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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/2/18

Is the "Liberal World Order" Worth Saving?

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From Our Future


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Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, recently wrote a column entitled "Liberal World Order, R.I.P."

Haass sees the post-World War II order succumbing to centrifugal forces. He foresees a fragmented and chaotic world made up of "regional orders" or "disorders," along with the return of great-power rivalries that some thought had ended with the Cold War.

He's offering a eulogy, but one he hopes will revive the deceased before the burial is final.

An Inside View

Haass has a distinguished resume' as a diplomat, Defense Department official, presidential adviser, author, and Harvard lecturer. Few people have achieved as much prominence in the current system of international relations. He writes with the authority of an insider who has stood near the epicenter of global power.

But the view from the periphery, where most people live and work, is very different.

It's true that we are in a period of global change, and the loss of a governing world order brings instability, uncertainty, and risk. But the real causes of today's political instability lie within the order itself.

That order has served the economic and strategic interests, not of nations, but of certain powerful interests within nations. The contradiction may not have been as apparent in times of relative prosperity, but became more visible after the financial crisis of 2008 -- a crisis brought on, in part, by financial deregulation imposed by the order itself.

Haass never offers a critical examination of that order. In his telling, the most powerful system of international governance in human history is largely the victim of forces beyond its control.

News From Nowhere

Haass cites "the effects of growing populism" as "parties of the political extremes have gained ground in Europe." The United Kingdom's Brexit vote "attested to the loss of elite influence" and notes that "even the US is experiencing unprecedented attacks from its own president on the country's media, courts, and law-enforcement institutions."

Why is this happening? Haass acknowledges the role of "stagnating incomes and job loss," but otherwise treats these events as news from nowhere. The "liberal" world order's role in creating those conditions is ignored. Instead, Haass says that "new technologies" are "mostly" responsible.

A working paper from the International Monetary Fund contradicts this claim. It concludes, "Among developed countries...the adverse impact of globalization is somewhat larger than that of technological progress."

Haass' interpretation ignores the impact of global trade deals on jobs and wages in the United States and other developed countries. The U.S. Department of Labor has identified nearly one million individual American workers who lost their jobs to NAFTA.

Trade between the United States and China after the creation of the World Trade Organization resulted in the loss of an estimated 2 million to 2.4 million American jobs between 1999 and 2011.

The pain wasn't restricted to the U.S., either. A U.N. commission led by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz concluded that international agreements and institutions "prevent them from regulating the operations of financial institutions and instruments or capital flows," putting them at risk for additional harm.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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