Who rules the land? A deeper and truer version of this question is: What rules the land? Is it the money (the aristocracy), or is it the people (the public, the residents on that land)? (For the interest of paleoconservatives, the issue of residents’ citizenship will come later here, as “immigrants” instead of as “citizenship”; but our basic focus is not ethnicity/nationality; it’s class: the money, versus the voters; not the natives, versus the foreigners.)
In a democracy, the public rule — the people do — and it’s on authentically a one-person-one-vote basis, and anyone who is a resident in that land can easily vote, just like anyone else who lives there, because only the residents there, during the specific time-period of the voting, are the ultimate decision-makers, over that land, and over its laws. This is what a democracy is: it’s one-person-one-vote, and, in the political sense, it’s total equality-of-rights and total equality-of-obligations — real and total equality-by-law: equal rights, and equal obligations, for all residents. A democracy applies the same requirements to everyone.
This does not mean that individuals are equal in their abilities and in their needs, and so it’s not a statement about the economy; it is purely a statement about the government — a political question. The economy is a separate matter, though it’s highly dependent upon the government — the laws that are in place and enforced. Many people confuse these two fields, and mistakenly think that the economy is basic to the government.
So: the economy is dependent upon the government; the government determines the economy, which, in any land, is highly dependent upon the laws that are in place and that are enforced — the government.
That’s only “natural persons” who control a democracy — no collectives of any type, corporate or otherwise, can vote, because, if it were otherwise, it would be an easy way to establish a dictatorship there: persons with the financial means could create any number of “artificial persons” who could vote, or could buy votes (such as by purchasing news-media to slant ‘reality’ selling politicians and political positions to the voters), and this money could produce a country controlled more by dollars, than by owners (i.e., than by actual persons, voters — not by artificial “persons” such as the wealth-collections that are known as corporations). If wealth-collections could vote, that would invite control over the land to be by wealth (the number of dollars) instead of by actual residents (the number of persons). It could even produce control by foreign wealth. Foreigners could end up controlling the country if the number of dollars is a bigger determinant of who rules than is the number of voters.
Obviously, no democracy will allow foreigners to control the land. Imperialism is inconsistent with democracy; any empire is dictatorial, by its very nature. It entails dictatorship over the residents in its colonies, even if not necessarily over the residents in the imperial land that had conquered the colonial area.
Empire is consistent with a free market, but it is inconsistent with democracy. No empire is democratic, because each colony is ruled by non-residents. (If the colony were ruled by its residents, it wouldn’t be a colony, and there wouldn’t be an empire.)
A federation is not an empire. The difference between them is that, whereas in a federation, the right of self-determination of peoples takes precedence over the federation’s interest in maintaining the status-quo; in an empire, there is no such right — an empire is a dictatorship. In political matters, no empire has a right to be an empire; just as, in economic matters, no person can actually own another (notwithstanding any ‘slave’-‘owner’ — or ‘seller’ — falsely believing to the contrary).
The propaganda for a free market is funded very heavily by billionaires such as the Koch brothers and George Soros, because control over countries naturally devolves into control by wealth, instead of into control by people (and certainly not by residents), if a free-market economy exists there. Billionaires do whatever increases their power; and, beyond around $100,000-per-year of income, any additional wealth buys no additional happiness or satisfaction, but only additional status, which, for individuals who are in such brackets, is derived from increases in their power, because, at that stage of wealth, money itself is no longer an object, only status is, and additional status can be derived only from additional power. All of the empirical findings in the social sciences are consistent with this; and, whereas the income-point in most of those studies, beyond which additional dollars produce no additional happiness for the owner, has been $75,000 per year, there has been inflation since those studies were performed, and one might more accurately say today that $100,000-per-year is the income-point beyond which only status is increased by additional income; happiness or satisfaction is not increased by income above that point. This is a statement about nature; it is the reality in which any market — free or otherwise — exists. It is “human nature,” and that’s basic to all of the social sciences which pertain to humans, including political science, and economics.
In economic theory, the phrase that has been traditionally used to refer to this reality, even before recent empirical studies showed the reality to be this way, was “the declining marginal utility of money.” Beyond around $100,000/year, additional “bucks” are for status, not for happiness. Anyone who has no addiction to status, doesn’t care about having more money coming in beyond that amount. Beyond that amount, the additional marginal utility of each dollar received is actually zero. The wealth-addict might crave more, but it won’t do him-or-her any actual good; it won’t make the person happier. That’s the reality, now proven in numerous empirical studies.
This reality has major political consequences. One is that a country with highly concentrated wealth (the bottom 50% own almost nothing) is serving the addictions of a few, not the needs of the many — and therefore concentrated wealth cannot be sustained in a democracy, but only in a dictatorship: a dictatorship of wealth, where what determines power isn’t the voters but the dollars.
An important philosophical champion of free markets is the libertarian philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe. In 2001, Hoppe published his DEMOCRACY: The God that Failed, which was considered a libertarian masterpiece. Hoppe unapologetically argued there that libertarianism and conservatism are one and the same — and that he wanted it, passionately: he hated democracy. Unlike many libertarians, who falsely allege that democracy is impossible without there first being libertarianism (a free market), Hoppe acknowledged and argued for the mutual inconsistency between libertarianism and democracy. Although I don’t share his preference for a rule by the wealth instead of a rule by the residents, and thus he is an ideological opponent — the opposite of a supporter of my own position, as it’s being set forth here (and far more briefly than his tome) — I consider him to be the fullest and most internally consistent libertarian philosopher, and perhaps the most significant libertarian political philosopher in this Century, thus far. Whereas lots of people call themselves “libertarian,” he actually is — fully — that. Of course, some libertarians don’t agree with Hoppe’s view; but, on 30 August 2011, Michael Lind at salon.com headlined “Why Libertarians Apologize for Autocracy: The experience of every democratic nation-state proves that libertarianism is incompatible with democracy,” and he empirically found that Hoppe was correct about this incompatibility.
Hoppe argues not only for an aristocracy, but for a hereditary one, and he even opposes immigration; so, if he were a democrat, at all, then he’d be excluding immigrants from voting. But he’s not even that much of a democrat. And he especially approves of hereditary monarchy. His reason for that preference is traditional libertarianism, which favors the private over the public: “Hereditary monarchies represent the historical example of privately owned governments, and democratic republics that of publicly owned governments.” Libertarianism opposes public ownership, favors private.
Like any philosopher, Hoppe has ignored crucial issues in order to sell his case (after all, it’s a philosophical, not a scientific, case; it is ideological propaganda alleging that libertarianism is good — instead of being anything scientific); and the most interesting thing that he has avoided discussing in it is anti-trust, anti-monopoly, anti-oligopoly — the issues about concentration of power. He ignores those issues. For example, whenever he uses the term “monopoly,” he is referring solely to “government,” never to the economy (he assumes that in a free market there can’t be any oligopolies or monopolies). He is, after all, a crank (a free-market political theorist and therefore someone who implicitly denies that government is basic to an economy, and who assumes the converse, that the government is instead built upon the economy), though he’s an erudite one and thus acceptable to his fellow-scholars. Erudition doesn’t mean, nor necessarily include, being scientific. And the (scientific) reality is that the political issue isn’t ‘the government’s monopoly on power’, but instead it’s simply any concentrations of power — both monopolies and oligopolies — which unequalize both rights and obligations in the society, such that whereas a few people (the aristocracy) have many rights and few (if any) obligations, most people (the public) have few rights and many obligations. The latter type of society is called a “dictatorship.” The more that it exists, the more that it comes to exist — and, consequently, the less that there can exist democracy.
The basic issue in political science is not “freedom” versus “slavery” (two concepts in economics); it is “democracy” versus “dictatorship” (two concepts in politics).
Power precedes the economy; it directs the economy, if and where an economy even exists.
Democracy is natural where wealth is nearly-evenly distributed. Dictatorship is natural where wealth is extremely-unevenly distributed. The latter is true because no nation can maintain a democracy if the wealth is highly unequal. If the wealth is highly equal, then the possibility for democracy to emerge is substantial. But if the wealth is highly unequal, then the possibility for democracy even to exist to any extent, is low. All of the extremely wealthy people would have to be honest in order for them to tolerate rule by the majority. Otherwise, they’d simply be using their news-media to deceive instead of to inform the public: that’s what the ‘news’-people would be paid to do, cover-up real problems, and manufacture ‘reality’ — manipulate the public, instead of inform the public. If the distribution of wealth is highly unequal, the ‘news’people will be paid to deceive the public, instead of to inform the public. This (and it includes the ‘charitable’ foundations) is why the majority of the public have come to believe the profoudly false assertion that “having a rich class is a benefit” to the public. They’ve been deceived.
Most of the world is dictatorial. That’s because, almost everywhere, wealth, and even income, is extremely unevenly distributed. The laws and their enforcement determine the distribution of wealth and of income. The natural tendency is toward dictatorship, because a free market produces increased economic concentration. Democracy is not natural. Dictatorship is natural. What’s natural for a body-politic is to fulfill addictions, not to fulfill needs.
As inequality of wealth increases, corruption also increases. Empirical studies find that successful people tend to be bad: it’s natural for the scum and not the cream to rise to the top in organizations. So, the wealthier a person is, the worse the person tends to be. And it’s not just that, but success itself tends to make a person worse than the person was before the success. So, it’s natural that at the very top, tend to be the very worst people. Good government is not natural; bad government is natural. Good government is unnatural.
Corruption is rule by deceit. An example of how that works at the federal-government level is here. An example of that in more detail is here. Another such detailed example, but at the state-or-local government level, is here. And an example of it within academia, and at the federal regulatory agencies, is here. So, in a country that has extreme wealth-inequality, the way in which the public’s ‘consent’, to the billionaires’ rule, is manufactured, is by means of deceit — a rot that’s throughout the entire body-politic and society. This is how an extreme inequality of wealth is produced. It cannot be done honestly. Transparency International has reported that corruption and “social exclusion” or bigotry tend to go together, but has ignored the possible relationship between corruption and the economic distribution of either wealth or income. Perhaps the billionaires who fund TI don’t want such correlations to be pointed out, if they exist; so TI doesn’t investigate this.
The reason why a free market inevitably increases dictatorship, is that dictatorship is natural, just as a free market itself is natural, and power pre-exists everywhere to upset and overturn any equality that might exist in either sphere. Power is natural. No economy exists but that power pre-exists. The political sphere pre-exists the economic sphere. The basic reality, in any society, is power.
Thus, the question has always been: What rules? Is it the wealth? Or is it the people? The natural condition is for wealth to rule, because money (especially all excess money, all income above $100,000 per year, and certainly all income above $1,000,000 per year — what can truthfully be called 100% political money, because it can be ‘given away’ with no real loss to the current owner) is power. Although wealth isn’t the only source of power, it is a major source of power. (It can even be the major source of power.) And power rules everywhere. By definition, power rules in politics; and, by nature, the wealthy tend to rule not only in the economy, but also in the government.
That’s what’s natural. Democracy isn’t natural, but a free market, and an aristocratic government, are both natural. And the political reality determines the economic reality.
PS: You have just read here an entire online book. This article, including all of its sources that are linked-to, and the sources that are linked-to in those sources, constitute more than an ordinary book. The complete case and its documentation are fully presented in it. Anyone who finds this book valuable, might also find valuable, as a follow-up to it, a book of the traditional sort: Marjorie Kelly’s The Divine Right of Capital. Her Introduction there says, “The problem is not the free market, but the design of the corporation.” The first clause is false, but the second clause is true, and her book focuses in on that and gets it right. Any solution to either problem would need to be based on an accurate understanding of both of them. The bigger of the two problem-areas is the one that has been addressed in the present book-article. The second area is maybe 10% as large, but it too is significant, and what she says about it is true.
PPS: If you like this article, please pass it along to your friends, if only to get their feedback on it. They’re not likely to have encountered elsewhere the information it contains.
Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org
Summit without System
It is clear why the Russia—U.S. Presidential summit is in the limelight of the world community. In the history of international relations, high-level meetings often become significant events that change the paradigm of bilateral and multilateral contacts. However, this happens when the accompanying factors—necessary for a reverse, revision, or update—mature. Experts agree that the depth of contradictions does not allow us to achieve serious changes. There are opinions that the summit will see an attempt to form some confrontation rules and establish a set of rivalry principles. In my opinion, this should not be expected for a number of reasons that lie in the structure of the contemporary international relations, which is transit in nature. Most likely, the summit will aim to establish personal contacts and tete-a-tete communication, dating in a new capacity.
The Geneva summit of June 16, 2021 has been prepared for a long time and resulted from a telephone conversation between the presidents as well as the subsequent work of the United States and Russian diplomatic services. The Russian-American relations have always been about security, strategic stability, and world order. Bilateral relations are kept to a minimum, and economic cooperation is at its minimum levels. The depth of contradictions regarding regional conflicts does not allow us to expect any serious changes. Theoretically, a successful dialogue can be achieved in those areas that account for similar interests and do not contradict the interpretations of national security. This could be the Iranian, Syrian and Afghan dossiers. In fact, there have never been insurmountable contradictions as regards these issues. In turn, the Ukrainian crisis is viewed by the parties from fundamentally different approaches, with the situation in the Eastern European country seen as the opposite. The conversation here will probably be short, and a compromise will not be found. The issues of strategic stability and arms control also have different interpretations, but at least so far, they have not been fundamental. Perhaps, these are all problems where some understanding could be achieved. In short, the agenda is broad but rather unpromising.
In any case, a meeting is always better than no meeting. The summit being held signals that it is possible and necessary for the United States to deal with Russia. For the new administration, a meeting’s necessity is dictated by the diplomatic structures and the need to establish personal contacts. Indeed, today the relations between the two nations cannot be called normal, working and effective. Given the military and geopolitical capabilities of the two countries, this fact itself is fraught with many threats, security dilemmas and conflict potential. A normalization in relations is a necessity, both for bilateral cooperation and for the global system. At the same time, the prospects for finding any common denominators are shallow. Moreover, this is practically impossible and—given the worldview perspectives of two countries—untimely.
The difficulties of normalization, in my opinion, lie in the systemic factor. Actors see the world, processes, practices, and the international relations system in different ways. Looking at the same things, Russia and the United States see them in contrasting ways, which complicates things and any substantive discussion, not to mention setting rules of the game. There is no consensus or compromise in understanding the international relations system, the role of states, IGOs and NGOs. In Russia, they believe that the United States is in decline. America is convinced that Russia is in decline. In Russia, the realist approach is not only dominant but, perhaps, the only acceptable option for the Kremlin, as the geopolitical interpretation of events seems to be the only relevant mindset.
How to avoid conflict, security dilemma and come to normalization? Today, there is probably no answer to this question. Stability requires institutions. This concept is much broader than organizations, fora or conferences. The institutional theory assumes that actors, bound by some common rules, norms and practices, will find a common language more easily, while the potential for conflict will be controlled. For the relations to be institutionalized, the necessary criterion is the legitimacy of recognizing a vis-à-vis as well as its rights, role and equality. This, unfortunately, is absolutely absent in the Russian-American relations.
Russia sees the world as multipolar, regarding itself as a great power—equal to the United States and China. Following this logic, Moscow demands an appropriate attitude and equality. Russia’s perspective on global processes reflects the growing influence of non-Western actors outside of liberal multilateralism. Moscow denies the international relations liberal theory in much the same way that the founders of the basic IR theory, Edward Carr and Hans Morgenthau, did. The liberal approach, and hence the vision of the United States, is seen as idealistic. In addition, individual divergences are treated not as exceptions to the rules but as an actual refutation of the theory itself. And the discourse hides real geopolitical goals that have nothing to do with its interpretation.
The dominant schools of international relations in the United States reject realist theory and, more importantly, see it as a problem of the current state in global politics. In addition, geopolitics and its methods are called obsolete. The consensus position believes that realism is refuted, as it fails to catch the zeitgeist of the much broader and more complex world. Consequently, the interpretations, practices, motives and arguments of the Russian side are not taken in at all. Their actions, in turn, are interpreted from the standpoint of critical, liberal approaches and methodologies of the English school. The dominant schools in the U.S. see the issues of national sovereignty, the role of non-state actors and military force differently. Some postulates neutralize the very concept of sovereignty and the main tenets of realism. Regional crises are considered not from the standpoint of security and geopolitics but as something essentially predicted by the dominant schools in the West, namely the desire of some states to become part of the family of democracies.
According to the English School, the United States treats NATO as a community of nations, believing the rhetoric of the alliance should be based on the need for securitization, as is required by the Copenhagen theory. The rhetoric from these points of view is aimed at the epistemological community, fixing the enemy to strengthen unity and security procedures. In Russia, which proceeds from classical realism or neorealism, we tend to think of NATO as of a military-political alliance that defends the geopolitical interests of a bloc of countries rather than of a community of global police officers. Numerous crises in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine are seen as attempts by the Atlantic alliance, which seeks hegemony, to expand its sphere of influence. The consequences are extremely negative, as they are deemed to be destabilizing, rooted in irresponsible decisions that ignore the social and regional characteristics of nations. NATO’s direct or indirect involvement in crises is seen as a threat that creates numerous security dilemmas. Moscow sees the strengthening of NATO and the United States as a threat to its national interests and security.
The practices, motivations and characteristics of a multipolar, unipolar or bipolar world are fundamentally different. Consequently, looking at the world through the prism of these theoretical interpretations leads to different, often mutually exclusive readings of the same processes. Indeed, the rules of international relations designed in 1945 and updated following the Cold War need to be revised. However, the leading actors are not going to do this yet, which, apparently, is a sign that the critical potential is lacking at this point. Amid unformed transit world order, which is in some cases similar to the Brownian motion, agreeing on rules of confrontation is inherently difficult.
Today, the relations between Russia and the United States are abnormal, irrational, lacking in systemic thinking, clear goal-setting, and acceptable practices. An experienced administration of professionals has come to power in the United States, and the fact that the summit is to be held demonstrates that the dialogue with Moscow is not toxic. Minimalism and the attempt to focus on small things to achieve practical results may well be the most positive scenario of the summit. At the same time, the transit nature of the current international relations system, which seems to be moving from a unipolar to a multipolar world, prevents the parties from understanding, hearing and accepting each other.
The United States as the largest and the most powerful superpower is experiencing a post-hegemony state, as Robert Cohen puts it. It is increasingly at odds with the new pole of power, China. Russia, not being a full-fledged superpower, is limited in its actions and resources, however, reluctant to give in and believing it is in its national interests to nominally keep a distance from the West. Moscow needs to establish fair relations with the global West, of which relations of equality will be the foundation. At the same time, there is no sound alternative to the ideological construction of a transit world order. The rules of confrontation are, in fact, a kind of detente which recognizes the legitimacy of each party’s demands. Under the transit era, it will be extremely difficult to arrive at.
From our partner RIAC
Biden: No More “Favourite Dictators”
Former US President Donald Trump shared a strong personal rapport with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. Trump made no bones about the fact, that he got along well with authoritarian leaders – especially in the Middle East. At the G7 Summit in 2019, Trump while looking for Egyptian President had even said, “Where’s my favourite dictator?”
Statements made by Biden before taking over as US President
On the other hand, Joe Biden before taking over as US President had repeatedly criticized Erdogan, MBS and Sisi for their poor human rights record, and had unequivocally stated that none of them would have a free pass in a Biden Presidency. Biden had on numerous occasions flagged the dismal Human Rights record of Saudi Arabia, especially MBS’ involvement in the murder of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and lashed out at Trump for soft pedaling on the issue because of his personal rapport with MBS. Similarly, in August 2020, Biden had dubbed Erdogan as an ‘autocrat’ and also expressed the view that the US needed to lend support to opposition parties in Turkey. Biden had also issued a warning to Sisi, saying that there would be “no more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favourite dictator’.”
How President Biden has approached relations with the three leaders
During the Biden Administration, ties with Saudi Arabia have witnessed a change. A report which clearly points to MBS’ role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was released (Trump had refused to release this report). The US has withdrawn support for the Saudi war in Yemen, and defence agreements signed between the US and Saudi Arabia, during the Trump Administration have been put on hold. Yet, Biden while sanctioning Saudi officials in connection with the Khashoggi case, in addition to those sanctioned by the Trump administration, refused to impose sanctions on MBS owing to the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East (Saudi support is essential for the revival of the Iran Nuclear Deal/Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action-JCPOA) and the strong US-Saudi relationship. It would be pertinent to point out, that Biden’s decision not to impose sanctions on MBS has drawn strong criticism from many including members of his own party.
If one were to look at the case of Turkey in recent months, the Turkish President has himself toned down his Anti-West rhetoric and described his meeting with Biden on the sidelines of the recent NATO Summit as fruitful. While commenting on the meeting with Biden, Erdogan stated that ‘ We believe there is no problem that cannot be resolved in Turkey-US relations,’
The US President also said, that the meeting with Erdogan was positive and expressed hope that the bilateral relationship would improve in days to come.
While the meeting between Biden and Erdogan was positive, differences between both sides still persist over Turkey’s purchase of S400 missiles (the Trump administration had imposed sanctions in its final days and Turkey had also been removed from its F-35 fighter jet program)
Turkey’s strategic relevance
Turkey has stated that it is willing to play a role in security in Afghanistan, and guard Kabul airport, after the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Turkish President did say that Turkey would require diplomatic, logistic and financial support that the United States. The Biden administration’s outreach to Turkey indicates that in spite of differences over key issues, Istanbul’s potentially important role post the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is something, the US will not ignore. Erdogan on his part needs to have a reasonable relationship with US, given the fact that the Turkish economy has slowed down significantly.
If one were to look at the case of Egypt, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi role in the ceasefire between Israel and Palestine, was acknowledged by the Biden Administration. While the US President during a telephonic conversation hailed Sisi for his ‘successful diplomacy’ in the Israel-Palestine ceasefire, the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said:
‘We have had in Egypt a real and effective partner in dealing with the violence, bringing it to a close, relatively quickly. And now, we are working closely together to build something positive’
It would be pertinent to point out, that during his telephonic conversation with Sisi, in May 2021, Biden did flag the need for a ‘constructive dialogue’ on human rights in Egypt
While it is easy to criticise Joe Biden, he has the onerous responsibility of striking a balance between values, which he has repeatedly referred to even after taking over as President, with US interests. Given the complex geopolitics of the Middle East, Biden while refraining from taking steps, which may be counterproductive has flagged his concerns with regard to Human Rights, and sent out a strong message that bilateral relations will be dictated by substance and not mere personal chemistry or optics. At the end of the day it is important not to forget Miles’s law — ‘where you stand depends upon where you sit’.
The liberal international order has not crumbled yet
Since 2017 when Donald Trump took office, the “liberal international order” erected in 1991 has been under serious challenges raised by the United States’ relative decline, the Trump administration’s isolationist policy, and on top of that, the outbreak of COVID-19. Indeed, this order is greatly plagued, which is evidenced by its dysfunction. Against this backdrop, its endurance in the upcoming time is questionable. Nevertheless, the liberal international order has not collapsed yet. It will even revive, and endure in the post-pandemic era.
The victory of Biden
Notwithstanding facing great threats, the liberal international order is far from crumbling. On the contrary, it is gradually reviving. In the Western world, countries are making effort to reform their order that is on the verge of collapse. This is true in the US – the world democracy’s leader. Joe Biden’s victory against Donald Trump may be a positive signal for the US and the global democracy. As a strong advocate for values including democracy, multilateralism and international trade, at no doubt, President Biden will be opposite to Trump in his policy, both domestic and foreign ones. Indeed, during his first 100 days, Mr.Biden has implemented some meaningful things. Regarding the pandemic, he has a stricter approach than his predecessor’s: Mandatory mask wearing, a $1.9-trillions bill, historical vaccination campaign, to name a few. All of Biden’s actions have been so far effective, when the new cases and deaths are steadily declining, and the number of vaccinated people is substantially high. This lays a foundation for Biden to reinvigorate his country’s ruined democracy and governance system, as his efficiency in countering COVID-19 may help him regain American people’s trust on the future of American democracy.
In terms of foreign policy, President Biden has some radical changes compared to that of Trump, which might be favorable to the Western world. At first glance, Biden embraces multilateralism much more than his predecessor, with the hope of saving the American global leadership. He supports Washington’s participation in international institutions, which is illustrated by the rejoining of WHO, Paris Agreement and several multilateral commitments. In tandem with this, Biden values the US’ alliances and strategic partnership as vital instruments for the US’ hegemony. Unlike Trump’s transactional approach, Biden prioritizes early and effective engagement with allies to tackle regional and global issues, especially major ones like NATO, G7. In Asia, he also seeks for further cooperation with traditional allies such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand and deepening partnership with Vietnam, Singapore, India and ASEAN countries.
More importantly, President Biden’s policies towards the US’ competitors and “rogue states” are far different from Trump’s. Granted, despite seeing China as the biggest threat to the American global leadership, Biden adopts a more flexible and multilateral policy. His administration looks to cooperate and compete with China, which implies a different trajectory of the US-China relationship in the upcoming time. Additionally, as noted above, instead of unilaterally escalating tensions with China as Trump did, Biden has been forging relations with traditional and potential Asian allies to contain China together, given China’s increasing assertiveness. With regard to Iran, Washington is now working on the Iran Nuclear Deal with other six parties, promising a potentially positive future on the relations of Iran with the US and the West. The bottom line is, a radical change in Biden’s foreign policy will be a clear message to the world that the US will still try to save the liberal international order and make this world safer for democracy.
The European Union is recovering
Things are happening in the same pattern in Europe. European leaders are also closely cooperating, both inside and outside the bloc, to defeat COVID-19. That said, they are ardently supporting multilateralism. So far, the EU has spent billions of dollars in vaccine development as well as humanitarian support, demonstrating its solidarity in the battle against COVID-19. As such, if EU leaders can successfully lead their bloc out of the current crisis, they can reform this currently plagued institution in the post-pandemic era. Not only seeking further intra-bloc cooperation, but also European leaders are working with other major actors around the world to substantiate the global battlefront against COVID-19. Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her country and China to jointly develop COVID’s vaccine in an open, transparent way, and to a further extent, maintain good and stable bilateral partnership, regardless of two sides’ differences.
Similarly, the EU has been putting the Transatlantic relationship among the priorities of its foreign policy agenda. After Biden’s election, the European Commission has proposed refreshing the US-EU alliance and establishing a Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council, being seen as an informal tech alliance with the US to prevent China from dominating this critical sector. The Transatlantic relationship is perhaps one of the pillars for the liberal international order, given its long history and its contribution to maintain the global stability. In the last decades, this axis has been damaged by numerous issues, from economic to security, which is one of the main causes for the decline of liberal international order. Thus, a fresh Transatlantic relationship is conducive to the re-emergence of this order. In this respect, the EU’s effort to strengthen the Transatlantic alliance, despite being questionable in terms of feasibility and outcome, is still paving the way for reinvigorating of liberal international order. More notably, the most recent G7 Summit has illustrated the Western’s solidarity, when there is a convergence in most issues related to global governance and maintaining the Western-based order. This may be a harbinger of the liberal international order’s revival, at least in a foreseeable future.
Non-Western world is struggling
The dynamics outside the Western world is also changing in a more favorable direction. Many non-Western countries, once were effective in combating against the pandemic, are now struggling with a greater threat. Taiwan, in spite of being praised as one of the most successful states in the battle against COVID-19, is currently facing another wave of pandemic when the new cases in this island are surging recently. Other successful stories, let us say Thailand, Japan or South Korea, are questionable of maintaining their momentum in preventing the virus, showcased by their relatively inefficiency during this new wave, in implementing strong measures and getting their people vaccinated. This raises question about these countries’ model of governance, which was used to be praised as a better alternative for a plagued, dysfunctional Western one, thanks to its merits in helping those above-mentioned states contain COVID-19.
Major non-Western blocs are in the midst of COVID-19 crisis as well. The clearest example is the BRICS. Except China, all other countries in this bloc have been tremendously suffering from the pandemic. Due to this, they are far from being recovered quickly. This failure in dealing with the virus undermines the bloc’s previous effort in establishing its position as a major, effective one, not to mention building a new, non-Western international order. This is also the case with ASEAN, as the organization was sharply divided by COVID-19. There are countries doing well with controlling the pandemic such as Vietnam, Singapore, but the Philippines and Indonesia are unable to do so, making this bloc suffering from institutional sclerosis without having any coherent COVID-19 policy. Therefore, non-Western blocs and countries are far from being more efficient than Western ones, implying they are unable to come up with any better international orders than the current liberal international one.
More importantly, Western values underpinning the liberal international order are universal. This is noteworthy when arguing for the long-lasting of Western order, as its existence and endurance mainly hinge on the universality of Western values. These values have been embraced by many countries for a very long time. Hence, despite being deteriorated in recent years, they cannot be easily changed. On the other hand, non-Western values are also not as highly embraced as Western ones. China, desiring to topple the US, is initiating numerous projects and agreements to spread its values around the world, making the world less Western and more Chinese/Asian. Nonetheless, Beijing has yet achieved any remarkable achievements in making their values more widespread and embraced by the rest of the world. Even worse, its image has been tarnished due to its rising assertiveness. Its projects in developing countries, especially BRI-related projects, have been notorious for a large number of problems related to environment or local corruption, and it is raising strategic uncertainty in the region by its increasing militarization, particularly on the South China Sea. These movements have turned China into a “malevolent” major power, hindering its process of disseminating and socializing its values to the world.
It is also worth noting that although Western values have declined, they have been proven to be benevolent for this world. Most recently, it is Western countries that have successfully developed good COVID-19 vaccines to save themselves and save the world from this unprecedented health crisis. Non-Western countries, for instance China and Russia, have their own vaccines, but they are not as welcome as other developed countries in the West in the vaccine race, because their vaccines are relatively less effective than Western-produced ones. Democracy, liberty, lassaiz faire are values that help Western countries or ones embrace such things able to produce massive amount of effective vaccines, and more broadly to develop a strong science and technology foundation. Producing and distributing vaccine for the rest of the world would make the West become a savior, which is good for saving the liberal international order.
Without doubt, the liberal international order has been in its worst time since 1991 when it reached its heyday. However, thanks to its merits, the liberal international order will not die. Instead, most countries will jointly save it, because they have been benefitting from this order for a long time, and will be so in the future. The order’s founding members are recovering, and cooperating closely to reform it, as well as there are no better international orders that can replace the existing one. Given these circumstances, the liberal international order would re-emerge as a dominant form of ordering this world after the pandemic, and would be perpetuated.
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