In his NYT column, "The Cognitive Age," [NYT website, Friday, 2 May 2008], the conservative commentator David Brooks writes about the misplaced outrage among Americans over globalization.
Brooks casts prevailing political attitudes about this multifaceted, cross-category phenomenon by reducing it to a "certain historical narrative."
Brooks incorrectly equivocates by labeling an essentially contemporary political narrative as "historical narrative."
"There were once nation-states like the U.S. and the European powers, whose economies could be secured within borders. But now capital flows freely. Technology has leveled the playing field. Competition is global and fierce."
Historians have long noted, and political leaders have long known, that national borders are porous, contingent, and artificial.
In The Age of Revolution, the historian Eric Hobsbawm in 1962 noted with respect to the Congress of Vienna, the settlement of the Napoleonic Wars, that:
"The map of Europe was redrawn without concern for either the aspirations of the peoples or the rights of the numerous princes dispossessed at one time or another by the French, but with considerable concern for the balance of the five great powers which emerged from the wars: Russia, Britain, France, Austria, and Prussia."
Indeed, globalization is nothing new, and few historians would argue it is: from the Silk Road to the Trans-Saharan Caravan and the Middle Passage; from the introduction of moveable type to Europe and the adaptation of gunpowder during the Hundred Years' War, both from China; from the migration of Paleo-Indians across Beringia to North America to the telegraphic connection of Ireland to New Foundland; globalization is as old as human beings themselves.
How could it be otherwise? The globe, earth, the world is the stage upon which the drama of human history plays.
What is new---and what many of the good books Brooks alludes to in his article actually say---is that the amount, intensity, magnitude, and rate of change in the Twentieth, and now the Twenty-First, Century has outpaced the ability of traditional nation-states to control, manage, and regulate socio-economic change largely driven by super-corporations beyong the reach of governments as they are currently structured.
Here again, one may wonder whether the "aspirations of the peoples" and their rights have been subverted by super-corporate interests.
Brooks correctly notes that traditional industrial workers in a country like the United States have been displaced by highly skilled technicians and what Paul Kennedy has dubbed symbolic analysts, those workers engaged in what may largely be described as intellectual property and creative fields.
The new economy is no more or less global, in a sense, than ever. The transition we see in America today is from an industrialized economy to The Information, Knowledge, Technology Economy for which America is ill-prepared.
My argument has been for a very long time, and remains: the structures of American government are ill-equiped to deal with the changing global world; government agencies and programs are structured on nineteenth- and early- to mid- twentieth-century standards: public education, the FDA, unemployment compensation programs, the federal highway and public transit systems, General Assistance, higher education, and even the Federal Reserve System.
To reign in corporate over-influence in the public sector, and meet the demands of America's great working and Middle Classes, however, calls not for the conservative platform of little or no government beholden to corporate over-influence, but rather for the progressive, liberal platform of reinventing government to meet the legitimate expectations of those it serves and restoring balance between the public, corporate, and special interests.