Here's the zinger:
“democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three but never have all three simultaneously and in full”
Truer words were never spoken. This wisdom from Harvard prof, Dani Rodrik, who refers to it as "the inescapable trilemma of the world economy."
In coining that term, professor Rodrik exposes the grand lie we've been fed by every leader during the age of neoliberalism going back to Mulroney. They've all told us that we can indeed have it all even as they've steadily parceled our national sovereignty out the back door in the dark of night.
Not that anybody's asking but I think if you asked Canadians to rank democracy, national sovereignty and global economic interest in order of their priority, global economic interest would be a distant third. I've yet to meet a Canadian who didn't cherish our national sovereignty and our democracy, the very things we've defended in some pretty ugly wars. I've never heard anyone suggest that we go to distant lands to battle for the preservation of global economic interest. America might do that but it's not a Canadian thing.
Still it seemed odd to find this discussion coming from the Financial Times. FT's Martin Wolf writes:
"...Historically, the rise of capitalism and the pressure for an ever-broader suffrage went together. This is why the richest countries are liberal democracies with, more or less, capitalist economies. Widely shared increases in real incomes played a vital part in legitimising capitalism and stabilising democracy. Today, however, capitalism is finding it far more difficult to generate such improvements in prosperity. On the contrary, the evidence is of growing inequality and slowing productivity growth. This poisonous brew makes democracy intolerant and capitalism illegitimate.
"...Consider the disappointing recent performance of global capitalism, not least the shock of the financial crisis and its devastating effect on trust in the elites in charge of our political and economic arrangements. Given all this, confidence in an enduring marriage between liberal democracy and global capitalism seems unwarranted.
"So what might take its place? One possibility would be the rise of a global plutocracy and so in effect the end of national democracies. As in the Roman empire, the forms of republics might endure but the reality would be gone.
"An opposite alternative would be the rise of illiberal democracies or outright plebiscitary dictatorships, in which the elected ruler exercises control over both the state and capitalists. This is happening in Russia and Turkey. Controlled national capitalism would then replace global capitalism. Something rather like that happened in the 1930s. It is not hard to identify western politicians who would love to go in exactly this direction.
"...Meanwhile, those of us who wish to preserve both liberal democracy and global capitalism must confront serious questions. One is whether it makes sense to promote further international agreements that tightly constrain national regulatory discretion in the interests of existing corporations. My view increasingly echoes that of Prof Lawrence Summers of Harvard, who has argued that “international agreements [should] be judged not by how much is harmonised or by how many barriers are torn down but whether citizens are empowered”. Trade brings gains but cannot be pursued at all costs."
While the intricacies of the Trans Pacific Partnership are beyond the scope of this post it is plain that Mr. Wolf and professors Summers and Rodrik, make compelling arguments for rejecting the TPP.
Globalized free trade was sold to an anxious public on the promise it would create more jobs and higher wages. Instead, jobs disappeared and wages stagnated. Rather than bringing modest but uniform prosperity to the many, it has delivered enormous wealth along with commensurate political power to a privileged few. One need look no further than America's "bought and paid for" Congress and the ascendancy of illiberal, transactional democracy to see what global economic integration spawns.
For the sake of our children and theirs, we must stop this - now.