Today’s hyper-connected world presents us with a dilemma. While it enables many of the benefits of modern living, it also leaves us vulnerable to unprecedented threats. These new risks – such as pandemics and climate change – are actually fuelled by globalisation and interconnectedness. The financial crisis demonstrated the potential for seemingly localised risk to spread, as the bursting of a housing bubble in the US triggered huge aftershocks all across the world. It also proved that in an age of globalisation and massive interconnectedness, we are all susceptible.
We know that these new threats cannot be tackled at a national or even regional level. They can only be dealt with effectively through global cooperation.
Professor Ian Goldin, former Vice President of the World Bank and now Director of the Oxford Martin School, argues that the current systems of global governance are incapable of dealing with the complexity and scale of these modern issues. His book, Divided Nations, exposes the shortcomings of the present models, as well as exploring some possible routes forward. When Pod Academy’s Matthew Flatman caught up with him, he started by asking Professor Goldin to explain the role of the Martin School…
Ian Goldin: At the moment, the Oxford Martin School brings together well over 300 leading academics from across Oxford University. We aim to tackle some of the toughest questions facing the world, by working in new ways in inter-disciplinary teams and aiming to be problem-focused as opposed to discipline-focused. We have four key criteria for how we accept people. We only work on the biggest issues facing the world. We only want to employ the best people. We want there to be a transmission between their academic research and their problem solving, so impact is important. And we only want people who couldn’t be doing their work unless they were in the school, so additionality of value added is important. If they could be doing this work on their own or in discipline based teams or with other funding agencies, then they don’t come to us. We are very experimental. We have about 35 teams at the moment, ranging in size from about 5 people to about 50 people. We hope that by bringing these extraordinary people together in fresh ways, we will be able to make progress on some of the biggest and most intractable issues which face the planet. These include: the frontiers of medicine, like neuroscience and cancer; to the tough issues in energy and environment: climate change, new forms of energy, biodiversity and so on; to the big mega trends that could possibly overwhelm society: demographic trends, migration trends and other big issues of that nature; economic questions. And then also through everything else that we do, we think about the ethics and the philosophical underpinning. Our biggest single group is actually philosophers and the second biggest is physicists.
Matt Flatman: Moving onto your book Divided Nations, you mention that the funder of the school, James Martin, described humanity as at a cross roads, in the sense that the 21st century could be our greatest or our worst. That idea seems to the central theme to the book, so could you explain it for us?
IG: Well James Martin, who is an extraordinary visionary, created the school. He gave the initial funding to Oxford University to build the school. It is indeed that view that this could be our best or our worst century ever that prompted this research. We have the means to overcome poverty, disease and many other afflictions of humanity for time immemorial, but we also have an increasing number of ways in which we could destroy the climate and our own futures. The difference between these two outcomes will depend on our ability to mobilise ideas in new ways and transmit them into policy as well as business practice. Across the school (whether it is people working on climate change and biodiversity or economics and finance or pandemics) there is a sense that we actually have a pretty good sense of what needs to be done to make the world a better place for everyone. The problem is that the politic structures at the national and the global level are incapable of implementing these changes. This political problem is about both the increasing short-termism of politicians and the political system where people can’t make tough decisions but it’s also about the increasing fragmentation of the world. So the issues have become more global and we’ve become more global as a citizenry; the walls have come down. There are over 7 billion people in the world now hyper-connected. Yet nations are more divided and fragmented than ever. And the institutions that are meant to be tackling these issues and governing the planet (like the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF, the World Trade Organisation as well the many other institutions) are totally unfit for twenty-first century purpose. They are not capable. And it is due to the fact that they don’t have the right skill-set and resources, but more importantly, it’s because they don’t have the mandate or legitimacy required, that nations have to give them. All of these organisations can only be as good as the nations that control them and arm their governing bodies.
So we see in the case of Syria the complete impasse, as we saw in Kosovo and Rwanda, the inability of countries to do the right thing collectively. We see this in the collapse of officiaries. We see this in so many different ways every day. And the book is about trying to think these problems through. It’s called Divided Nations for obvious reasons: nations are divided and it’s also in the sense of pun on the concept of the United Nations. But it’s not only looking at why the existing system doesn’t work, it’s also trying to imagine how it may work and how we might get beyond this terrible state we’re currently in. So if there is one thing that keeps me awake at night, it is this problem of divided nations, this problem that there’s no one at the wheel of the world. The planet is a very fragile, integrated place and yet there’s no management. We need collective management if we are to navigate the perfect storms of the coming years (on resources, on climate, on demographics, on finance on population and on many other different dimensions). There’s the sense of a completely rudderless ship, where we’re all in our separate cabins doing our own thing, thinking that somehow that will steer the ship. But actually we’re heading for a big iceberg and the fiddling that’s going (in terms of these organisations and shareholding and votes and power-plays over leadership) are like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
So the book is trying to raise awareness of the problem and it’s also trying to look at things that do work at the global level (such as the organisations and non-government systems, the Facebook communities and other communities that can mobilise). The book asks whether these can provide leadership and coniders how the world has changed and how communities and leadership need to change in response. The purpose is not really to provide all the answers. That would be presumptuous of me but also impossible because it’s such a tough challenge. It is instead trying to raise a whole series of questions and prompt at possible answers because I feel that this issue is so important.
MF: You identify five specific threats in the book: migration, cybercrime, pandemics, financial crises and climate change. Could you explore the pandemic example in more depth?
IG: I do provide those five examples, but not because I believe they are the most important or because they are exhaustive. I provide them because I believe they are illustrative of the sorts of issues that need to be managed collectively. They are issues which no one nation will be able to resolve successfully; they have to be dealt with on a collective basis. When you consider these issues, you see feeble attempts by governments, not least the UK government, to deal with these issues (like migration, cyber, climate and others). But this approach will never work because all of these threats come from a much broader issue which require joined up solutions. That is, if they are indeed threats, because some of them are opportunities, like migration. So I use these examples because they are illustrative.
Pandemics and finance are two areas in which there are already very strong global institutions. In the case of finance, it is by far the most joined-up and well endowed of the global institutional structures. That is why it is particularly important that we understand the financial crisis because finance is actually the best existing global governance system. Its leaders form a global elite that know each other and have all the resources and data that they require. And within countries (like the Treasury and Bank of England in the UK and Federal Reserve and Treasury in the US) financial institutions are the most powerful institutions in government. So we need to worry a lot when they don’t understand what’s going on or feel incapable of resolving it. WHO is also a pretty joined-up organisation through the World Health Organisation and other organisations.
Some of the other instances I cite (like migration, cyber and climate are orphans of the system) in that they have no institutional capability. For example, there is the International Panel on Climate Change, but it has no executive power at all. On cyber, there is no international organisation and the same is effectively true of migration. There is an international organisation on migration but it’s only a UN organisation, so many key countries are not members and it also has no executive power. So these are different examples which aim to illustrate different sorts of issues. In pandemics, like in finance, one of the critical questions is the ability of governments to keep pace with technological change. One of the prime causes (but certainly not the only cause) of the financial crisis, was the development of new instruments, like credit derivatives and others. There was a new joined-up-ness and complexity of the system which comes out of the hyperconnectivity, the facilitation of computing power, the internet and that sort of joined-up-ness. These new developments were simply not understood by the management at all and there’s a lot of evidence on that. So there’s a sort of disconnect between the rapid evolution and the very young people that manage these new technologies in the trading rooms, and the management – generally old men on the risk committees and audit committees of the banks. There’s a complete disconnect in what’s happening because they don’t even know how to ask the right questions, let alone form the regulatory response. That’s what we saw in the financial crisis. The other thing that happened in finance is that the academic practice (in this case, economics) was captured. So economics became too narrowly disciplined. It lost its perspective and therefore reinforced all the biases of the leadership in finance to exacerbate the financial crisis.
With regard to pandemics, there are also very rapid threats arising from technological change which are not absorbed by the system and regulatory structures. There are two that I could highlight briefly. One is the new hyperconnectivity. Airport and transport structure, which is of course a very good thing in many ways, has become a vector for new risk. And in our pandemics group at Oxford we’ve mapped to show that pandemics starting anywhere in the world can reach around the whole world in 48 hours. We’ve also mapped the spread of the swine flu from Mexico with airline traffic around the world and there’s an absolutely exact correlation with big hubs, like Heathrow, acting as the super spreaders of new systemic risk. In this way, they are just like the big hubs like Lehmann Brothers that led to the super spreading of financial risk. So my first point is that hyperconnectivity has led to a completely new structure. My second point is that technological change in DNA synthesising and the exponentially declining price to sequence bio-pathogens creates a whole new world of risk in the creation of synthetic or man-recreated pandemics. This is extremely worrying. This also relates to another failure of the global commons which is antibiotic resistance.
So we are entering a world where small groups of individuals could create pandemics for bad reasons, whatever they may be. This requires a very different way of managing – both the super spreading of pandemics and the capability of individuals or small groups to manufacture pandemics. On top of this, increased population numbers and density compound the risk. So we need a much stronger surveillance system. The technologies exist through mobile phone technology, for example, in that all our phones could be bio-sensors. We could have global SWAT teams that isolate these risks at source and prevent them spreading. But, at the moment, that sort of capability is not in place. In finance, as in pandemics, the technologies provide the source of new risk but also of potential new solutions.
MF: Now I would like to talk about the failure of global governance institutions to deal with some of the global crises you have sited. Some people may look at the current situation in Syria and the UN’s inaction and claim that this stalemate demonstrates the impotence of the UN. Would you agree with that view at all, or do you think that people’s expectations are too high?
IG: No, I would agree with that criticism. If you read the charter of the United Nations, We the People, it’s a most beautiful document. It’s an aspiration of global collective understanding of the potential and desire to collectively manage the world. The UN and the Bretton Woods Institutions came out of the tragedy of the Second World War with a vow to not let anything similar happen again. So the aspiration is there, the only problem is the implementation and the capacity to act. I don’t think that anyone can believe that what’s happening in Syria (or what happened in Rwanda or Kosovo or any of the other tragedies that have happened around the world – such as, what’s happening with the migrants who die by their tens if not hundreds by the day trying to cross the Mediterranean) is anything but a blot on our common humanity.
The problem is that governments do not allow the solutions due to a number of reasons which I point to in the book. One is that big, powerful countries prefer to bully and get things their own way and don’t really see benefit in international organisations except when they need them. They don’t appreciate the benefit of being part of a rules-based system. Weak countries need international rules more than big countries because they can’t get their own way and so need a level playing field. This is true in trade as well. The problem is that even the biggest countries now realise that there are times when they can’t get there way because (and this is one of the healthy things that’s happening in the world) even the big countries aren’t that big in terms of the world economy anymore. And so they realise that there are a whole lot of things that they need other countries for.
It’s also the case that you might not need a global institution on one issue but you do need it on another. So you might not need it for trade but then you do need it if you want to invade Iraq. So there’s a trade off. I see this as a bit like football. In football, Manchester United and the other top teams play by exactly the same rules as the teams in the bottom divisions. In a FA Cup game, if Wayne Rooney or someone else is red-carded, they can’t say ‘I’m the top player and have different rules, so I’m going to stay on the field’. As soon as that sort of behaviour happened, the whole thing would collapse and you wouldn’t have the game anymore. Yet that’s what happens in international governance. The big players basically seem to think that they don’t have to follow the rules of the game when they don’t like them. And that is why the system doesn’t work and they can’t be held to account. So we need rules-based systems but we also need everyone to play by the same sets of rules. That requires countries at times doing things that they don’t want to do. It requires citizens in those countries giving their governments the power not only to make these global institutions powerful but to sometimes make decisions that they would have made at the national level. And that’s the whole game of cooperation. At times you don’t get your way, and it’s that trade off and big countries often don’t accept that. Politicians often don’t accept that trade off either, because they like to use these eternal agencies as a source of problem but not as a source of solution to their problems. They want to take all the credit when things go well and blame outsiders when things go badly. What’s at risk here is globalisation. We’re more connected and we require more connections and systems of connections but if there’s no connected management things will fall apart. So we might well find ourselves in a very de-globalised world in the future as xenophobia, protectionism, nationalism and other threats cause the global structures to fall apart. Then we would be back to a very bad world.
MF: Since their formation, the Bretton Woods Institutions and the UN have largely been dominated by the G7. There seems to be a shifting in global power at the moment. So what do you think the emergence of nations like India, China and Brazil will mean for global governance?
IG: I think in the medium term it’s a very good thing. It’s something that will create a much healthier global balance of power, where no one country, or small cluster of countries from one area, can dominate. There will be a power structure which much more reflects the world population. We won’t have ten or twenty per cent of the world’s population setting rules for the rest. Instead, it will be much more dispersed and the majority of people will be represented in these global power structures and that will also be very healthy. But the problem is getting to that stage. The next ten or twenty years are going to be a period of perfect storm in areas of carbon dioxide emissions and in many other systemic risks. Incomes will rise out of the success of globalisation and will result in one and a half to two billion people becoming broadly defined middle class. That’s good because they are escaping poverty. At the same time, their demand for energy for transport, heating, cooling, cooking, computing and for everything else is going to soar. And with it, the demands on land, on water, on natural resources, the pressure on biodiversity and the oceans will also so soar. On top of this, there’s also the new hyper-connectivity with pandemics and finance and all the other risks. That’s all happening over the net twenty years or so.
I think the big issue is how long it will take to transition power. What I’m seeing is that the old G7 are totally unfit for purpose and don’t have the capability or even the interest for global management anymore. They’ve got huge problems at home, be it in Europe or the US or Japan. So there’s very little bandwidth politically to take on global problem solving, not least in the perceived medium-long term challenges. There’s also no money or resources. We’re all bankrupt. Even if you want to take on global challenges you can’t allocate money to it as services are being cut at the national and global level. So for various reasons, there’s no appetite in the old G7 for global problem solving. And some of them, like the Euro have been bloodied by attempts at it. At the same time, I’m not yet seeing a readiness from the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) or other emerging markets to take over leadership. And that’s because these countries have got their problems at home as well (poverty reduction, very rapid transition etc) but also because the old are not ready to give up their power. There is a sort of paranoia, in the US particularly, about China’s role in the world. Rather than welcoming it, they are instead very scared of it.
So there’s this lag of maybe twenty or thirty years between economic and political weight in the world. We see that Asia’s already half of the world economy, emerging markets are going to be 80% of the world economy by 2050, yet the power structure still reflects the world’s economic and political balance of the 1960s. So there’s this massive lag in political leadership at the world level and that’s a major problem. We are in a power vacuum, this terrible transition period where there’s going to be a handover. We can see that there’s going to be a different structure in the future but at the moment, there’s nothing. And there’s no leadership and this is very dangerous, particularly because we are in this period when humanity is at this crossroads. This is the period where there’s an absolutely vital need as our demand for collective resources will be peaking over the next ten or twenty years. So this is the big disconnect that I highlight in the book.
MF: One chapter in the book is based upon the increased potential of the individual, and more specifically, the potential for an individual’s acts to have widespread consequences. You mentioned before the capacity for this to come about in a negative sense, in the manufacturing of pandemics. Could you site some positive changes that could come about from the same factors?
IG: Yes, and you’re absolutely right to highlight the positives and the negatives because both exist. There’s immense change that individuals have created for positive causes in the world. I’m really fortunate in that I’ve worked with I believe the best of these individuals in Nelson Mandela. I think his role in the transformation of South Africa as a demonstration of what leadership can do in the world is unsurpassed in the last few decades. That is a demonstration of the potential of political power, but there are also other examples. I was very struck recently by what started as a small campaign by a group of individuals in the US to raise awareness as to some of the threats to open access to the internet (the SOPA and PIPA debates). This led to mass mobilisation of over 16 million people online, which then mobilised into the Senate and led to the stopping of this legislation. It raises very big questions, of course, as to what can be considered democratic process. Is it something that goes through the whole congress system and the US democracy process, or is mass online protest that leads to the changing of a law, a legitimate democratic alternative? I think that is something that society will have to think through in the years to come because you can get herding and crowding around campaigns or ideas which can subvert democracy.
But I think we have also seen that form of mobilising power in the Arab Spring. Very small groups of individuals created cascading protests, virtually and physically, which led to fundamental changes which were unimaginable only a couple of years ago. So the pace of change and the power of individuals to mobilise and create change is extremely evident. However, it’s important not to be naive about these things. The internet and these new tools can also be used for repression and the Iranian police used Facebook pages to identify and round people up. But how one uses these technologies and how one spreads ideas are very exciting prospects and it’s something that we’re only at the beginning of. If people spent some tiny fraction of the time they spend playing video games and watching TV on collective mobilisation and engagement, then the world would be a much better place.
MF: You note in the book that the EU is currently held as the best example of countries ceding power to a higher authority. Recently we have heard from many heads of state that tighter integration or ‘more Europe’ is the answer to the Euro crisis in spite of the project’s decreasing popularity among citizens. Would you say that the politician’s commitment to the Euro project is a cause for hope in that it seemingly defies against short-termism and populism or does it demonstrate that they are increasingly out of touch with their electorates?
IG: I think it’s a great source of hope. Europe is an extraordinary example. It’s the only really big example in the post-war period, where countries have voluntarily given up whole areas of sovereignty to a collective leadership because they believe it’s in their collective interest. I think it’s certainly served one purpose so far which is to stop another war in Europe and I think that’s stable and sustainable. In the end, war is the most important thing to stop, it’s the biggest threat to us all. I think, despite the recent crisis, it’s led to a much better life for most Europeans (certainly for the Southern Europeans) than would have been the case without the EU. What happened in Europe was a failure to follow the rules. It’s like the football example that I sited earlier with the big players ignoring the rules. The Maastricht Treaty is very clear about debt and deficits. It has very clear guidelines which were signed twenty years ago. If they had been followed, we wouldn’t have had a Euro crisis. The first countries to break the Maastricht Treaty were the primers movers for it, Germany and France. After they had broken it, the Southern countries thought, ‘that’s the way we play this game, so we’ll just play by the new rules’.
So they all built up their debt, raised their deficits and nothing happened. It’s like in football, if you have a bad ref that doesn’t stop foul play, the players will very quickly learn the new rules. Unfair tackles will go unpunished, so everyone will commit them. If this happened in football, everyone would end up terribly injured with broken legs. Yet the same things has happened in Europe, the countries got broken legs. The only problem is that the bullies were bigger and so they survive and go on. If you look at the macro-imbalances in France and in Germany, it becomes obvious that that is what started the problem.
Now, the European countries are re-committing to a fiscal pact. There are strong statements that this time will be different. They are creating a European police force to inspect the data and check that it’s accurate. Hopefully they will go through with implementing the strict censures to prevent countries going out of line. But as in all cases and our own lives, you’ve got to walk the talk if you set rules. This is particularly true of the big bullies, the strongest countries, who are setting the rules. And that’s the big test. I believe Europe should succeed and will succeed, but the leadership has to come from the strongest countries in ensuring that they follow the rules. And then the whole of Europe needs to make sure that they follow the rules strictly. If you don’t follow fiscal rules, you’ll end up in fiscal crisis.
MF: We’ve spoken a lot about the failure of global governance in issues like the Euro crisis, the wider financial crisis and inaction on climate change. These sorts of issues will provoke a lot of frustration and scepticism in citizens about global governance. Do you think this frustration could possibly inhibit the sort of reform in global governance that you endorse?
IG: I think people are very sceptical about global governance, but I think they’re actually justified in their scepticism. The system is currently unfit for 21st century purpose and there are too many meetings where too much is agreed and not enough happens following them. We just see politicians flying off to meetings that are basically photo opportunities in sunny places. We don’t like our tax money funding that and we don’t like our politicians wasting their time on that. That’s understandable but I think we forget two things.
One is that there is actually a lot of good that has happened in the past and the second is that we vote for these politicians and mandate them to do these things. I don’t believe that the solution is less global cooperation, which is what you see in the rise of political parties in Britain that want to pull out of Europe, or in Scotland where some want to leave Britain. They want to bring power home and that impulse is understandable. You want to be able to see your politicians in the eyeball. You don’t want to see them in some distant location, like Brussels, or even London for some Scottish people. When they are local you feel like you can see what they are doing, control them more and vote them out if they don’t do things you like. That’s very understandable. But what we don’t realise when we make those decisions is that actually all the important decisions that will affect our future will be decided outside our borders. They will be decided in Brussels, in Washington, in Beijing or somewhere else. Those are the decisions that are going to affect our future. And if we don’t get in there, actively engage and try to shape those global rules on the measures that will stop the next financial crisis or pandemic or climate change, then we will end up with less not more control over our futures. If we don’t push hard for a global climate agreement, then the emerging markets will fill the planet with even more emissions. If we don’t push hard for global financial coordination, give up some of our national regulation in favour of global rules, then we will be overwhelmed by crisis. And the same applies in all these areas. The fishermen in Scotland are going to find that there is nothing left to fish, not because they’ve been fishing too much, but because everyone else has been.
The desire to bring politics home and have local control is totally understandable, and I believe that we should try to do everything as locally as possible. The book is adamant about the need for a subsidiarity principle. Everything should be at as low a level of government as is possible. But the fact is that on many critical things, only global action will work. Now this isn’t to say that all global actors have to be present. One of the strong things I’m arguing for in the book is that we need to rethink global governance. The idea of giving the world’s 202 countries (and that figure is rising constantly) to agree something is a total fantasy. It’s wrong and I don’t think it’s necessary. What’s necessary is that a critical mass of actors, who make a difference to that particular issue, need to be part of the decision-making process (either because they are the biggest culprits or the biggest victims). It’s important to have both sides there, not just the ones who cause the problem (because they’ll just agree among themselves to cause more of a problem) so you need the victims there as well. If it’s on climate change, you could have the twenty countries that account for ninety five per cent of global emissions as well as a representative sample of those most affected (those countries that will be washed out in Bangladesh and the Maldives or starved in Africa). If those countries can come to an agreement, I’m happy to say that’s fine. That represents a global view that I think should be a widening circle.
I think we use failure of global agreement or the inability to get all actors present too often as an excuse not to move ahead. I believe strongly that we need to form incremental coalitions and circles of agreement. So, if the European Union and China can agree something on climate, we don’t have to wait for the US to be there, even though we know that it is an extremely important player. And then we can work with consumer pressure and other forms of pressure in the US to bring them towards an agreement. But I think we need to stop using the failure of these global negotiations as an excuse to do nothing.
MF: Some people would say, as a criticism to global governance and the agreements that are made, that there could be a democratic deficit in that procedure. How would you respond to that criticism?
IG: I think there is truth in it. But I think that we’re making democracy into some sort of Holy Grail. The best democracy is my household. My kids now tell me I’m wrong most of the time and I listen to them. And then you go to Oxford, Oxfordshire and then to the UK. So you have circles of democracy. And you try and effect outcomes through the majority voting for something; that system sort of works. But actually, you need to realise that what is really going to shape the future of my life and my family’s life, isn’t going to be decided here. Whether my kids survive the 21st century is not going to be decided in oxford, or even in the UK, but somewhere else. So we need to realise where he big shape is and then engage within it and try and get democracy in those structures – the climate change negotiations, for example. But, what form of democracy is it? Is it one vote per country, and you let China have the same vote as the Maldives? That would work out as allowing 1.3 billion people the same weight as about 50,000. Do we factor in the amount of pollution they’re creating or their economic wealth? How do you create a metric around what’s right or ethical in these situations? Does democracy always mean that the majority is always right, and would that be the majority of countries or people?
The ‘democracy’ in the phrase ‘democratic deficit’ is used as a slogan. I don’t think it means very much unless one unpacks it and gives it clarity in terms of what we’re talking about. You’ve also got to think about money. One of the greatest prices of (growing) inequality in the world is that the wealthy are controlling democracies more and more. Is American democracy healthy, when you have a tiny fraction of people, with armies of tens of thousands of lobbyists with tens of billions of dollars, shaping the rules and paying for campaigns for congressmen? Is the power of the coal industry in the US lobbying process reflecting the democratic rights of the US citizens on energy policy? So I think we need to unpack our meaning of democracy in the democratic deficit claim very aggressively. We need to ask ourselves what it does and what we mean by it. We also need to put democracy into the framework of getting decisions that will determine our future. We also should realise that there is ultimately only a point in having democracy if we are alive and if we are empowered to act as citizens. And I think that those are the questions we should be asking.
MF: There are many ideas circulating about how to reform global governance, some of which you explore in your book. Which of these ideas would you say that you put most faith in?
IG: One of the reasons the global governance system is not resolved is because it is very difficult to resolve. If it were simple, I’m sure that it would already have been done. The first idea that I have great faith in is that we need to raise this issue in political and citizen consciousness. We need to realise that it is all about the global now. The local and global are colliding. And we need to realise as locally concerned people that unless we grab the global agenda and get a handle on it (and think about it more and vote for and empower politicians to engage with it more effectively) that we will have no local. That’s the first point and that is the ideas point of the book. The second idea that I think is powerful is that we shouldn’t use the failure of global institutions as an excuse not to act globally. We can act as individual citizens, in the choice of what fish we eat and what cars we drive, but we can also act collectively because we are so joined up. The internet and Facebook communities and our circles of friends know no borders and yet when it comes to decision making, we are completely captured by this really out-of-date structure. Now we have the power to transcend that in many different ways. I’m not saying give up the old methods, but operate on multiple dimensions and have multiple identities, some of which are local, some of which are national and some of which are global. Some of these might be based on other things, like hobbies or sports. So we need to manage that multiple identity much more effectively in a political sense.
My third point is the idea of the circles of success or of effectiveness. I believe we need to start structuring things in new ways. My fourth point is that we need to look at things that work, whether it is international air traffic control or other organisations that have moved very rapidly with political transformation and technological change. These could be rules-based systems or professional networks. A global corporation has absolutely no difficulty in operating across time zones, cultures, borders, different rules and regulations to come to common outputs and agreements. But, in this respect, governments are about fifty years behind if they’re lucky. These are the questions we need to ask ourselves. What is it that we can learn from these other systems that exist, such as professional networks, private business etc, to make it work? What is it that non-government organisations, like transparency and other organisations, can bring to this? In the end, I believe it will be governments, because they are the only rules-based structure in society. They can enforce and execute norms, standards and rules. They have the capacity to punish for deviation from normal standards. So I don’t believe that we are going to be getting away from governments but I believe that there are lots of complementarities and other structures that can be used, some of which I point to in the book.