Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Globalization and Governance

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Oct 27, 2000

The main point of this presentation by Dian Cohen, President of DC Productions Limited, and Guy Stanley, Senior Associate at CETAI-HEC, is that "the system is unsustainable."

Stanley expressed it best. First, there are three major forces at work in society:

1.      Globalization, whereby global capital markets are now in a position to discount government policies, and where trade rules shrink a national government's policy discrention,

2.      An aging workforce, which threatens the solvency of government and society, and

3.      A shift to the World Wide Web, creating a fluid tax base (through e-commerce and a mobile work force) and the proliferation of a "gift culture."

 These three forces in turn affect government in the following ways:

 1.      There is a voluntary allocation of taxation - individuals and businesses can now select where they want to 'park' their revenue, electing to allocate tax revenue to one jurisdiction or another based on benefits received,

 2.      "Public goods" are being redefined. Government is not needed as much to address "market failure" (such as shortages of food or health care) and is instead refocusing on "positive externalities and processes," that is, creating an environment which can adapt to the global marketplace, and

 3.      Power is shifting radically downwards - for example, interlinked NGOs and other "3rd sector" agencies are able to take over the implementation of many policy objectives and to promote "active citizenship."

 Thus, concluded Stanley, effective governments of the future will:

 1.      Achieve "global brand" status by building "civic value" - this (in my view) is roughly equivalent to d'Aquino's first imperative as described above

 2.      Build taxpayer loyalty and innovate financially,

 3.      Create "positive processes" and foster community activism, and

 4.      Champion the "gift culture" and "social renorming."

We think of government as providing social programs. But these programs are being radically reorganized. Education, for example, is being organized competitively and sourced globally. Income redistribution depends more and more on taxpayer willingness and charity.

In a nutshell, Stanley's presentation says this: as power devolves downward, so does responsibility.

My observation is this: as responsibility shifts downward, so must power.

The major danger in globalization is that people - cities, communities and societies - are being required to look after themselves without being given the means to do so. It is one thing, for example, to say that an individual is responsible for his own learning, but quite another when that learning is priced out of reach through government monopolies on accreditation and corporate monopolies on content.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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