05 July 2008

Why who?

The Zen header of this post is my asking why the title of the current Economist's article about world governance is headed 'Who runs the world?' You can't blame the Economist. In common with the rest of us, it sees problems as arising from the failure of organisations. But I think this approach is outdated. Consider:
The third impetus to rejig the way the world organises itself is a dawning realisation on the part of governments, rich and poor, that the biggest challenges shaping their future—climate change, the flaws and the forces of globalisation, the scramble for resources, state failure, mass terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction—often need global, not just national or regional, solutions. Who runs the world? (subscription, probably)
Yes, they need solutions, and the solutions should drive institutional changes, rather than the other way round. Reward people for solving global problems, and they will have incentives to develop institutions entirely geared up to solving them. Our current institutions are woefully not up to the task; nor are they up to devising new institutions that are. The key is to subordinate organisational structures and funding to targeted goals, not for some academics, policy wonks or super civil servants to try (as the Economist goes on):
to figure out is which bits of the global architecture need mere tweaking, which need retooling or replacing—and who should have the right to decide.
That, I guarantee, is not going to work. The question we should be asking is not 'who runs the world?', but 'what problems do we want to solve?' Then we can set about issuing Climate Stability Bonds or Conflict Resolution Bonds or whatever and putting organizations, with all their inefficiencies, hang-ups and intrigues, in their proper place: subordinate to human goals.

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