The Next Phase of Political Globalization

This is just one of many topics I’ve been thinking about lately (the theme generally varies randomly day by day), and I’m hardly the first person to address it, but I would like to note that I think the world has begun to to enter another, accelerated phase of “political globalization” over the past couple of years.  By political globalization, I mean an integration and synchronization of governmental policies, state sovereignty, territorial jurisdiction, and boundaries.  However, I’m not exactly talking about a “one world government” or “world state”, at least not yet.  Rather, I think political globalization will first happen in fragmented and regional segments.  Since they tend to share many similarities, it would make sense for regions to be the first level to experiment with an integration and synchronization of the functions of individual member states.

It is hard to deny that political globalization has already happened to an extent, largely as a direct result of waves of economic integration that have made the happenings in one economy quite significant to the performance of another.  As the globe has unified into regional economic blocks or as one cohesive unit, there has been significant pressure to coordinate the policies (especially the economic policies) of individual states. This can be clearly seen in the the case of Europe.  It is widely agreed that the southern “periphery” region near the Mediterranean will continue to pull down European growth overall until wages there are pulled back in line with productivity.  Until that happens, however, many have urged the economically stronger “north” to consume more and for governmental fiscal policies to become expansionary to prop up demand in Europe overall until the periphery regains strength.  This has been resisted thus far, especially by a cautious Germany that still bares the scars of its hyper-inflationary episode in 1920s Wiemar Republic.  However, as European recovery continues to languish, pressure continues to build for the north to not only step up but for a “fiscal union” to be created to complement the existing monetary union.  European nations have already given up much sovereignty when joining the European Union (EU); it seems ever more likely that further losses in sovereignty are necessary to preserve the union.

This convergence of policies will not be confined to Europe, however.  Rather, the economic globalization of the past few centuries has transformed many economies into one, though they continue to be impacted by many often contradictory policies and politics.  The Global Financial Crisis demonstrated the need for further political globalization to occur; the United States “sneezed” and the rest of the world caught a cold, resulting in several international conferences that called for a global implementation of Keynesian-style fiscal stimulus across several states to quickly re-inject falling economic demand.  After the crisis faded, industrialized nations further realized that a coordinated revamping of financial regulations, including new minimum reserve requirements and capital controls, were necessary.  This new-found synchronization of global politics will not fade, and will in fact be aided by the structure of capitalism itself.  Since capitalism values efficiency, anything that makes economic transactions more difficult – such as borders, differing policies, different legislation & regulations, etc. – will be fair game for phase-out or elimination.

It isn’t just economic forces that will be inducing further political unification.  As diverse peoples increasingly interact with one another due to advances in communication, transportation, and wealth, I believe that the “us” vs. “them” mentality that differentiates states will slowly fade, even if not entirely eliminated.  Increasingly, an identity as being a “citizen of the world” (cosmopolitanism) has gained some traction, with people becoming less likely to identify with the state they reside within/are formally a citizen of.  This increases the likelihood of further political globalization; as people increasingly recognize one another as fellow human beings, there will be pressure on governments to harmoniously synchronize their policies and politics to match one another.  Eventually, this could lead to a proliferation of regional supranational unions, such as the European Union, and perhaps one day a global union.  Such efforts will be further strengthened by the gradual realization that ironically, though tasked with the security and protection of their citizens, the current Westphalian nation-state system has in many ways decreased their security.  The “us” vs. “them” mentality states and state borders help to create often leads to vicious competition and/or security dilemmas (think realism and neorealism) that arguably can make the world worse off than it otherwise would be.  People may take this as an indication that a harmonization of political identities, borders, etc. is necessary.

This isn’t to say that regional or a one-world state is inevitable, or even probable (especially not in the near future). The nation-state system has been entrenched for hundreds of years now, and nationalism continues to exert strong influence (a la Russia, or even America following 9/11).  Additionally, most people (myself included) are weary of the idea of abdicating national sovereignty to a higher political entity, for multiple reasons (loss of a cherished national identity, pragmatism, religion, etc.)   Regardless, however, the forces that are shaping the world today and a widespread reevaluation of the Westphalian system will undoubtedly lead us to a new phase of political globalization and an overhaul of how states interact with one another in the future.  The question is, are we prepared to adapt?