Saturday, February 18, 2012

Politics beyond borders

Kemal Derviş* highlights what he sees as the crucial problem facing political systems. "Around the world, the stock of financial assets has become so large, relative to national income flows, that financial-market movements can overwhelm most countries. Even the largest economies are vulnerable, particularly if they are highly dependent on debt finance."

But citizens, according to Derviş, want to debate policies and give or withhold their consent. "Thus a more supra-national form of politics is needed to re-embed markets in democratic processes."

This, essentially, is the problem the EU is grappling with - so ineffectively. "Nonetheless, unless globalization can be slowed down or partly reversed, which is unlikely and undesirable in the long run, the kind of 'politics beyond borders' for which Europe is groping will become a global necessity."

"Indeed," Derviş continues, "the European crisis may be providing a mere foretaste of what will likely be the central political debate of the first half of the 21st century: how to resolve the tension between global markets and national politics."

Though this last prediction seems very plausible, the analysis as a whole betrays a degree of wishful thinking. Politics beyond borders may be a global necessity, but democracy is not.

Democracy will of necessity be constrained by the operation of global markets as the power of smaller and/or indebted states to determine the rules they live by is diminished.

On the other hand, the role of mega-states like China is becoming more significant as they relentlessly extend their spheres of influence. It seems likely that we are in the early stages of a new imperial age.

*Former Turkish Minister for Economic Affairs and head of the United Nations Development Programme.

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