Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Oh Yeah, About that "Post-National" Business

Justin Trudeau has proclaimed Canada the "first post-national state."  We're not the first country to be smeared with that label. In fact we may be the last. Justin's world view is hopelessly outdated. From Foreign Policy: of the paradoxes of globalization has been that, as cross-border travel, migration, and trade have increased, attachment to national identity has not weakened, but instead grown stronger. Since 1981 the European and World Values Surveys have asked respondents whether they feel “very proud,” “quite proud,” “not very proud,” or “not at all proud” of their national identity (see chart below). That recent decades have seen an upsurge in national attachment in authoritarian regimes such as Russia or China is unsurprising, yet less noted is a return of national pride in societies that were once thought of “post-national,” such as Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands. This surge in national pride has been concurrent with the growth of “new right” political parties, such as the Sweden Democrats (SD), the Alternative for Germany (AfD), and the Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands.

...Why have citizens across Western democracies become increasingly nationalistic, opposed to mass migration, and suspicious of international institutions? One answer is that this is a consequence of the financial crisis, which has left deep pockets of economic deprivation and underemployment. But that answer is clearly wrong, because these trends have been in place for the better part of 30 years. A more accurate answer would be that they reflect an inherent tension between national democratic sovereignty and elite-led efforts at global integration, and that this tension has now reached its breaking point.

As economies and societies around the globe become more and more interconnected and bound within transnational rules and institutions, the range of policy options available to domestic policymakers has declined. ...Thus, on issue after issue, from corporate taxation, to control over immigration, to fiscal and monetary policy, national elites frequently find themselves unable to deliver policies consistent with public preferences. Instead they have blamed international institutions for their inability to take actions that they privately do not condone. In this way, politics feel obliged, in the words of Hillary Clinton, to maintain “both a public and a private position.”

Yet the constraints on national sovereignty entailed by global markets and institutions has weakened the mechanisms that once translated popular views into public policy, leading to a “democratic deficit”’ that has left citizens increasingly frustrated with democratic politics, and increasingly with the democratic system itself. At the same time, the institutions of “global governance” have failed not only to provide avenues for popular participation, but also to deliver outcomes that such participation would be liable to generate, such as compensation for the losers from global trade, or protection of the identities and ways of life of local and national communities. In the words of Larry Summers, one of global integration’s advocates, it is a project “carried out by elites, for elites, with little consideration for the interests of ordinary people."

...As the differences between establishment parties on the left and right have dwindled in many countries, the only way for voters to effect a change in policy has been to rally to parties that reject many of the traditional rules of the democratic game. In this way, as politicians’ responsiveness to citizens has decreased, citizens have been encouraged to turn away from democracy.

Far from eroding the nation-state, the era of elite-led global integration in the years after 1989 has similarly failed to create legitimate transnational institutions, leaving national democratic communities as the primary source of identity, security, and loyalty for citizens. Now that the defenders of the traditional nation-state are regaining the power they have coveted for so long, the future of global governance rests in their hands. At stake is whether they succeed in finding a new balance between national sovereignty and transnational cooperation — or instead, return us to an era of mercantilism, inter-state competition, and great-power warfare.

Unfortunately, all of this reality passes straight over the head of our prime minister who remains hellbent on perpetuating the project "carried out by elites, for elites, with little consideration for the interests of ordinary people." It's sad, really. We deserve better, much better.

Global integration is an ideology, nothing more. It's founded on social science that's not evidence based but faith based. Stephen Harper was a true believer. Justin Trudeau is as devout a disciple as the man he displaced.

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