One of the most persistent problems within the coverage of politics today is the lack of definition of commonly used terms. This is particularly irritating within the policy space, but it inhabits the legal and political space as well, given a commentariat that typically must cram their points into 30 second bites – 15 seconds if you are on one of CNN’s infamous Council of Trent panels. A term that is particularly lacking in this arena is how we define “globalism” and “globalists”. We have been talking about them for years, and still we lack a real definition of what this term means. Globalism can certainly mean NAFTA, the WTO, and maintaining post-war order in Europe. It can mean Angela Merkel-like technocracy, the global system of property rights, a lenient attitude toward borders and a welcoming attitude toward Middle Eastern refugees. As a general rule, this mindset is well represented by Bret Stephens, whose book stressed the importance of being the world’s policeman, and whose latest column has a tongue in cheek call (I assume) for deporting Americans who don’t excel at the things he values. So globalism can also be an abiding belief that a nation is just where you happen to be walking about at a particular time.
Except that when you talk to people who are most bothered by creeping globalism, they don’t typically mention these issues – except the issue of refugees, but then they nearly always mention it in the context of fear of terrorism, which the globalists are not fans of, either. No one who has raised the issue of globalism with me has mentioned NAFTA, or trade deals, or even Angela Merkel. What is more commonly mentioned are the perceived beneficiaries of the globalist project: big businesses. And what often comes up is not the products they sell, but the ideology they push.
Christopher Caldwell makes note of it here.
Global supply chains are big, closed systems. “The manufacturing revolution,” [Richard] Baldwin writes, “only happened in developing nations that high-tech firms decided to invite into their production networks.” International corporations are constantly threatening and laying down the law to backward societies. The United States has frequently succumbed to the temptation to marshal corporate power to wreck, through boycotts and blockades, the economies of countries with which it has even minor disagreements. One of the alarming innovations of the Obama years was the way the president’s aides enlisted corporations of various kinds—from Wal-Mart to the NCAA—to discipline recalcitrant American states in the same way. Indiana was going to have gay marriage and North Carolina was going to let conflicted males use ladies’ restrooms, or the administration would rally corporate friends to destroy their economies.
One of the frequent blind spots for economic libertarians, speaking as one who has personally dealt with this log in the eye, is a tendency to allow principles of how economies work and the beauty of trade to make us ignore perceived threats animating people who value more than just the power to buy and sell. The gigantism encouraged by our modern globalist system has many perks across many industries. But it has also given rise to a global corporate elite. This elite tribe of globalists share certain values: they are more tolerant of regulation, insomuch as it drives out competition; they are more welcoming of government expenditure, insomuch as it buys their products, builds their needed infrastructure, and subsidizes their hospital systems; and they care little about the subjugation of rights to speech and religion, so much as it makes their ability to sell in certain markets inconvenient.
If you want a video representation of this mindset, I could do no better than to offer this footage from a recent conversation with the leaders of Google dealing with an uncomfortable question last month about the monolithic nature of their engagement with politics.
Note the response from Eric Schmidt, who rejects the idea that anyone disagreeing with him politically could be operating from a position of “science-based thinking”. The level of diversity and inclusiveness welcomed by Google is precisely as much as is needed to achieve their corporate aims. “You’ll also find that all of the other companies in our field agree with us” – yes, we know.
What’s concerning is the signs this corporate elite is now wielding power far more directly and at whim than our political elite. In America, the fundamental problem with the presence of this global elite has nothing to do with trade or property rights. It has to do with the power they wield without check or balance in an increasingly centralized tech-driven economy. Much has been written in recent years about the gridlock in Washington, but the masters of the tech economy have no such gridlock to face. The ability to impose values on the country, in exchange for promises of lower prices and vertical integration, is now arguably much greater than that of elected representatives. After all, Davos and Aspen don’t have a cloture rule.
In an economy that is increasingly driven by the global elite, will the values that have been central to our nation’s history exist in a meaningful sense? Or will they be discarded as inconvenient bugs, virulent viruses passed on from our ignorant forefathers that must be cured? Can free speech and religious liberty survive in an environment when our corporate leaders see honor in stamping out fake news and non-science based thinking?
And this leads us back to the question of why we hate each other. The New York Times looked into rising contempt across partisan lines: “Democrats and Republicans truly think worse of each other, a trend that isn’t really about policy preferences. Members of the two parties are more likely today to describe each other unfavorably, as selfish, as threats to the nation, even as unsuitable marriage material.
“Surveys over time have used a 100-point thermometer scale to rate how voters feel toward each other, from cold to warm. Democrats and Republicans have been giving lower and lower scores — more cold shoulder — to the opposite party. By 2008, the average rating for members of the other party was barely above 30. That’s significantly worse than how Democrats rated even “big business” and how Republicans rated “people on welfare.”
“By 2016, that average dropped by about five more percentage points, dragged down in part by a new phenomenon: For the first time, the most common answer given was zero, the worst possible option. In other words, voters on the left and right now feel downright frigid toward each other.”
What leads voters to move from general frustration to utter contempt? While hardly the only reason, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the current escalations in political rhetoric and acts of violence are divorced from these broader globalist trends. They should be understood instead as another inevitable consequence of perceived disempowerment and disenfranchisement.
What the constitutional framework offers us is a way for government to be given this stamp of legitimacy while protecting the essential rights that a majority might remove from a minority. Our system understands, as Thomas Jefferson did, that at some point people will respond to powerlessness with violence. It is therefore designed as a network of steam pipes with valves all over the place to release the pressure naturally built up underneath it.
Today, the centralized power among the leaders of the global tech industry – who have little use for free speech and religion, and are thoroughly onboard with the Messianic aims of the environmental movement and the redefinitional aims of the anti-family movement – are steadily prodding governments to seal up the valves and the hatches. In a world where all the companies agree, what use are they after all?
The implicit motto of the global elites today is “no escape” – no escape valve from a permanently politicized life, where the only legitimate perspective is their monopolistic, secularized, authoritarian-friendly “no gods but science” view. When we do not view each other as legitimate – particularly when decisions are not coming from the people or properly elected officials, but from some other force – it leads to resentment, escalation, and eventually something much worse. We must view our fellow voters as legitimate citizens, and the leaders and policies we choose at the ballot box as legitimate expressions of the views of our fellow citizens. When we do not, we risk disaster. We risk conceding the field to the global elite that views us as a backwards people, who ultimately ought to be dissolved to elect another.