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Unity with diversity: The challenge of globalization

Date: October 2005


There is no doubt that the world of today is, in many ways, radically different from the years that preceded the First World War. The so-called “Pax Britanica”, which basically prevailed from the Congress of Vienna until the summer of 1914, came to an abrupt end with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand the fateful morning of June 28 in Sarajevo. A century of relative peace and tranquility had concluded only to be followed by one that witnessed one of the greatest man-made calamities that the civilized world had ever known.

Most, if not all, of the basic unwritten codes of behaviour and chivalry, which prevailed in the pre World I decades, were ignored or openly rejected by the new generation of statesmen and politicians who, in general, were guided by unprecedented selfish motivations that relied heavily on whipped up mass emotions. The wave of optimism that prevailed in the nineteenth century set in motion a series of idealistic concepts that, it was believed, would guarantee peace, prosperity and ever increasing standards of living for humanity. The sought for fruits of the Enlightenment, with its stress on the power of reason, experimental knowledge and man’s unlimited capacity for continual progress, seemed to have been realized as Europe and the North America continents advanced rapidly in technological and scientific development.

As professor David Fromkin stated in his book Europe’s Last Summer: “At the start of the twentieth century Europe was at the peak of human accomplishment.In industry, technology, and science it had advanced beyond all previous societies. In wealth, knowledge and power it exceeded any civilization that ever had existed”.[1] The roaring guns of August 1914 shattered the optimistic forecasts of the overly confident Europeans.Suddenly it became apparent that a European diplomacy based on the balance of power, elaborated by the British and which had lasted for 200 years, had been dismantled and, as Kissinger wrote in his book Diplomacy was reshaped “into a cold-blooded game of power politics”.[2]

As a result, the most devastating fratricidal war that the world had ever known ravaged for four years not only the peaceful fields of Europe but also the far off lands of other continents. President Woodrow Wilson, one of the main Big Four signatories of the Treaty of Versailles, was convinced that the European balance-of-power system was, to a large degree, responsible for the Great War.[3] He firmly believed that the international order that preceded the war was a system of organized rivalries. The American President proposed that there should be: “…not a balance of power, but a community of power; not organized rivalries but, but an organized common peace”.[4] This new concept later became known as “collective security”.

To institutionalize this idea, Wilson put forward the League of Nations, a quintessentially American institution. As Kissinger reminds us: “America disdained the concept of the balance of power and considered the practice of Realpolitik immoral. America’s criteria for international order were democracy, collective security, and self determination – none of which had undergirded any previous European settlement”.[5] The Wilsonian dream that the interests of all peace loving democracies, united under the patronage of the League of Nations, would never conflict with the legitimate goals of humanity, proved to be totally unrealistic. Lloyd George went along with Wilson’s idea of the League of Nations but the League never caught his imagination.

Perhaps, according to Margaret Macmillan, professor of History at the University of Toronto: “…because he doubted whether it could ever be truly effective”.[6] General Smuts, the South African foreign minister, although an admirer of Wilson’s idealism and plans for universal freedom and justice, had other motivations in his outspoken support of the American President. As Macmillan comments: “What Smuts said less loudly was that the League of Nations could also be useful to the British Empire”.[7]

In spite of the optimistic expectations of many of the “peacemakers”, who participated in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the stormy clouds of conflict were gathering anew as the rumors of war increased in intensity during the decade of the thirties. The League of Nations, which was supposed to put an end to all wars and bring peace and justice to all nations, proved to be totally ineffectual in the face of the rising power of Hitler’s Germany and the brutal regime of Soviet Russia, not to mention Japan’s imperial objectives in Asia.

The League of Nations had a short life. Before the decade of the thirties had ended three of the major powers, Germany, Italy and Japan, had abandoned the conference halls of Geneva and, for all practical purposes, the international institution so dear to Wilson, had ceased to exist. The first of September 1939, Hitler’s Wehrmacht ruthlessly invaded Poland, causing the start of the Second World War. Millions of people were slaughtered around the world, both military and civilian, during the lengthy and horrendous conflagration.

With the end of the war, the victorious allies began to make plans for the future; a future which would include the formation of a new international organization that would, among other things, keep the peace, promote democratic agendas and foster human rights and the right to self determination. The Declaration on Human Rights that took place in San Francisco in 1944 paved the way for the creation of the United Nations (UN), an international organization which was supposed to avoid the pitfalls of the former League of Nations and carry out the high ideals of its original Charter. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had already promised on December 8, 1941 that the United States was going not only to win the war but also the peace that was to follow. Many were convinced that international cooperation, the self-determination of peoples and collective security would guarantee the future peace of the victorious “democratic” nations of the world. However, even though America entered the war with the expectation that the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan would usher in a new world order of peace and justice, events proved otherwise.It was a renewed form of a Wilsonian dream that did not materialize.

The threat of totalitarianism, under the banner of Soviet Communism, was basically ignored by the allies, including the United States. The world had entered into a new era, better known as the Cold War. It was soon realized that Roosevelt’s promise that the Western alliance was going to win the peace was not materializing. To meet the new challenge of Soviet power, a policy of containment was introduced. It was supposed to do what the UN was unable to do: meet the communist threat without the need for war.[8]

America undoubtedly had become the major world power. This became even more evident after the collapse of the Soviet empire. The policy of containment was no longer relevant. Thus, America moved towards one of “messianic globalism” which simply stated meant that America had a major goal to play in world affairs: reach out to help other nations share in the American dream. A policy of “messianic globalism” went much farther than Wilson’s ideal that the world should be made safe for democracy. The aim was and still is “to make the world democracy”.[9]

The world is rapidly changing. The technological and scientific changes that occurred since the end of the Second World War surprised even the most innovative minds at the turn of the twenty-first century. The new millennium ushered in innovative measures that in many ways simplified the lives of the average person but, at the same time, created challenges that cannot be left unanswered. Perhaps the most immediate one is the challenge of “globalization”. The world has become “smaller”, and distances “shorter” in what appears to be a shrinking planet. The innovative advances in the area of communications are revolutionizing the relationships between nations and peoples of different cultures and values. A new world order is in the making in which developed and less developed countries are becoming more and more politically and economically integrated under, what some experts believe, might well turn out to be a supra-national state.[10]

This paper will discuss a few crucial issues related to “globalization”. We shall try to determine whether the process of “globalization”, as some experts claim, will redound to the benefit of the world at large or, on the contrary, will do more harm than good. The author fully understands the complexity of these issues and the fact that they require a much deeper analysis than the brief comments that are included in this paper. Much has already been written on these subjects so I will limit myself to a brief comment on the impact “globalization” may have on each of the following important issues: 1) the spread of free market economies, 2) the establishment of stable and prosperous democracies, 3) the founding of a new world order with powerful supra-national institutions, 4) the spiritual and cultural traditions of the individual communities and 5) the future of the less developed countries, especially in Latin America.

1. The spread of free market economies

Without going into a full fledged analysis of the free market system which is not the object of this paper, would it be fair to say that a world integrated through the market would be highly beneficial for the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants?

No one will deny that this is a very controversial issue which has been vehemently discussed since the time of Adam Smith and the British Classical School.[11] In more recent times, the reaction of the defenders of socialism and of those who favour protectionist policies, sometimes under the guise of “import substitution for industrialization purposes”, is also well known. However, since the fall of the Soviet Empire and the realization of the disastrous economic failure of socialism, the belief in the advantages of a free economic system has been gaining ground. It is often claimed that a type of “globalization” that fosters free market economies is an excellent tool for the prosperity of the countries in the process of development. Martin Wolf, former economist at the World Bank, believes this to be true. According to him: “The problem today is not that there is too much globalization, but that there is far too little. We can do better with the right mix of more liberal markets and more co-operative global governance.”[12]

Defenders of the free market system have also expressed their reservation as to how “globalization” and economic liberalism can be used by the more powerful nations for purposes which do not necessarily benefit the less developed countries of the world. Joseph Stiglitz, professor of economics at Columbia University, is a firm defender of the free market system and the basic tenets of globalization. However, he has also reservations as to how “globalization” can be used for purposes that do not necessarily foster the development and well being on a world wide scale. “Globalization”, he claims, may be used by the industrialized countries to promote their own economic interests at the expense of the weaker members of the world community. International institutions very often are dominated “…not just by the wealthiest industrial countries but by commercial and financial interests in those countries, and the policies of the institutions naturally reflect this”.[13] Stiglitz has no hesitation in stating the following: “…even when not guilty of hypocrisy, the West has driven the globalization agenda, ensuring that it garners a disproportionate share of the benefits, at the expense of the developing world”.[14]

2. The establishment of stable and prosperous democracies

Another controversial point that is worth considering is the relationship between “globalization” and democracy. Does “globalization” promote democracy through the mediating effect of economic and social development or, on the contrary, does it destabilize the country, producing chaos rather than democracy? Is “globalization” being used by powerful trans-national corporations, primarily, to promote their own selfish interests and constrain the exercise of national sovereignties? There is no doubt that the process of “globalization” implies that an action by one nation will most certainly have consequences that will affect the status-quo of other states with which they have close relationships. Not all economists, as in the case of Stiglitz, are of the opinion that the process of “globalization” and the establishment of liberal economic systems will necessarily have a positive effect on other nations and accelerate the process of democratization. Contrary to the views of Stiglitz, the Indian economist Jagdish Bhagwati rejects the potential negative effects of globalization and insists that evidence supports the fact that: “…globalization leads to prosperity, and prosperity in turn leads to democratization of politics with the rise of the middle class”.[15]

The well known author Francis Fukuyama maintained in his book The End of History and the Last Man that the gradual collapse of totalitarian states of both right and left led to the establishment of prosperous and stable liberal democracies.[16] He even proclaimed “the end of history”: liberalism had triumphed over the forces of evil. For Fukuyama, liberal democracy was the only way to run an advanced economy and society. The benefits of liberal democracies and free market economies were to be spread more widely. Does this imply that global economic integration and the spread of democratic and free market principles around the globe (globalism) can serve as a blueprint for a new world order? Do these ideas reflect an idealism that in many ways resembles the Wilsonian dream of a League of Nations, an organization that would guarantee a peaceful and prosperous world free of national wars? Is globalism another form of optimistic idealism, such as the one held by Roosevelt towards the end of World War II?

The American President again placed great confidence in the formation of new international organizations devoted to the creation of a new “world order of democratic nations”. The principles of self determination, collective security, economic growth and development, and the defense of human rights were to be protected and promoted by international institutions, such as what later became known as the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other “global” or worldwide associations. The economic aspects of “globalization” acquired new significance after the debacle of World War II. In Europe the early European Economic Community (EEC) was supported by many European statesmen in their hopes of reaching, in the longer run, a greater continental political union.[17] Something similar, but with a lesser degree of success, occurred in other continents, especially in Latin America.

3. The founding of a new world order with powerful supra-national institutions

It is amply recognized that international or supra-national organizations are playing an increasing role in this new era of globalization. The creation of the International Court of Justice is only one example of this trend in international affairs. The problem, as we shall mention later, is to determine how these institutions will affect the sovereignties of the participating nations.

It is a two-edged sword that sovereign nations will have to reckon with because once they place their trust in the supra-national institutions they will have to surrender some of their traditional rights. Perhaps one of the best examples of a regional attempt toward unification is the European Union (EU) with its centralized power structure in Brussels.One of the major hurdles that the EU still has to overcome – if it can be done at all – is the reduction of all decision making, now concentrated in a heavily bureaucratic leadership (the Commission) in Brussels, to a level which is more in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. The views and opinions of the different integrating nationalities should have a greater voice in the decision making process. As we shall see later, this should apply in a very special way with respect to the religious and cultural traditions of the member states.

In spite of its common Judeo-Christian heritage, the EU has traveled a bumpy road in its path towards the creation of a united Europe. Little mention – if at all – is made of Christianity’s great and unique contribution to European civilization. Furthermore, at present there is still no definitive agreement in areas as important as monetary and agricultural policies not to mention, among others, fiscal issues, including the delicate question of migratory policies. A point of discord that has not been resolved concerns the approval and ratification of the future constitution. The Europeans, and rightly so, seem to have grave reservations as to the position Brussels holds with respect to important social and cultural issues.

The success of the union will depend not only on the righteousness and good intentions of the participating member states but also, and above all, on the good faith of the EU leaders. The national sovereignty of the independent states and their cultural, social and religious backgrounds are assets that should not be abandoned or changed easily. The cultural and religious diversity of the member countries must be respected by the centralized powers in Brussels.[18] Otherwise, all attempts toward greater unification will probably fail but, what is even more serious, will violate the basic rights of each person or group to preserve their own particular identities. The idea of Europe implies the recognition of such a common heritage. Its rejection will destroy the only hope for a moral and spiritual integration of the various European nationalities.

The trend toward increased integration and “globalization” is a reality that cannot be ignored. But the notion of the need for the creation of a new world order with its own supra-national institutions is gaining in strength. During the last two centuries strong movements have developed that support the idea of creating a new world order which would integrate different nationalities and cultures into a powerful centralized state. According to the proponents of such an idea world peace and justice would be better preserved if the future were placed in the hands of powerful states.[19]

Socialism, by its very nature, tends toward the centralization of power. Thus, it can prepare more easily the way toward a totalitarian state, not infrequently under the guise of democratic ideals. Let us not forget that for Marx and Engels, the glorification of power is a goal in itself. As Hayek reminds us when referring to collectivism: “…in order to achieve their end, collectivists must create power- power over men wielded by other men – of a magnitude never before known, and that their success will depend on the extent to which they achieve their power.”[20]

But the danger of an excessive centralization of power and its consequent abuses is not limited to socialism. It can also be found among powerful monopolistic business and trade union groups that have no hesitation in manipulating the laws of supply and demand when it favours their own egotistic interests.

The idea of creating a world state, as the well known German economist Roepke tells us, is “not merely a Utopia, nor even a harmless one at that, it also contains some false reasoning. It derives from the oversimplified idea that the degree of political and economic unity mankind needs is entirely incompatible with national sovereignty.” Even today, many years after Roepke wrote this statement at the height of the Cold War, it is difficult to conceive of a one world order when there still remain wide and conflicting philosophical and religious divisions that separate the so called Western World not only from other civilizations but also from the inner divisions that plague it from the inside; divisions that have given ground to the belief in the inevitability of a clash of civilizations and/or the demise and final collapse of Western civilization as it is commonly understood.

4.The spiritual and cultural traditions of the individual countries

The process of “globalization”, if it is to be successful should not be limited to the economy. As borders tend to disappear and the mobility of the factors of production become more flexible, the trend towards “globalization” brings with it also a gradual but progressive unification of society, both socially and culturally.[21] This trend is not bad in itself but it carries with it two main risks: the potential loss of cultural diversity and the danger of a disproportionate centralization of power. The cry for unity, which is often heard in academic circles and international organizations, should not overshadow the notion of diversity. This applies in a particular way to the area of culture.

The legitimate social and cultural traditions of the diverse nationalities should be preserved. Thomas L. Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times has warned about the dangers of globalization uprooting cultures. He says the following: “the more I observed the system of globalization at work, the more obvious it was that it had unleashed forest-crushing forces of development and Disney round the clock homogenization, which, if left unchecked, had the potential to destroy the environment and uproot cultures at a pace never before seen in human history”.[22]

Culture, as professor Sophia Aguirre insists, “is not an addition to the individual’s right but it is intrinsically united to the freedom of each person. At the same time, it is not right to suppress an individual’s right with the aim of protecting the cultural identity of a group”.[23] Problems related to cultural identity are being faced by governments and international organizations in many parts of the world. In Europe, the United States and other developed countries the task of integrating people from different cultures and backgrounds into more unified entities is not an easy one. This is especially true in the area of immigration as recent events in the developed countries have demonstrated. Increased efforts, geared toward a greater level of respect for the large variety of existing nationalities and cultures, are needed. These, in their turn, must be aware and recognize the advantages that, if properly carried out, can be derived from integration. Integrating or globalization policies that are not tailored to these realities can do more harm than good.

A healthy cultural diversity must be respected if the process of “globalization” is to succeed. The biggest threat to cultural diversity is likely to come “from all the anonymous, transnational, homogenizing, standardizing market forces and technologies that make up today’s globalizing economic system”.[24] This threat is aggravated with the rise and under the aegis of powerful international organizations. The trend toward an ever increasing and overwhelming centralization can only make things worse. It can easily contribute to the destruction of the remaining vestiges of individual culture and identity. The positive effects of a healthy diversity would be lost. The process of “massification” so much feared by Ortega y Gasset and Roepke would become a distinct reality.

5. “Globalization”: the case of Latin America

It is firmly believed by some experts that only the transnational corporations and the already super-rich will reap the benefits of “globalization” and, in a particular way, of free trade arrangements. They claim that the gap between rich and poor has been increasing rather than decreasing.[25] They further claim that the industrialized countries are trying to introduce “a uniform world wide development model that faithfully reflect the Western corporate vision and serves corporate interests”.[26]

They go as far as claiming that the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) are mere instruments of American foreign policy.[27] They are used, so these critics claim, as useful means to subjugate, exploit and “colonize” the less developed countries of the southern hemisphere. It is only fair to accept constructive criticism of free trade arrangements. It is perfectly understandable that, under certain circumstances, free trade may not be the most appropriate policy to be carried out by countries in the process of development. Protectionist measures may have to be implemented at the early stages of development.

The United States, among other countries, practiced protectionism in the nineteenth century, when it was building up its powerful industrial base. As mentioned earlier, the British also defended protectionist policies – i.e. the Corn Laws – when they believed they favoured the nation’s economic interests. However, overall, few people will not deny the multiple advantages that can be derived from the implementation of well thought out free trade policies. Countries in the early stages of development have also enjoyed the benefits of free trade. By opening their markets in an orderly way they have been able to attain rates of economic growth that a few years earlier would have seemed impossible. South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore can be taken as examples.

Something totally different to a healthy criticism of “globalization” and free trade policies is the attitude taken by countries such as Cuba and Venezuela.Both of these countries have attacked violently the very concept of “globalization”, especially with respect to the American sponsored FTAA. Nevertheless, their criticism of neo-liberalism and in particular of the FTAA is more political than economic. Their prime objective is the rejection of Western traditional moral values that emphasize political and economic freedom. To use critical arguments against the FTAA exclusively for political purposes is not only unfair but, in the long run, harmful to the interests of the Latin American communities. Scholarly criticism is one thing but a political vendetta against a neighbouring country is another matter which needs to be analyzed more carefully.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, in accordance with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, apparently has taken the initiative in a campaign to discredit the FTAA and accuse the United States of old fashioned imperialism. He proclaims the ongoing talks as dead and “condemns the FTAA as an imperialist plot headed by the United States in order to dominate all of Latin America”.[28]Chavez has described the FTAA as a great threat and, as a result, the Chavez-Castro alliance was formalized in 2004 by the signing of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (BAA).

This arrangement cannot be dismissed lightly. It is an event of geopolitical importance with significant ramifications for the United States and the whole of the Western Hemisphere. The objective of the BAA, the antithesis of a world integrated through the market place to revitalize the economies of both countries and create a common barter zone throughout Latin America and the Caribbean – in accordance with their own interpretation of “globalization”. This way they can advance “the principles of socialism throughout the region and counterbalance the United States as the super power of historic dominance in the hemisphere with a new correlation of forces comprised of China, India, Russia and Brazil, where the Peoples Republic of China predominates”.[29] Chavez furthermore claims that he has forged an alliance with Argentina, Brazil and Havana in their struggle against neo-liberalism and the U.S. led imperialistic agenda.[30]

It is ironic that Cuba, a country that has suffered so acutely under socialist policies, should place herself at the side of a populist regime such as the one sponsored by Chavez whose regime most surely will also end in political and economic catastrophe. What Cuba and other Latin American countries need are socially adjusted economic policies which stress political and economic freedoms that will redound to the benefit of all sectors of society. This, in our opinion, is the only way for economic growth to take place. Latin America is at a critical crossroads. The impact of globalization in the case of Latin America will depend more upon the course taken by its political leaders, as to the alternative economic models chosen.[31]

The future free economic system that hopefully will be established in Cuba must be based on a solid juridical and ethical foundation, if corruption, the plague of many political regimes particularly in the developing nations, is to be avoided. It is important to emphasize that corruption – the Achilles heel of the less developed countries – is not going to be solved by more government intervention.

As Dr. Samuel Gregg, Director of Research at the Acton Institute tells us: “If the grip of corruption is to be broken, it does not require the creation of more state officials to police (and perhaps exacerbate) the problem. It requires genuine change in the hearts of people and the moral culture of entire societies”.[32]


The new millennium that has just started has placed renewed faith in the bounties to be derived from “globalization” and the creation of ever more powerful supra-national institutions. A new world order is in the making which, it is believed, will put an end to the old national rivalries, even if it is done at the expense of the “old fashioned” national sovereignties. The goal of many an “expert” is to reach a higher level of unification among the various countries and regions of the world under the aegis of competent technocrats supported by a large number of bureaucrats. A greater level of political and economic unity is desired with the expectation that, as a result, a new era of peace and tranquility will follow.

Once again, man has a tendency to be carried away by unattainable goals of universal peace and tranquility disregarding his own frailties and the reality that surrounds him. It is useless to build utopian ideals with false promises or at least false expectations of a better world when the soul of each individual is negatively affected by unrelenting selfishness, greed and love of power. The moral, intellectual, political, economic and social disorder of our contemporary society is not conducive toward the creation of an ideal international order, whether we call it a “new world order” or otherwise.

To ignore the disorders that permeate modern society instead of trying to remedy them will only aggravate the crisis and make futile any attempt to create healthy international order. As Roepke keeps reminding us: “Is it not starting to build the house with the roof if we subscribe to a falsely understood internationalism, and should not the foundations come first? What can be expected from international conferences and conventions under such circumstances? Is it not the same old paper-rustling and clap-trap that the world has grown sick of during the last two decades?”[33] Once again the United Nations and other international organizations such as, for example, the International Court of Justice can be given as examples of institutions that have failed to meet the trust placed in them by the public in general. As purveyors of peace and general well-being, as well as protectors of the most elementary human rights, they have not been very successful. Examples abound.[34] The lack of consensus as to the basic principles that should serve as a guide to their activities makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to reach solutions that meet the standards of justice and equity. The very concept of human rights, for example, has a very different meaning in various parts of the world.

The term itself lends itself to diverse interpretations, depending on different cultural backgrounds but even more often on dissimilar political systems. If difficulties such as these permeate international organizations in our contemporary world, what can we expect from a powerful supra-national organization which lacks a basic common denominator which recognizes not only in theory but in practice the most elemental principle related to the dignity of the human person. A world order, which does not recognize the existence of a natural law and falls into a relativism that does not distinguish between good and evil, is necessarily destined to failure.

The utopian ideals of well meaning statesmen and intellectuals keep appearing in all stages of history. Man in his search for perfection does not cease to rely on unrealistic dreams that fall by the wayside and end up in the dustbin of history. To rely on collectivist policies and the centralization of power in supra-national organizations can only bring future disappointments. If the concept of globalization is used as a pretext for greater centralization and the development of supra-national institutions that in their zeal for unity disregard the value of diversity, then it can truthfully be said that freedom and respect for cultural diversity are in jeopardy. Such an outcome would be a tragedy for all well intentioned peoples who do not wish to abandon or sacrifice their legitimate and traditional cultural values.

However, let us be clear about this, “globalization” is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, it can bring many benefits to society as a whole. If it contributes to the creation of a more unified world where the principles of subsidiarity, solidarity, justice and the traditional moral values are respected, “globalization” can be a welcomed counter balance to the false nationalism of the past; a nationalism which did so much harm during the twentieth century. But as Otto von Habsburg, a former European parliamentarian,said many years ago with reference to the unification of Europe: ” l’Europe doit croitre comme un arbre, pas comme un grate-ciel”.[35]

In the case of Europe, if its spiritual and cultural roots are not preserved, the continent will grow – if it does at all – as an anonymous entity that will lose its past greatness and even its “raison d’etre”. The main concern is to better define and foster the European spirit that expresses the universality of its civilization whilst, at the same time recognizing the wide range of its cultural contributions, its unity and diversity.[36] This same argument can be applied to other integrating movements around the world. Unity yes but it must come together with diversity: this is the only path that will lead towards a healthy unity but always respecting a legitimate diversity. Any attempt to reach a greater level of international unification, whether through social or economic integrating movements, must respect the cultural and spiritual traditions of the participating members.

A false concept of globalization that limits itself to criticism of older international organizations whilst, at the same time, denying or ignoring the reality of human nature can only lead to future disappointments. The lessons learned from the failure of the League of Nations would have served for no purpose whatsoever. It would be pretentious to blame past international organizations and erroneous diplomatic and economic endeavours for the ills of our contemporary societies. The real problem lies not in deficient national and international institutions but in refusing to identify the evils that are rotting the roots of our modern society and are the cause of its political and social disintegration. The cure cannot be found in legislative actions amending past institutions or creating new ones. The crisis is much deeper.

What we are witnessing at the beginning of this new millenium is a renewed crisis of values. Modern man tends to reject or at least ignore the basic tenants of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Exclusive reliance on man’s capabilities to build new societies free of antinomies can only lead to future disappointments. Utopian dreams of new world orders – including those based on democratic principles and free economies – can lead humanity astray. The peacemakers of 1919 were convinced that by modifying and/or building new political and economic structures peace and tranquility would follow. They were wrong, because they forgot the true nature of the human person and his tendency towards evil, whether manifested in the form of excessive political power and/or economic greed. Only by recognizing the truth that man, as Aristotle insisted, must lead a virtuous life if the city-state is to prosper. Otherwise, all sorts of man-devised plans for a better world can meet the same fate of the early Greek city-states and more recently of the premature “happy” expectations which arose from the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and the Conference of San Francisco in 1949.

Thus, let us hope that “globalization”, whether in the form of a new world order or other types of integrating models, will not end in failure. The reality of Scripture’s Tower of Bable put an end to man’s ambition, not to mention his arrogance, pretending to build a “perfect society” and reach a “heaven on earth” without divine assistance. Modern man should not fall into the same arrogance of his ancient predecessors. For man to work arduously towards the construction of a better world is praiseworthy but, at the same time, he must have sufficient humility to recognize his own frailties and insufficiencies. Let me conclude with a quote from the brilliant German scholar Dietrich von Hildebrand when he warned the modern world with these wise words: “The mark of the present crisis is man’s attempt to free himself from his condition as a created being, to deny his metaphysical situation, to disengage himself from all bonds with anything greater than himself. Man endeavours to build a new Tower of Babel”[37] To disregard Hildebrand’s warning will only bring about further disillusionments and ultimate failures to the men and women of the new millennium.

Ambassador Alberto Martinez Piedra is the Donald E. Bently Professor of Political Economy at the Institute of World Politics.



[1] David Fromkin, Europe’s Last Summer. ( New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2004 ) p. 17
[2] According to Kissinger: “In the nineteenth century, Metternich’s Austria reconstructed the Concert of Europe and Bismarck’s Germany dismantled it”. See Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy. ( New York: A Touchstone Book, Published by Simon and Schuster, 1994). p.17
[3] The other Big Four signatories of the Treaty of Versailles were Lloyd George, the prime minister of Britain and Georges Clemenceau and Vittorio Orlando, prime ministers of France and Italy respectively.For an excellent book on the Paris Conference of 1919 and its attempt to end all wars see: Margaret Macmillan, PeaceMakers. (London: John Murray, 2002)
[4] Woodrow Wilson, Address, January 22, 1917 in Papers of Woodrow Wilson, vol.40, pp. 536-537
[5] Kissinger, op.cit., p.221
[6] Macmillan, op.cit., p. 95
[7] Ibid., p. 98. Margaret Macmillan is the great-grand daughter of David Lloyd George.
[8] This policy was associated with the name of George F. Kennan.
[9] For an excellent review of American Foreign Policy see: Joshua Muravchik, Exporting Democracy. (Washington D.C.: The AEI Press, 1991).
[10] Alberto M. Piedra, Natural Law. (Lanham, MD, Lexington Books, 2004) p. 168
[11] The conflict between the believers in free trade and the defenders of protectionism in XIXth century England is well documented.It gave ground to the debate between Peel and Disraeli with respect to the Corn Lawswhich permitted the import of cheap foodstuffs for the poorer sectors of British society. They were opposedby the agricultural interests.
[12] It is true that Wolf does not argue for the replacement of states.He is arguing “for a better understanding by states of their long-run interest in a co-operative global economic order”. See: Martin Wolf, Why Globalization Works. (New Haven:Yale Nota Bene, Yale University Press, 2005) p. xvii.
[13] Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and its Discontents. ( New York:W.W. Norton & Company, 2003) p. 19
[14] Ibid., p.7
[15] Jagdish Bhagwati, In Defense of Globalization. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) pp. 93-94
[16] Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man.(New York; The Free Press, 1992) p.12
[17] The British government was never enthusiastic with the idea of creating the EEC.They favoured the creation of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) or a simple free trade area, much less centralized than its rival the EEC.
[18] The former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl once said: “L’unite culturelle de l’Europe, dans toute sa diversite , est le vrai fondement de l’unification europeenne”.
[19] According to the French political philosopher Elie Halevy as quoted by Friedrich Hayek: “‘The independence of small nations might mean something to the liberal individualist.It means nothing to collectivists like …the two Webbs and their friend Bernard Shaw.I can still hear Sidney Webb explaining to me that the future belonged to the great administrative nations, where the officials govern and the police keep order’.And elsewhere Halevy quotes George Bernard Shaw, arguing about the same time, that ‘the world is to the big and powerful states by necessity; and the little ones must come within their bordersor be crushed out of existence.'” See: Friedrich von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,1944) p.143
[20] Ibid., p. 144
[21] Piedra, op.cit., p. 168
[22] Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. (New York: Anchor Books, 2000) p. 23. For Friedman, “world affairs today can only be explained as the interaction between what is as new as an Internet Web site and what is as old as a gnarled olive tree on the banks of the river Jordan”. (pp.29-30. He continues: “one reason that the nation state will never disappear, even if it does weaken, is because it is the ultimate olive tree – the ultimate expression of whom we belong to – linguistically, geographically and historically”. (p. 31) Lexus, on the other hand “represents an equally fundamental age-old drive – the drive for sustenance, improvement, prosperity and modernization – as it is played out in today’s globalization system “. (pp. 32-33)
[23] Maria Sophia Aguirre, “Multiculturalism in a labour market with integrated economies” in Management Decision (West Yorkshire, England,. MCB University Press, Volume 35, Number 7, 1997) p. 493
[24]Friedman, op.cit., , p. 34
[25] According to two prominent Colombian economists, as a result of globalization, income distribution has improvedworldwide during the last 25 years. However, this is due to the weight carried by China and India.See: Armando Montenegro and Rafael Rivas, Las Piezas del Rompecabezas, desigualdad, pobreza y crecimiento.(Bogota, Colombia: Editora Aguilar, Altea, Taurur, Alfaguara, 2005) p. 32
[26] For a harsh and, very often, biased criticism of globalization see: Jerry Mander, “Facing the Rising Tide” in The Case Against the Global Economy. (Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1996. p. 5. The global homogernization of culture, Mander believes, is one of the main principles underlying the global economy. It includes”the idea that all countries – even those whose cultures have been as diverse as, say, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Sweden, and Brazil – must sign on to the same global economic model and row their (rising) boats in unison. The net result is monoculture – the global humanization of culture, life style, and level of technological immersion, with the corresponding dismantlement of local traditions and economics. Soon, everyplace will look and feel like everyplace else, with the same restaurants and hotels, the same clothes, the same malls and superstores, and the same streets crowded with cars. There’ll be scarcely a reason to leave home”. Ibid., p.5
[27] Cuba is not a party to the 34 nation FTAA.
[28] Ralph J. Galliano, Editor, U.S.-Cuba Policy Report. (Washington DC: Institute for U.S. Cuba Relations.2004) Vol. 11, No.4, April 30, 2004, p.8
[29]Ralph J. Galliano, Editor, U.S. Cuba Policy Report. (Washington DC: Institute for U.S. Cuba Relations, 2004) Special Edition, December 21, 2004, p. 1. Article 2 of BAA states: “Given that the Bolivarian process has placed itself on a much firmer footing after the decisive victories in the revocatory referendum of 15 August 2004 and the regional elections of October 31, 2004 and since Cuba and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will be based from this date forward not only on principles of solidarity, which will always be present, but also, and to the highest possible degree, on the exchange of goods and services which best correspond to the social and economic necessities of both countries”. Ibid., p. 1
[30] The FTAA is opposed by trade blocs such as Mercosur – Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay – and by many of the Guyana based CARICOM countries.
[31] Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs Rogelio Pardo-Maurer IV, who is the senior advisor to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, offered an insight into the alternative proposed by the United States in his July 2005 speech before the Washington-based Hudson Institute. He said the following: “there are alternatives to the model that we champion…which is the model of the democratic, market based liberal society, liberal in the old-fashioned sense of the word…There are less benign (alternatives). There are even malicious and I would not be afraid to say, downright evil alternatives. One of them, as we know, is the Bolivarian Alternative…this is the model championed by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and supported or even directed by Fidel Castro in Cuba. That is an alternative”. See Ralph J. Galliano, Editor, U.S.-CubaPolicy Report. (Washington DC: Institute for U.S. Cuba Relations, 2005) Special Edition, July 26, 2005, p.4.
[32] Osvaldo H. Schenone and Samuel Gregg, A Theory of Corruption, The Theology of Sin. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Social Thought Series Number 7, 2003 ) p. 48
[33] Wilhelm Roepke, International Order and Economic Integration. ( Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1959) p.13. First published in Switzerland by Eugen Rentsch Verlag AG, Erlenbach-Zurich, Switzerland.
[34] Sudan and Rwuanda-Burundi are only two exampless among many.
[35] See: Jacques Groothaert, L’Europe aux miroirs ( Bruxelles: Editions LABOR, 1996) p.90
[36] Jacques Groothaert expresses this truth in a very poetic but real way when he writes: “Nous ne pouvons qu’evoquer les rapports entre primitives flamends et peinture italienne, les cathedrals gothiques de France, d’Angleterre ou d’Allemagne, les chateaux au classicism a la francaise, le baroque triumphant et multiforme de l’Espagne a la Baviere, l’ecole de peinture de Paris ou se retrouvent les Espagnols Picasso et Miro, le Russe Chagall, l’Italien Modigliani, le Bulgare Soutine”.
[37] Dietrich von Hildebrand, The New Tower of Babel.(New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1953) p. 1