There’s another issue that no one’s paying any attention to, and that is the consequences of the erosion of the world order that we crafted after World War II and for the post-colonial era that followed. Both depended on what I would call Euro-American or Atlantic-community notions of the rule of law and the sanctity of international agreements and common notions of civil and human rights, including the idea that all states – even the United States – should be subject to the same rules.
Now we’re looking at a world in which the centre of gravity in many ways is moving to Asia – to countries like China and India – non-Western nations that were not participants in the crafting of this Atlantic consensus on the rule of law.
This raises a big question: if we and the Europeans don’t work together to sustain the heritage that we created, will it survive? Or will new rules and a new order be dictated by people whose values are not the same as ours? And what are the consequences for us of an order based on values that differ from our heritage?
Well, buddy boy, you’ve hit on yet another key issue. The Asians are what they are, and if we hand the world off to them, we’ll play by their rules. The question of “which Asians” is the key one, and that of course includes the Muslims. (A lot of that is that the Asians look at things more relationally, and that has both a business and a missionary component.)
The more serious problem is a simple one: there are too many people in the “Euro-American” community who don’t believe in the values that got us where we are. The “rule of law” is just one of those, but it’s an important one. It has been eroded by a) the growing complexity and intrusiveness of our legal and regulatory system, which makes following such a rule next to impossible, and thus degrades it, and b) the growing realisation that power holders, government and otherwise, don’t need the rule of law. The rest of us do. And if the rule of law isn’t respected within a nation, it won’t be respected outside of it on an international basis.
That’s what’s so dangerous about Timothy Geithner and his yo-yo pronouncements on who gets paid what, whose bonuses earn them screaming protesters and death threats, who gets the boot and the like. Capitalists who figure out that the government giveth one day and taketh away the next–literally in that time frame these days–won’t hang around, and without them economic growth won’t take place.
The rule of law is also a social justice issue. Without it power holders can have their way and there is no recourse. An excellent example of this took place back in the days of the kings of Israel:
“And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee. And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread. But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread? And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard. And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” 1 Kings 21:1-7, KJV.
And of course, in the end, Naboth got the shaft.
Such a struggle–which was part and parcel of the whole drama of the kingdoms of both Israel and Judah–was certainly influential in our own heritage.
But now we have élites–led by, of course, the Elitist Snob–who are more focused on the growth of their own power rather than the perpetuation of the values of our civilisation. We are thus lead by people who don’t believe in our civilisation, and under their direction same civilisation can’t last.