Guide to the New World Order

In his recent speech before the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Robert Zoellick, President of The World Bank Group, proposes that we must modernize multilateralism.

He is referring to the late 20th century understanding of multilateralism as a number of nations consulting and, perhaps, acting cooperatively to achieve a specific goal.

The realities of the economic power shifts that are taking place, he says, call for top-down integration of national economies into an interconnected whole now hopefully opportunely made possible by significant changes taking place in many, especially Near Eastern, countries.

The key example: apart from its oil sector, the Arab World is poorly integrated into the global economy, he says.

Both wealthy and poor countries suffer from joblessness, lack of economic diversity, and accountability, corruption, and conflict.  Arthritic bureaucracy has fed nepotism, cronyism, and corruption.

While World Bank involvement in economic development has raised the quality of life and stimulated macro economic growth in many countries, modernization and public participation have been blocked, he says.  Elitist, top down management has in many instances snuffed out traditional forms of societal consultation.

In a recent conference at the World Bank he asked Arab groups, including youth and women's groups, what they wanted.

Some answers, from both men and women: opportunity, a job, justice, fair laws, less arbitrary bureaucracy, schools, safe neighborhoods, police who protect not intimidate, voice, accountability, transparency.  In other words, a new social contract.

In the past, he adds, the World Bank did not talk about corruption or gender as it does now, and only recently has the Bank started to talk about transparency.  Today the World Bank Group is the only multilateral institution with a Freedom of Information documented policy.

Zoellick's proposal integrates politics and economics like heads and tails of a coin.  This proposes a New Social Contract.  This is a road map to the New World Order.

In a concluding paragraph he says:

Politics and economics are different. But in many areas they are also much the same. People, incentives, psychology, human nature, governance, choices, results, accountability, transparency, security, gender, participation, voice. Are these politics or economics? Or maybe both?

Let us grant to Robert Zoellick a benign intent.  The World Bank Group exercises immense economic and political influence in the world.  But modernizing multilateralism by channeling efforts -- of those who seek to advance transparency and opportunity in their countries -- to interconnectivity, integration into a whole suggests something that in other hands can be quickly perverted and bring back many more demons than were present before.  Especially when he says that 20th century hierarchies need now to interconnect nimbly across truly global networks.

Robert Zoellick's message to the World Bank Group's nation and corporate clientele is laudable: free the way for private sector opportunity, institute good governance and anti-corruption strategy, publish information, enact Freedom of Information Acts, be transparent in dealings, empower the public.  Open governance is the solution; and, free the economy for job creation to overcome the enormous unemployment of youth, especially in the Middle East: upwards of 40% of youth, equally high for young women.

What can free the way and be transparent mean in societies that are not open and have not encouraged individual entrepreneurship and competitiveness?  A scholar of Arabic has told me that the word freedom and the concept of freedom as we have known it do not exist in Arabic.  In Egypt what does the Muslim Brothers professed belief in Islamic Democracy mean when one of its groups flashes "Islam is the solution" on its banners, or another who declares that Coptic Christians must submit to Islamic Sharia?

Is there not ahead of us a very long process of education, of transforming thinking, of changing economic models, of modifying world views, of jettisoning murderous religious tenets?  Is that at present even possible since debate, dialogue, persuasion, conversion, proselytizing, evangelizing (mask it however you will) are not only taboo, but in some societies are punishable by death?  Consider Izetbegovic's Islamic Declaration which, like Hitler's Mein Kampf, has been largely ignored in the West.

In a free market economy in which competition is real, and where justice, honesty, and fairness level the playing field, the entrepreneur's target of prosperity for himself works for prosperity for others as a natural by-product of his personal initiative: the plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance (Proverbs 21:5).  Productivity is more than a profit-oriented concept.  Remarkably, the genius of Capitalism is its impersonal nature.  It comprises a social and economic system in which by risk-taking, diligence, and creativity, the entrepreneurs' pursuit of profit benefits those whom they do not know or about whom they could care.  Profit in such an economic and political social environment is a signal of efficiency and of having met public need.

This is missing from Robert Zoellick's analysis and proposal.

In human society self-interest and altruism will always be present together and will be in frequent tension.  The dark side of human nature must be kept in check.  Thus human society must always ensure that a system of checks and balances jealously guards the principles of freedom, justice, and free enterprise that nourish prosperity and, hopefully, love of neighbor as well.

Will the top down managed economy, on the world scale and the local community implementation he proposes, simply create opportunity for less benign practitioners to pervert it to their own evil ends on a much grander scale?

Consider how easily such a structure could cohere with radical Islam's vision of world jihad and Sharia law.

We have lived through destructive Communist and Progressivist forms of Socialism during my lifetime.  What New Social Contract on a world scale should I be looking forward to now?

Here is a hymn from Belgrade, from the land where I was born, which extols the virtues of one of the more recent top down managed systems invented by Socialist ideologues:

There is no unemployment but nobody works. 

No one works but everyone receives wages. 

All get wages but nothing can be bought with them.

Nothing is purchased but everybody owns everything.

Everybody owns everything but they are all dissatisfied.

All are dissatisfied but everyone votes for the system.

Samuel Mikolaski is a retired theology professor. His curriculum vitae and published work are on his website.