<B>From empire to global society</B>

José Mª O’Kean. Professor. Instituto de Empresa

1 February 2005

After their election, new governments usually enjoy a honeymoon period - but only for the first six months or so. Spain’s new leaders have defined a political strategy in which the economy is to be given scant importance

Alignment with Old Europe, away from the Emperor of the West and his people, are the highlights of the new foreign policy. Agreements with Spain’s autonomous regions and the coming change in the Constitution will determine internal debate. The setting is easy to picture: a constitutional referendum during the third year of office, dissolution of Parliament, general elections and a new government with an absolute majority. That could be our source of entertainment for the next four years. As far as the economy is concerned however, the Minister for Stability is expected to make us turn our attention gently towards improving productivity. A job that is necessary, as Miguel Sebastián and his team have pointed out, from the back of the shop. Nothing is ever easy!

On the other hand, the “desired” change of the Emperor of the West in Washington has not come about and not even he will have six months to do anything. So, more of the same there. Political experts insist that a North American president’s second term is dedicated to becoming a part of history. Bush is already a part of history. Perhaps what he is trying to do is step back into the present.

The imbalance of today’s global economy has had such an impact since Sept. 11, 2001 that we are ignorant of the new point of stability towards which we are moving. Distortion affecting the energy market, with demand from China and destabilization of producing companies, is yet another by-product, but not the only one, stemming from this transition. What is happening to us? I think that beyond immediate events, we are experiencing a transition of crucial importance from national societies to the global society. We are definitely part of a global economy, but the global society has not yet arrived.

Toward the global society

Countries with capitalist economies no longer exist. The civilized world is ruled by mixed economies in which the State has a relevant intervention. The market is the best system we know for assigning resources, but it has its faults. The books on economy offer detailed explanations: situations of market power, outsourcing, lack of information, the economic cycle, unfair distribution of wealth. The State tries, successfully or otherwise, to overcome these defects and at the same time defend the correct operation of competitive markets. Spending on education, health, basic infrastructure, defence and security, together with the democratic system, is what configures the situation of final balance we call the end of the story.

But how much of all this is there in the global society? It would seem that it is made up of a capitalist system, where, if our current way of living is appropriate, we have a long way to go to reach the truly mixed international economy that will right the wrongs of global markets and furnish us all with safety and welfare.

The challenge is huge and the road is long. But there is no doubt that it involves configuration of a global state, and that is where we are at this critical moment. The task has uncovered old problems and come up with a few new ones. We have seen how the U.S. has had to assume an even greater role, pressed by its own need for safety. We are not witnessing war, but rather global policing. In our world, policing requires laws, a legislative authority to pass them and a judiciary to administer them. However, the global society has none of these things. The UN does what it can in its present structure, though it has begun to think about changing that structure. In such a void, the U.S. does not seem interested in going any further. The move from empire to global society means loss of national sovereignty, something neither North Americans nor the leading countries of Old Europe desire. The longer we take to realize this, the more encouragement we give to new imbalances. Marking the road to follow would relieve the situation. Trying to rebuild the previous state of things is going against our time’s fast-flowing tide of evolution.

And meanwhile, Spain has lost the prestige it acquired. Now our capacity for influence will be what it always was. We have gone back to being a medium-level nation with mediocre expectations. Although, thanks to the way we managed it, what we had probably wouldn’t have lasted anyway.

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