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In 1938, Orson Welles narrated a now famous radio broadcast called “War of the Worlds”. This simulated radio news bulletin described what was happening in real time as Martians arrived on Earth. Of course, the broadcast was fictitious, but if extra-terrestrials did land on our planet, what would they make of us?

I’m confident that any galactic visitors would say we inhabit a stunningly beautiful planet. But when they learn how we have treated our home, I think they would struggle to believe that we are Earth’s most intelligent life form. Moreover, when they discover our history of warfare, they would view human behaviour as light years away from how a civilised society should act.

As any student of history knows, it is not possible to study human history without studying armed conflict - the two are so interwoven. The rise and fall of empires and the division of national boundaries have largely been determined by the application of military force. The end result is that we have artificially divided our planet into 195 sovereign nations

This divided citizenry is the root cause of many of our world’s problems. We share one planet but are ordered along national lines. So, we act selfishly as citizens of independent nation-states instead of behaving selflessly as one united global family. By viewing the world through national-interest glasses, we fail to clearly see and deal with global issues.

The Great Depression is an example of this parochial thinking. After the 1929 stock market crash, nation-states sheltered their domestic industries from international competition and this led to a collapse in global demand. The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) again showed that we live in a borderless world. No country was immune from its effects even though some threatened to escape behind protectionist trade barriers - history repeating itself!

Just as the great oceans we navigate and the air we breathe know no national boundaries, so it is in a global economy. The challenge humanity faces is to better manage an interdependent world. International trade and commerce are moving us beyond a world order built around the sovereign state system. Additionally, the Internet is creating a global civilisation. 

Futurists have long talked about the concept of a “Global Village” with “neighbours” electronically connected to each other. In this brave new integrated world, we are interconnected by an electronic nervous system. Today, economic transactions are not impeded by distance. With the click of a mouse, national borders can be transcended.

So, what are the politics of cyberspace? As social structures become transnational, will nation-states allow their borders to be deconstructed? Will multi-national corporations with their global brands eventually rule the world? Will the speed and power of technology and the rise of “de-localisation” render governments useless? 

Just as I do not believe that robots are going to take over the world, (see last week’s post on Artificial intelligence) I equally do not believe that national governments will disappear. In fact, I believe that nation-states will remain powerful actors in world affairs. They will still issue their own currency (Bitcoin will not take over the world!) and set the global agenda. 

However, how territorial governments act in a borderless world will change. Co-ordinated action will increasingly be needed to tackle common problems and this is exactly what the G20 does. It deals with transnational issues that are beyond the remit of any single government to resolve. One of those issues is regulation of the global banking system.

The global regulatory standards on banking supervision are set out in what are known as the Basel Accords. These accords have the laudable objective of increasing the stability of global financial markets. My views of the Basel regulations are outlined in two previous posts - Global banking laws and Regulation gone mad.

Whether it’s roundtables on banking regulation or summits on climate change, we can expect to see a rise in the activity of international co-ordinating bodies. The G20 - as the world’s premier forum for economic co-operation - has a critical role to play in ensuring that bodies like the World Bank, the OECD and the IMF operate effectively and facilitate coherent global economic policy-making.

True global co-operation and consensus is possible and my hope is that this co-operative form of international governance becomes the new world order. 


Paul J. Thomas

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Posted Monday, April 27, 2015    View Comments 0 Comments    Make a Comment Make a comment  

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