Tragic Politicians. The tragedy of people like Xi and Trump is that they live and think from the past. They were brought up in the world in which large powerful states determined the economy of the world. And now that they are finally sitting on the plush themselves, they wish to continue this way of thinking with all the power they have. They do not see that the world around them is changing completely and that all sorts of new developments and forces are causing classic nation states to lose a lot of power. They therefore do not see that the declining power of nation-states is a natural process and that other, new forms of governance are needed in the world.
New times. New times have arrived, in which the traditional nation states are playing a decreasing role and completely new mechanisms determine the global economy. And not only the global economy is determined completely differently. We live in the so-called Anthropocene, which means that humans themselves are the most important factor in the current ecological changes on earth. Both the changed factors that determine the economy and the factors that determine the ecology on earth demand an approach that is partly beyond the control of the traditional nation states.
National sovereignty. In the past, not so very long ago, both the economy and the ecology were dominated by nation-states that pursued a largely autonomous policy. Of course there was cooperation, a UN was established for a good reason. But roughly the political idea was and still is so in almost all countries that the sovereign power of the nation state is the dominant way of thinking for politicians. Unfortunately, it is precisely this sovereignty that is the obstacle to finding solutions for the proper functioning of the world economy, as well as solving the major ecological issues of our time. What is going on ? Technological developments have led to an increasing number of organisations, both private and public, that are working together internationally.
International cooperation. International collaboration has become much easier thanks to many new technologies. In the meantime even one-man organisations work together in worldwide networks in almost every area. From scientists to artists, from technology companies to transport and logistics firms, from travel organisations to local farmers and fishermen. All this is due to the incredibly fast and versatile technological developments of the last decades. The initiative has partly been taken out of the hands of the nation states. The national taxi policy disappears where Uber is rolling out their services. The national travel organisations are gone, now that everyone can book themselves. Gone is the national retail policy, now global platforms are offering cheap and efficient services worldwide. The national banking system will go away as soon as tech platforms have bank licenses. The national insurance system is leaving, when international insurance platforms are developing. The national medical care policy disappears as more medical services are offered via international platforms. The national climate policy is gone, because that is anyway an international problem.
Gaps in national policy. The traditional nation states are empty-handed by all these developments. They do not realise that the world is totally changing and continue to cling to traditional national mechanisms to resolve issues. But that will no longer work. The labour market doesn’t work anymore, now many become unemployed and have no prospects, even though there is a huge shortage of professionals in almost every area. Problems in many areas are piling up without solutions being possible at national level. Populists are dreaming about “back to the past”, which usually means nationalist, protectionist policies, without realising that the past was no better and that looking backwards offers no prospects for the future.
China – US Technology War. States such as China and the US are trying, with the power of despair and against better judgment, to implement a strict national policy. Their leaders are killing each other’s products, or obstructing international joint ventures, often without realising that almost all modern technological products are the result of international cooperation: from smartphones to telecom, from cars to trains and air planes, from clothing to microwave. Breaking up these millions of partnerships in industrial segments, purely to restore the autarkic power of the traditional nation states of China and the US, will cost many billions. Not only that. It will lead to massive unemployment, stagnation in the economy of many countries (not just China and the US), bankrupt companies or relocations and, moreover, loss of quality of many services and products. After all, all these companies and organisations have set up the millions of international partnerships for a reason. Precisely because doing business internationally is better and more efficient. This has led to better, cheaper, services and products for all involved.
Only one way to the future. It is not understood, especially by politicians, that there is only one route to both the solution of a stable, balanced economy and a responsible ecological policy for our planet. And that is: much more instead of less international cooperation. The Liquid Society that is emerging as a result of more and more technological developments can only develop to its full potential if humanity learns to work much better together in all conceivable areas. National policies to solve world problems is nonsense, obstructive and counter-productive in almost every area.
International cooperation is needed in all areas. It is not just about jointly implementing a responsible climate policy. It is unthinkable that we can solve the many thousands of questions in the technological field, from artificial intelligence, to the deployment of robots, from automation in companies, to the application of medical technology, all by individual countries. Only international cooperation can lead to faster finding efficient and high-quality solutions. We are short of millions of experts and professionals worldwide. Intense cooperation in almost every area is needed to exchange knowledge and to help each other. National thinking leads to nothing. Also with regard to policy about international tech platforms. International fiscal rules, security (data privacy), ethical (what is allowed or not allowed) policy must be discussed and developed together with these organisations, because nationally this is not soluble or counter-productive. For example, France is trying to implement a national policy with regard to Tech Giants, resulting in a quarrel in Europe (because why not a single European policy) and with the US. But the same applies to migration issues, medical issues, scientific issues, even labor issues: for all these areas, international cooperation would make it so much easier.
Companies and citizens are ahead of politicians. It is remarkable that both companies and citizens have long realised that we are moving towards one international world order, but that politicians, out of self-interest, use the brakes. Every organisation seeks international cooperation, to exchange knowledge and ideas, to do business, also for the fun of having international contacts. Every citizen uses the countless social media to set up international circles of friends, to support or organise international campaigns, or to make online purchases. Every citizen is served with the ability to withdraw money anywhere, use WiFi and internet, travel easily, live or work elsewhere.
Nation-states obstruct their citizens. But nation states still do everything to make it difficult for citizens to live, work, travel, buy a house or car elsewhere. In Europe, very little comes from the European laws on use free movement of people and goods, because almost all countries actively oppose, rather than facilitate, the mobility of citizens. Instead of synchronising national rules on an international level, so that citizens everywhere encounter the same rules and laws, they are actively working on artificially maintaining unnecessary national differences. Has it any use when we have 27 different driving licenses if we all drive on the same roads? Has it any use when we have hundreds of national inspections in almost every area, while it would be much cheaper, more efficient and of better quality to come up with more uniform international rules and inspections? Better defence cooperation would save the citizen many, many billions. As well as better cooperation in the field of transport (one European Railway Network), telecommunications, banks and energy. The national hobbies all cost a lot of money from the taxpayer and only cause a nuisance for the citizens. It is of course no different worldwide. Nation states regard citizens as “their property” and try to hold them in national cages so that they can pay national taxes, instead of encouraging people to be internationally mobile, where practical and possible, so that they gain international knowledge and experience, or can live, work or retire elsewhere without being hindered by numerous national rules.
Stop throwing sand between the wheels. In the meantime, the train continues. Politicians such as Xi and Trump must cease throwing sand between the wheels of the unfolding liquid society. Companies and organisations have the wish and legitimate need to work together internationally. It is good for those organisations and good for their customers, whether they are citizens or other companies. Citizens also have a great interest in being able to travel, work and live freely. Yes, of course, solutions will have to be found for disorganised hordes of migrants who can flood rich countries. But it is just through stronger international cooperation that this problem can be solved by helping to build better livelihoods in countries of origin. It is just this that belongs to the tasks of the developed nation states. The solution is not to look away from these problems and simply to close the borders. While the traditional nation states, not only China and the US, but also numerous Arab, European, African or Asian countries, are still cramped in their national policies, the world around them is changing, both from their citizens, as well as from their companies and other organisations.
Companies and citizens have had enough. The protests in many countries indicate that people have had enough of the traditional policies of politicians. While some think the protests are meant to help populists to power, there are also many signs that the population is increasingly understanding that only international cooperation can lead to solutions. The many recent climate protests, protests against breaking up the rule of law or the obstruction of the free press, clearly point to the “waking up” of citizens in many countries. Social media have an important task in facilitating this. It’s not for nothing that social media and the internet are thwarted by dogmatically thinking nation states. However, autocratic, nationalist leadership will encounter increasing resistance. Companies and numerous organisations also explicitly demand more and no less international freedom of movement. More scientific international cooperation, more cooperation in technological areas. Companies are also increasingly showing their social face. Oil multinationals increasingly pursue a sustainable energy policy. Food companies are increasingly committed to sustainable products. This also brings them more emphatically into the social and political domain. Both investors and large pension companies are increasingly demanding a socially responsible course from large companies in which they invest. But in all these cases it is clear that these companies need international regulations in the fields like taxation, energy or sustainability. This will increasingly force governments to make mutual, international agreements on laws and regulations and will also imply consequently an erosion of the sovereign nation state.
The problem of the sovereign nation state. All this affects the sovereignty thinking of the classical politicians. National sovereignty is the problem and not the solution for the new liquid society. There is only one earth, one nature, one climate, one humanity. Even politicians should increasingly have to understand that and adjust their policies accordingly. The earth is a fairly fragile spaceship that can only preserve its wealth of life through joint effort. We clearly live in a transition time. The old national policy is less and less applicable, because it only leads to more instead of fewer problems. However, there is not yet a lot of new international policy to solve the increasing number of international issues. Clearly the politicians still have to wake up. A lot of protest marches are needed in the coming years to show politicians the way for more international cooperation. But there is no escaping any more possible. More international cooperation and less national sovereignty is the only course.