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Global economy calls for global politics

Marketplace Staff Oct 2, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: The White House isn’t having much luck at the United Nations. It’s trying to convince the Security Council to impose economic sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. China and Russia are the big holdouts. So over the weekend President Bush went it alone. He signed a bill Saturday morning that extends unilateral American sanctions. Mandatory economic penalties on any company that helps Iran make nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Commentator Benjamin Barber says going it alone is no way to go at all.

BENJAMIN BARBER: Unilateralism is the first prerogative of sovereignty: Do it your way without having to consult any one else.

But sovereignty — that collective right of a people to determine their own destiny through the laws they craft, the economy they run, and the borders they secure — is fast passing away.

The reality is that we are interdependent not independent. Global, not national. Market-centered, not state-centered. Anarchic, not governed at all.

Economists and businessmen have known for years that sovereignty is passing from national governments to the global marketplace.

Microsoft, Boeing, Nike and Coca Cola are global, not national, players. Capital and labor move around the world heedless of borders, presidents or prime ministers.

And at least since 9/11, even the proudest Americans have had to recognize that American security can’t be secured in America alone. That it depends on global firms like Halliburton and Kellogg Root, in addition to foreign security and police services.

Markets themselves are becoming the new sovereigns, controlling public outcomes with private decisions.

Now we can add sovereignty itself to the list of privatized roads, prisons, schools and transportation systems.

I know that sounds like a contradiction. Sovereignty means collective responsibility, public power, common decision-making. While markets mean private power and personal decision making.

But today there are no global citizens, only global consumers.

The new kings are now CEOs and billionaire philanthropists.

National solutions don’t apply to global problems anymore, from job migration, to AIDS, global warming, or terrorism. The new sovereignty must be as global as markets and as international as terrorism.

In a world of interdependence, the new sovereignty ultimately means cooperation, even pooling the individual power of nations.

That way global politics can be as effective as global finance.

RYSSDAL: Benjamin Barber runs the non-profit Democracy Collaborative. If you have something on your mind head to our website. It’s marketplace.org. Click on the link that says Contact.

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