as a nation, and our schools spend a good portion of their time imbuing our children with ideas of how we are different from other people, and all but ignore experi­ences we share with other mem­bers of the human species. Donald W. Robinson, of the National As­sociation of Secondary School Principals, points out that "history textbooks usually present a view of the national culture that is ac­ceptable to the educational estab­lishment."4 And the acceptable view seems to be one that concen­trates on the achievements of the United States as a nation.

Now there is nothing wrong with national pride. What is wrong is that we learn to think only in terms of the nation-state and en­courage our youth to think the same way. We tend to ignore the fact that we are also members of a global society that criss-crosses national boundaries as though they didn’t exist. One result of our myopia is the tendency to look to the nation-state as the organizing force in our lives—if we are faced with a problem, we automatically assume that the government will solve it. As psychologist Herbert Kelman stated: "The organization of the world in terms of nation-states has such a powerful hold on our thinking that it is almost im­possible to conceive it in different terms."5

Suppose we were able to look at ourselves as part of a global so­ciety. Would this lead to loss of loyalty to one’s nation? Would it be a dangerous step toward bigger government or some form of world government?

The answer to both questions is a resounding "No!"

To accept the idea that we are "riders on the earth together" is merely to accept a condition that already exists. It means realizing that we have a great many things in common with our fellow passen­gers, including some problems that would be a good deal more solv­able if we could learn to cooperate—as people, not as governments. The global village idea also means understanding that "there are many functions which, by their inherent nature and by the nature of the modern world, cannot prop­erly be met by the sovereign na­tion-state."6

Multinational Corporations

One significant example should serve to illustrate the point: the internationalization of business.

Multinational corporations have been in existence for a consider­able length of time, but it is only in the past few years that we’ve begun to realize what a tremen­dous impact they have on the econ­omy of the world. According to Judd Polk of the International Chamber of Commerce, these glo­bal firms now have a combined production that exceeds "that of all national markets except those of the United States and Russia"; and, if present growth rates con­tinue, by the end of the century "the world economy will be more than half-internationalized."7

The impetus for this revolutionary growth was not supplied by an idealistic dream of a central­ized world society. And much of it was achieved in spite of the inter­ference of national governments and bureaucracies. What has hap­pened has been simply a natural pattern of expansion as business­men have sought new resources and markets. If these goals could be achieved by crossing national boundaries, then those boundaries were crossed.

Although the expansion of mul­tinational firms has caused some concern in other countries (.g., Servan-Schreiber’s fears expressed in The American Challenge that Europe is going to become Ameri­canized), no one seems to worry much about members of these firms losing their patriotism. An American technician working for IBM in France will remain loyal to his native land; the same thing would be true of an Argentinian accountant working for an Eng­lish firm in Saudi Arabia. As his­torian Frank Tannenbaum com­mented: "The corporation groups the nationals into a new loyalty—a functional identity across all borders" and these are "unrelated to the state or nation."8 Man has long been capable of multiple loy­alties—church, community, family, and nation—and there is no reason that a businessman can’t be loyal to his company in Pakistan at the same time that he maintains his other ties.

Business Brings Unity Where Force Has Failed

If global businesses can avoid being trapped in bureaucratic red tape, which some have managed to avoid in the face of tremendous obstacles, it seems quite likely that their natural growth will do a good deal to make life more com­fortable for the less fortunate pas­sengers on our spaceship. In fact, free economic growth by Ameri­can and European firms in devel­oping countries will do far more than costly foreign aid programs in creating jobs and economic progress. Courtney C. Brown ex­pressed this idea with glowing op­timism: "These multinational cor­porations that have developed so quietly but so suddenly, may be the hoped-for force that will ul­timately provide a means of uni­fying and reconciling the aspira­tions of mankind—a task which all the politicians have utterly failed to achieve."

Notice that Brown speaks of unity, but a unity that has nothing to do with either national governments or the myriad proposals for global government. Instead, he is referring to the ideal of all peo­ples sharing in the rewards of free economic growth.

The spaceship earth reasoning, then, doesn’t automatically lead us into slavery or disaster. It does not mean that we have to view so­ciety "as a vast army," or adopt a religious faith in centralized plan­ning. Rather, it should help us see that, in a variety of important ways, individual initiative is mak­ing a dent in the problems we share with the rest of humanity. Multinational corporations have been successful because their per­sonnel can "think world-wide"; they have managed to remove the analytic blinders that force so many of us to think only in terms of the nation. If the progress of these firms continues, it should help awaken people to the idea that there are better roads to pros­perity than the creation of bigger and stronger governments.

 

—FOOTNOTES—

¹ Barbara Ward, Spaceship Earth (N. Y.: Columbia University Press, 1966), p. 14.

² Bruce Russett, Trends in World Pol­itics (N. Y.: The Macmillan Co.), p. 165.

³ Robert Harper, "A Basic Framework for Social Science," Social Education, XXXII (Nov., 1968), p. 656.

4 Donald W. Robinson, ed., As Others See Us (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969), p. 2.

5 Herbert Kelman, "Education for the Concept of a Global Society," Social Ed­ucation, XXXII (Nov., 1968), p. 662.

6 Ibid.

7 Judd Polk, "The Rise of World Cor­porations," Saturday Review (Nov. 22, 1969), p. 32-33.

8 Frank Tannenbaum, "The Survival of the Fittest," Columbia Journal of World Business (Mar.-Apr., 1968), p. 13.

9 Courtney C. Brown, "A New World Symphony," editorial in Saturday Re­view (Nov. 22, 1969), p. 56.

 

***

It Still Pays to Trade

As Ricardo pointed out, one nation can be more eff¹cient in every category than another nation—and yet because of a compara­tive advantage, it is still profitable for the more efficient nation to trade with the less efficient nation. But how does one discover these comparative advantages among the various nations in to­day’s world?

Well, first, it is necessary that you and I and everyone else can freely buy and sell and exchange the moneys of the two nations being compared. For when free exchange is permitted, then prices and wage rates in the two nations will tend to be based on reality instead of wishful thinking. And when trade is based on reality, comparative advantages are not hard to find. Select two jobs or two products that exist in both nations. Now examine the wage rates and prices paid in one of the nations for the jobs or products. Now compare the wages and prices for the same jobs and products in the other nation.

Unless the comparative substitution ratios are identical (highly unlikely), trade will occur between the two nations. Each nation will concentrate on the production of the item in which it has the greatest comparative advantage (or the least comparative dis­advantage). Both nations will profit from this trade, even when one of them has an absolute advantage in producing both products.

DEAN RUSSELL, Free Trade: Domestic and Foreign 

Further Reading

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