This article explains the meaning behind integration and why I think it is important for the transition from today's world to a world without extreme poverty, a world characterized by food abundance and universal health care, education, water and sanitation. There is one premise in the reasoning: that if integration is feasible, transaction costs will be reduced and economies of scale will emerge. Transaction costs and economies of scale will allow us as a global society to liberate funds and shift their allocation, so that liberated funds can be spent in areas that are vital for the future of human kind and the preservation of Planet Earth. In order to spend the liberated funds we will need Strategic Teams in each country and territory that are neutral, pragmatic, forward-looking and supportive of future prosperity of the whole of society.
I have long ago decided to embrace integration. The opposite would be fragmentation or fracture, and I have done it simply for practical and pragmatic reasons: in order to reduce inefficiency and use any improvement in efficiency for the betterment and the prosperity of the extreme poor and the worse off. Integration in this context does not respond to any ideological, partisan or nationalistic (globalist) sentiment, nor does it embrace a purely globalization-oriented approach in which the reduction of certain transaction costs fundamentally benefits certain vested interests connected to the better off (the shareholders) and the supranational corporation, as it is for instance the case in the elimination of tariffs in the context of the trade negotiation rounds of the World Trade Organization, or it is the case in the sophistication of the international financial architecture with its myriad of tax havens.
What does integration mean? Integration means market unity, standardization, identification of benchmarks that may enable peer-to-peer comparison, unification of policies whenever possible, resource pooling whether hard or soft, and the elimination of barriers. Integration is far more possible today thanks to technology than it was in the aftermath of World War II. However radical change seems only feasible when atrocities justify it in order to avoid repetition.
In order for integration to work first of all a phenomenal educational effort needs to be undertaken if barriers are to fall naturally. Tearing down mental barriers (defying stereotypes and fears of one another) will automatically enable tearing down physical barriers. The opposite would probably require war. In order for integration to work generosity and thus the implementation of redistribution policies must take off.
Integration does oftentimes not happen because certain agents and players (the intermediaries) oppose and sometimes impose their presence through legislation or the use of force. Certain intermediaries are still necessary today, but perhaps a majority is not. The intermediary oftentimes holds a competitive advantage which justifies its very own existence. An intermediary can become a parasite.
Integration does not oftentimes occur because of difference of race, ethnicity or religion. In many countries ethnic or religious minorities maintain a pulse with the majority for a chunk of the cake. A political message based on the defence of the rights of minorities (and also of majorities) can then be manipulated to design a political campaign of hatred and confrontation which is detrimental to society as a whole and provokes a phenomenal increase of the transaction costs. We would all be better off if mutual acceptance and understanding between the minority and the majority was promoted through education. No intermediaries would as a result be able to extract a political competitive advantage which would justify their existence.
Integration does not oftentimes occur because of fear. Fear emerges because of ignorance and the lack of knowledge. Sometimes the elites may have an interest in limiting the learning ability and capability of the masses. The elites can then institute a message of fear in society on which they can justify the use of force in the form of armed conflict, the use of tariff retaliation in the case of a trade war.
Integration has been taking place at the supranational level in areas such as free trade or the free flow of financial flows. Developed countries maintain immigration flows under a very tight control. Whereas free trade is encouraged particularly in goods and services exported by industrial countries, barriers of entry continue to exist in agricultural or farming products through subsidies in Europe and the United States or grounded on food security reasons.
Integration will not happen overnight. We need to devise a strategy in which (total) integration occurs over the course or our lifetime through 2050. Total integration would imply the possibility of a Global Constitution for the first time in history. Total integration would imply the absence of armed conflict and the existence of a single Army which would unlikely fight against itself. Total integration would imply that diversity turns into an asset and is not used as a weapon by the elites to instigate fear in the masses.
How can global integration occur if fundamental income and quality of life gaps remain even today at the national level? Inequality has continued to increase in many developed and developing countries. The better off are increasingly less. The worse off are increasingly more. Integration does not happen as it would happen in a country or a society with a large medium class.
Integration has not been included as a priority in the rhetoric of many leaders. For instance whether Scotland in the United Kingdom, Catalonia in Spain or Flanders in Belgium represent examples in which a political trend has developed which justifies fragmentation or fracture. For instance many Latin American leaders continue to perpetuate a discourse of animosity against their neighbour in spite of the fact that Latin Americans share a language, a religion, a history and a tradition and could potentially be united as the United States of America is in the north. We allow past pitfalls to continue to divide us as a global society and a united people the human family.
Integration includes cooperation. Only extreme supranational cooperation could converge towards (total) integration. There must be cooperation among countries. Cooperation needs to incorporate mutual understanding and generosity.
If priorities were global our leadership would present policies that benefit the median voter globally. Because priorities continue to remain national, there are conflicting and clashing ambitions among different players globally which seek to instigate a policy which will benefit a certain national corporate or citizen interest.
Let's look at the European Union. The European Union has promoted a free trade zone in which internal tariffs have been eliminated and the import and export of goods and services is thus free (elimination of transaction costs). The Euro-Zone has embraced a single currency (the Euro) which has eliminated dozens of currencies and as a result currency risk and the possible emergence of depreciation. Whereas economic integration seems to anticipate political integration, the latter does not naturally occur. There seems to be an interest in individual countries to continue to maintain sovereignty on certain areas such as defence or diplomacy. The European Union has a single market however bank accounts continue to be national and mobile telephony roaming charges are still common.
There have been and there are integration attempts throughout the world which mimic what the European Union has accomplished since 1957: ASEAN in Asia, Mercosur in Latin America, Ecowas/Comesa/SADC in Subsaharan Africa. These attempts are typically extremely slow and inefficient. The European integration has taken place arguably because of two world wars.
Integration implies the reduction of transaction costs and the emergence of economies of scale. The United States in the twentieth century or China in the twenty-first century are examples of large markets where federal legislation and management may reduce transaction costs enabling the emergence of economies of scale and of competitive advantages. There is a single Central Intelligence Agency in the United States, a single Department of State and a single Army. There are 28 different agencies for each of these areas in the European Union, with 28 different world views and no consensus whatsoever possible.
The world is in dire straits. Its population has tripled since World War II. Extreme differences in income and quality of life remain. There is a demographic dividend that is being lost because billions remain unemployed. Global hunger has only been very timidly mitigated by the extraordinary job of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program. Dozens of civil wars continue to hit the developing world. The AIDS pandemic continues to hit Subsaharan Africa. Billions remain uneducated, without access to drinkable water or sanitation facilities. There are severe shortages ahead in water, energy or the food supply.
Yet in this world of ours major corporations continue to manufacture cars running on oil which we no longer need to maintain shareholders happy and industrial workers in developed nations employed. Yet in this world of ours countries continue to emphasize the importance of running and maintaining national armies which will protect us against foreign enemies because of vested elite interests of the industrial and military complex which use the muscle of the world's most powerful lobbies to maintain their competitive advantage.
What a wonderful world we could have. We have the knowledge, we have the technology, and we have the funding. But we are not ready because we have forgotten to embrace integration as a top priority. The elites in many small and medium countries are of course not interested because the lack of integration justifies their very own existence. In the meantime we will continue to remain afraid. The fear of the unknown will kill us all, no questions asked, guaranteed.
As Thomas Friedman wonderfully wrote in 2005, the world is flat, but almost exclusively for the better off. Naomi Klein's shock doctrine becomes mainstream.
If I were running for president of the world integration would be my top priority. Because integration would allow the release of trillions of dollars to invest in the provision of education and healthcare, to invest in the inputs that would trigger a Green Revolution in Subsaharan Africa. We'd live then in a world of Eutopia and Cornucopia. I am after all a world citizen first and foremost. Long live the world...