"Gimmie that old time religion" ran the gospel classic. Since the early 1970s, says Saul, a new religion has emerged, displacing existing dogmas. It's called "Globalism". Globalism lacks a deity, but provides us with a fresh dogma - "borderless commerce". The ranks of its apostles view the world through a "prism of economics". The new liturgy claims that open, unfettered world "trade" will overcome restrictive government policies, grant peace, freedom, prosperity and will last forever. It will redeem the world of its ills by considering issues through this restrictive prism. It sees humanity as driven solely by economic self-interest. It applies that view to business, government and society in general. It is Mammon in all his finery and power.
Saul's sprightly prose leads us through a chronology of the rise of Globalism, citing some of its most profound proponents along the way. He describes the methods used in creating the "global market". The prophets are known to all who took Economics 101 - Milton Friedman, Samuel Brittain and Robert Norvick. Globalism's converts, following their initiation, tended to remain out of sight, however. Saul notes the irony of an "open" system doing so much so quietly and with so little fanfare. Part of the reason for this covert manner was that avoiding publicity was important to its advocates. While quietly lobbying for "deregulation" or arranging multi-billion dollar mergers, the Globalists operated away from public scrutiny. Knowing the general populace would bear the brunt of paying for their dealings, keeping people ignorant of the impact was important. "Smooth waters and continuity" was the theme of those who avoided confronting reality. No dissent meant acceptance. Saul sees this approach as "management" of problems, not realistic leadership.
Globalism has achieved much, according to Saul. There have been shakeouts of inept or corrupt government-run programmes in many countries. Giant corporations girdling the planet have been established. The movement of material and products has been eased. Work has been given to those who might have never known what a factory was or what it produced. "Agribusiness" was an unknown term in the 1970s - it's a commonplace, now. Products on your table arrive from far away places. The shop's shelves are weighed down with a confusing variety of goods, whether grocery or clothing or electronics.
These accomplishments have come at a price. The transnationals move goods within themselves, creating an artificial trade picture - and an artificial state as a by-product. The maneuvers have led to grand fortunes. The 358 richest people have assets exceeding the combined incomes of countries containing 45 per cent of the world's population. People are dealt with as replaceable machines and community and human values have been shed. If jobs aren't easily exported, labour is invited to relocate. There are 17 million Muslim workers living among 450 million Europeans. These workers face lack of acceptance, an uncertain status and, often, downright hostility. Recent events in London indicate how long this condition has been running without solution.
Throughout the book, New Zealand is offered as the optimum case study. By the onset of Globalism, this island nation had "led the world in women's rights and public programmes". In the early 1980s that Pacific nation endorsed and implemented the gospel of Globalism into their economy and government. "Privatizing" was quietly instituted. The tax burden smoothly shifted from the top levels to the bottom. Over the years social programmes were dismantled, resources drained away by outsiders and the infrastructure fall into foreign ownership. The situation far exceeded the "branch plant" economy often bemoaned of here in Canada. Dissatisfaction on many levels brought a change in government. That turnover heralded a disavowal of Globalism's tenets. The new government had the sense not to attempt any disruptive shifts. The return to a realistic structure has been at a sedate pace. The result is achievement of what Saul calls "positive nationalism". New Zealand was a model for the West in the last century. It has become one again in the new one.
While the 1970s are viewed as a stagnant period, the 1990s displayed lively activity. Globalism seemed to have accomplished its goals. Many crowed of its "victory" over "narrow nationalism". There were a few disturbing signs. One, voiced by a newly elected French President, was his announcement that he was powerless in the face of forces that had destabilised oil prices, brought inflation and increased unemployment. It was the first signal that Globalism had triumphed over civil authority. The triumph wasn't complete, however. The Asian Fiscal Meltdown, which brought cries of "crony capitalism" and "false promises", was quickly quelled. Stability was restored by the Malaysian government striking a new chord. It refused to accept that the crisis was an economic one affecting the nation. Instead, Mohamed Mahathir decreed that the problem was a national one with economic overtones. It was the first sign of the resurrection of the nation-state. While the Globalist choir lamented the betrayal of their programme, two observers in the loft watched with interest - India and China.
Saul describes how a new rise of the nation-state should work. It's not an abrupt restoration. Too many forces exist and many people remain to be convinced it should take place. After New Zealand, the best example is the European Union's acceptance of Spain as a member. China and India follow as models. India, however, has shown how to keep the managers hatched by Globalism at bay and retain its independence. India also realistically deals with economic problems as national issues. Where the first publication of the Davos economic forum declared that "nationalism is indefensible", Saul argues that "positive nationalism" is the mechanism for retrieving us from the vacuum resulting from the collapse of the Globalism balloon. There are no other solutions visible.
This is a book that is needed. And needs to be read. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]