Friday, March 02, 2007

Authority deficit or authority fetish?

I always enjoy reading “the Economist”. I have been carrying the 21st edition of “the world in 2007” (not the weekly magazine, but the special New Year edition) around for a while now and today, on the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, I took the time to read an article by Peter David (foreign editor of the Economist), “The authority deficit”.

In short, not a bad presentation of what’s been going on in the world when it comes to a shift in powers; some level of authority formerly controlled by states, alliances of states and their multilateral agreements (think nuclear proliferation), seem to have been more equally distributed to people, often represented by NGOs. No problem there.

But the opening paragraph bothered me, especially the following:

“[Less authority] makes the world less orderly, and therefore less safe.”

Peter David does nothing to backup this statement, on the contrary. On page 17 he writes that the “alternative could be worse”.

“Steadying the international order by renewing its institutions will be hard [..]. But restoring the authority of the state will be a good deal harder, and possibly undesirable too. The danger is that governments seeking to restore their fading authority will [..] choke off the free movement of ideas, capital and labour that have lately made the world such a disorderly place-and so many people so much more prosperous and free. Better, perhaps, not to try.”

So what is he suggesting, a prosperous and more free world is the result of ideas, capital and labour, yet another result is that we are less safe?

It seems like Peter’s nostalgia for those good old times (like so manu Conservtives), when authority meant something, and this seems to confuse his conservative brain. When you profess that the world today is less safe than say 50 years ago, then it's wise to back it up with some facts.

The world is not a pretty place. It never has been, but progress has been made. Yes, people, some of them united in NGOs, have played a big role in reducing the empowerment of the traditional powers. But it’s time to start seeing this as a good thing, not a loss of some sort. Unless, of course, you’re writing for a conservative magazine like “the Economist”.

We're in 2007 now, it’s time to let the fetish for power, finally, go.

- Article: Subscription only
- Interview with Peter David with a similar message

No comments:

Post a Comment