From all the commentary this weekend and on Friday about the referendum to leave the European Union (EU) in the UK, it would seem that the dream of a handful of international bankers, multinational corporation heads and politicians of both the left and the right since the end of the Second World War have made a terrible and unforeseen error in pushing for a globalized world economy.
How did we get to this place? Simple, as a result of the economic policies of the 1920’s and 1930’s, Europe and her allies in North America, were plunged into a second global conflict. Near the end of the conflict, the economic leaders of the Allied nations gathered in Bretton Woods, NH to carve out the Bretton Woods Agreement, which established the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Along with this, came the United Nations to deal with the political and military crises that would arise in the second half of the twentieth century. To provide greater perspective, we must go back to the First World War and recognize that here in the US, many Americans were woefully ignorant not only about world affairs, but of geography as well. In 1914, I doubt many Americans could point out just where Sarajevo or Serbia was, or where any of the other nations drawn up into that war were located.
Following on the heels of an earlier organization, the National Civic Federation, several prominent business, political, academic, labor and other leaders formed the Council on Foreign Relations. The Council promoted the study of geography and political science in colleges and universities, as well as promoting social studies in high schools and junior high schools.
The Council also published Foreign Affairs magazine, which became a forum for the discussion of world events and dissemination of political theories and policies from leading academics and business leaders. But there was one other thing that the Council did. It provided the US government with its future Secretaries of State, War, Treasury, and later Defense, among other lesser administration positions from the 1920’s onward.
My first major in college was political science, and more specifically, international relations and foreign policy. I also had a graduate course in American Foreign Policy at NYU as part of my History Masters degree.
After WWII, the Cold War forced many of the Western countries to realize that in order to defend against Communism, as they had against Fascism, they needed to have greater cooperation. So the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO was born, and within Western Europe, the idea of European cooperation led to the formation of the Common Market, of which the UK was a member.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and was created, followed by the European Economic Community (EEC). These developments were spelled out in the Brussels Treaty of 1948, the Paris Treaty of 1951, the Modified Brussels Treaty of 1954, and the Rome Treaty of 1957.
In the 1960’s, the Merger Treaty of 1965 created the European Communities, made up of the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), as well as the ECSC and EEC.
The Maastrict Treaty of 1992 created the European Union, and its membership has grown steadily, especially after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.
Meanwhile, in other regions of the world, similar ideas were taking shape. In Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed to do for Southeast Asia what NATO and the European Communities were doing for Europe.
To foster greater cooperation between North America, Western Europe and Japan, the three industrial regions of the world, David Rockefeller, Chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank and Zbigniew Brzezinski created the Trilateral Commission. In the next two decades, membership in the Commission was expanded to every other region of the world.
Like the Council on Foreign Relations, members of the Commission could be involved in politics in their respective countries, but once they achieved national office of any kind, they resigned from the Commission. Membership was recommended by current members, and the incoming Jimmy Carter Administration of 1977-1981 saw the following members leave the Commission: Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Harold Brown, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Cyrus Vance, among many others.
It was in college that I studied global politics, or what would become known as Globalization, and with the expansion of the Commission’s member countries, and the fall of Communism, it seemed that globalization would continue.
Yet, they made one big mistake. Neglecting to replace the jobs lost to globalization from the 70’s to the present and thinking that “free trade” conducted through treaties such as NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP, and under the approval of the WTO would benefit both the developed and underdeveloped worlds. Hardly, as the Brexit vote and the rise of Trump in the US, as well as Bernie Sanders on the left can testify to.
Globalization has been mostly a one-way street out of the developed countries and into the undeveloped or developing countries. It has had the unintended consequences of stirring up racism, bigotry and resentment, as well as distrust in institutions and government. It has also favored the wealthy and those international players already in the game, but locks out those who are attempting to benefit from it, as many in the medical travel industry have tried and failed to do.
With other European nations threatening to leave the EU, and opposition here to TPP, and other trade deals (“I’m going to make better deals”), it would seem that globalization, far from dead yet, may at least be stopped in its tracks for the foreseeable future. That may happen if the US does the stupid too, and elects a moron.
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