Globalism is a central issue of our time, but its definition has become slippery. It is confused with globalization, an error that globalists deliberately encourage. The two are fundamentally different: globalization is an historical process, a fact of how things are, but globalism is an ideology, a set of opinions about how things ought to be.
Globalism is the ideology that advocates the liquidation of nations. Its opposite is nationalism. Globalization, on the other hand, is not an ideology at all. Ultimately, it is just the growth of communications and trade, and it has been happening since 1492. The classic lie about globalization is its recency. For example, when did it first become possible to send $100 million from New York to London at the push of a button? 1976? 1966? 1956? No, 1866, when the trans-Atlantic telegraph opened.
Globalism the ideology masquerades as globalization the fact in order to gain sympathy by feigning inevitability. Debates on its desirability are portrayed as futile. But if it is inevitable, why must its advocates push so aggressively?
Globalism is a deliberate political choice, no more inevitable than socialism. Its key exemplars like the United Nations, free-trade extremism, the European Union, and mass immigration are political constructs that could be abolished tomorrow. This is not true of such aspects of globalization as the Internet, the passenger jet, or the 40-foot container.
Globalization can exist without globalism. World trade as a percentage of world GNP was roughly as high in the pre-1914 heyday of the gold standard and European imperialism as it is today, but the Western world was then staunchly nationalist. The anti-nationalist spin that is put on trade today is not an intrinsic part of the exchange of goods and services with foreigners. Japan has based her economy on exports for 50 years without ceasing to be one of the most nationalistic and culturally distinctive nations on earth.
The problem with globalism is not free markets but free-market extremism, a peculiar kind of right-wing Jacobinism that has no place in authentic conservatism. In the U.S, this means taking free trade beyond its common-sense limit of reciprocity with friendly nations and opening our markets to nations, like Japan, which keep their markets closed to us, and China, which nakedly proclaim their military hostility to us.
Globalism is sometimes confused with internationalism in order to depict resistance to globalism as resistance to fruitful co-operation between nations. But internationalism, whatever mischief it may produce, is predicated on relations between nations, precluding their outright dissolution. Unfortunately, it is a small and intellectually seductive jump from believing in co-operation between nations to believing that the co-operative arrangements can be abstracted to function on their own without the nations that produced them. Many former internationalists are now globalists.
Globalism appeals to the libertarian Right because this group mistakenly equates the liquidation of nations with a reduction in the power of their governments. But this does not follow. Open borders, for example, benefit immigrants at the expense of citizens and nourish big government by importing poverty and other social pathologies. Worse, the decline of national governments, as Britain has learned under the European Union, is often accompanied by the growth of more distant, more autocratic, and less accountable authorities. The erosion of a nation can easily proceed hand-in-hand with the cancerous bloat of its government: just look at the suffocation of Russia under the dead hand of the Soviet state.
Because of the ascendancy of neoconservatism during the time that globalism has flowered, it has been suggested, both by paleoconservatives and by certain elements on the Left, that the two are identical. But although neoconservatism is almost always globalist, it is not intrinsically identical with globalism. Neoconservatism is conservatism corrupted by globalism.
Neoconservatives adopted globalist ideas because they made sense for winning the Cold War. They did not, however, adapt when that war ended, and these ideas have run riot now that the constraints imposed by that war have gone. The desirability of exporting capitalism and a worldwide military presence are both Cold War ideas. They once served a vital American interest by undermining the Soviet Union, but they do nothing for us now. Exporting capitalism today merely enhances foreign nations’ competitiveness against us. This had some consolations when it made Japan the bastion of capitalism in East Asia. It has none today, when her long-term geopolitical interests are not identical with ours and she is financing the economic growth of an openly hostile China.
It took two World Wars and a Cold War to undo America’s allegiance to George Washington’s warning against “entangling alliances” and to drag us into a worldwide military presence, but given that the founders had no experience of ideological aggression like Marxism, this was rational under the circumstances. Those circumstances are, however, over. Al-Qaeda is not the USSR. Furthermore, because of its religious character, a return to America’s Christian particularism—rather than the construction of the kind of counter-universalism we arrayed against the universalist pretensions of Marxism—is the needed strategy against it.
It is sophistry to invent messianic objectives for American foreign policy in order to rationalize an obsolete habit of projecting power. Sometimes military presence abroad is called for, but our default presumption in favor of projecting power into any available vacuum has led us into pointless involvements in places like Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti. It is one thing to project power in order to shape the international order in favor of real American security interests but quite another to do so out of some ideological mission to replicate our system all over the world.
Reproducing the American system worldwide ultimately implies world government, as intellectually honest globalists like Clinton Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott have admitted. Globalism is often equated with world government, but this is a half-truth. Though the drive to create world government rationalizes globalism, destroying the nation-state can go on whether or not world government is built on its carcass. The drive to create world government could fail, and, having dismantled viable nation-states, globalists could leave the world in chaos.
Globalism also emerged because both Right and Left responded to the Cold War by interpreting their missions as a supranational battle of ideas rather than the well-being of the concrete American nation. As a result, at the end of the Cold War, both the dumber elements of the world Right and the smarter elements of the world Left came to the same conclusion: the nation-state was obsolete as a vehicle for furthering their ideas. The Right wanted more capitalism, the Left wanted more equality, and the nation-state, a natural bulwark against extremism of either kind, stood in the way of both. So they set about undermining it.
The smart Left has admitted to itself—whether the dumb Left that forms its rent-a-mob gets it—that capitalism cannot be overthrown. If the inevitability of capitalism makes economic equality within nations unattainable, the next-best thing is economic equality between nations. To see free-trade extremism build up the incomes of the Chinese at the same time as it impoverishes American manufacturing workers is immensely satisfying to them. Some have openly said so.
Because the smart Left has abandoned socialism, it no longer wants the strong nation-states that central planning implied. It now sees the existence of separate nations as an unacceptable redoubt of human inequality. Separate nations give peoples with histories of brilliant political and economic achievement, like Englishmen and Americans, the free and prosperous lives that their forebears have earned while at the same time consigning peoples of inferior ancestral achievement to lesser existences. Therefore, erasing the distinctions between nations—the “borderless world”—is the new leftist egalitarian project. Mass immigration into the First World from the Third is a key part of this project, because it forces the citizens of the First World to share their superior way of life. Globalism’s socialist roots are clear in that it denies that nations are the property of their citizens, property they are not obliged to share with foreigners.
The “technocratic” Left, which is just the power-hungry Left grown sophisticated, sees global institutions as a way to achieve policies that could never be imposed by national governments subject to democratic accountability. Because national sovereignty is the key barrier to achieving this, globalism attacks national sovereignty.
National cultural identity gives peoples an emotional attachment to their national sovereignty, so globalism attacks national cultural identity too. In America, this assault takes the form of PC assaults on American history and the revision of American culture to a universalist culture. In Britain, it takes the form of guilt over long-vanished and frequently defensible colonialism. In Germany, it equates any German nationalism with the Third Reich. In the Third World, it takes the form of imported American junk culture.
Globalism is contemptuous of any culture that cannot be bought and sold. It wants a homogeneous commercial pop culture designed to narcotize docile consumers and make the rootless cosmopolitanism that it produces seem sophisticated. Philosophically, globalism views culture as an arbitrary particularity or as mere entertainment.
Globalism does not value the distinct cultures of the world: it is only interested in Third-World cultures as a means to subvert the historic cultures of the First World. Its cultural incoherence, which postmodernism tries to systematize and aestheticize, is a product of its split between the right-globalist impulse to make culture commercial and the left-globalist impulse to make it subversive.
If this subversive itch sounds familiar, that is because globalism is the key successor to Marxism. It claims to represent the inevitable outcome of the laws of economics and a more efficient form of economic organization. It claims to serve the well-being of the populace but requires an elite cadre of experts to impose it. It claims to be independent of any particular nation, but it depends utterly on one nation’s military power to enforce its system. And rather than coinciding with the “withering away of the state,” it in fact requires the expansion of government power.
Globalism gratifies the same mental pathologies as Marxism and is therefore perfect for disillusioned intellectuals looking for a new home. It claims to be an empirical theory but is in fact a “beautiful idea” invented in the abstract, which can only be maintained by ruthlessly concealing or rationalizing away inconvenient facts. It offers its devotees the opportunity to believe that they are a special in-group that is more advanced than everyone else. And like Marxism, globalism has a genius for inspiring disloyalty to one’s country.
Like Marxists, globalists realize they need global military domination to impose their vision, so they set about manipulating America into providing it. Their basic doctrine is that the United States must project power wherever it is lacking and maintain indefinite global military supremacy. This is sold as a means to maintain American security, but in fact the agenda is to uphold the globalized world order. Their ultimate intellectual coup is to redefine American security not as our ability to protect ourselves from harm—globalists have no interest in defending our actual borders—but as the security of the globalist system (which we are falsely told is just America writ large) worldwide.
Ironically, globalism is often depicted as a mask of American self-interest. It is indeed used as a rationalization for some assertions of American power, but it also inexorably dissolves the very bases of this power because the United States, as the most open society on earth, is singularly vulnerable to its corrosive forces. We can call this the “neocontradiction.” For example, American free trade with China builds up China’s industrial base, yet we presume we will always be so much richer than China that we will endlessly be able to afford to contain her military expansionism. Worse, this same trade depletes our own industrial base and economy, reducing tax revenues and forcing us to borrow from Japan to pay for expensive military deployments. This arrangement gives Japan a quiet veto on our use of force.Advocates of indefinite American global hegemony project American economic dominance into the future with the insouciance of a British colonial secretary circa 1889. They cannot ask hard questions about the significance of relative economic power because globalism seduces America’s power elite precisely because of this unstated assumption that America will effortlessly dominate a globalized world.
They are in for a rude awakening, and soon. If the dollar falls by half—the standard estimate for what it would take to bring our unsustainable trade deficit back into balance—we will have to double our contributions to international organizations in order to maintain our clout. In fact, all our international spending will have to double to retain our position.
If America’s share of world GNP, now at 25 percent, falls to 12 or 13 percent, which is what this decline implies, we will no longer have the weight in the world economy to play as large a role in setting its rules as we now do. The prestige and credibility of the so-called American model of economics will decline too. The world will not listen to the idealistic economics of a declining nation.
The longer we premise our foreign policy on being the sole superpower, the harder our fall will be. The sooner we abandon this delusion, the easier will be our return to our natural status as a large, prosperous, and powerful nation— among others. The sooner we face the inevitability of a multi-polar world, the more of a head start we can have in arranging our place within its inevitably complex web of alliances.
Here at home, globalist neocons assume continued Republican dominance even though their devotion to mass immigration is destroying the Republican Party by importing Democratic voters. But because, for globalists, ideologies are more real than empirical facts, those globalists continue to spin contorted verbal rationalizations to cover up this fact of political demography.
Foreigners, please understand that the aspects of American policy you find obnoxious are really aspects of globalism. Therefore, you should be anti-globalist, not anti-American, just as America was anti-communist, not anti-Russian.
Robert Locke works in the computer business in New York City.