Why listen to TED Talks?

When you can be exposed to the ideas they’ll be discussing years in advance by reading my columns and this blog.

“How do we make sense of today’s political divisions? In a wide-ranging conversation full of insight, historian Yuval Harari places our current turmoil in a broader context, against the ongoing disruption of our technology, climate, media — even our notion of what humanity is for. This is the first of a series of TED Dialogues, seeking a thoughtful response to escalating political divisiveness. Make time (just over an hour) for this fascinating discussion between Harari and TED curator Chris Anderson.”

“I think the basic thing that happened is we have lost our story. Humans think in stories and we try to make sense of the world by telling stories,” the historian said. “And for the last few decades we had a very simple and very attractive story about what was happening in the world. And the story said that the economy is being globalized, politics is being liberalized, and the combination of the two will create paradise on earth. And we just need to keep globalizing the economy and liberalizing the political system, and everything will be wonderful.”

“2016 is when a very large segment of the Western world stopped believing in this story,” he said. “For good or bad reason it doesn’t matter, people stopped believing the story, and when you don’t have a story it is hard to understand what is happening.”

“The old 20th century political model of left vs. right is now basically irrelevant and the real divide today is between global and national, global or local. All over the world this is not the main struggle.”

Such amazing insight, such as the idea that global government might be more akin to China than Denmark! How very fascinating! I’ve never paid any attention to TED for just this reason; it’s third-rate pop intellectualism marketed to pseudo-intellectuals to make them feel smart. The amazing thing is that it has taken them this long to begin suspecting that Fukuyama might have been wrong. And they still haven’t figured out that Huntington, and Powell, and Wallace et al were right.

Out of curiosity, I did a search on “globalism” in my latest book, the first volume in the trilogy of my collected columns, and this was the first one that came up.

From The Collected Columns Vol. I, Innocence & Intellect, 2001-2005

One world… one big, bloody problem
February 4, 2002

It’s not hard to understand why globalism is so persistently seductive to people of genuinely good intent. Long a staple of hack science fiction writers and the producers of Saturday-morning cartoons, the notion of one central and benevolent government for all humanity appears like a light shining in the darkness of a world that is still wracked by warfare, terrorism, famine and disease despite the past century’s incredible advances in technology.

Of course, it was pointed out several thousand years ago that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

In fact, if humanity’s past record is a reasonable guide, globalism may represent the single deadliest threat to mankind in our long, murderous history. The Economist has reported that in the last century, more people died at the hands of their own governments than in all the wars and civil wars combined—170 million deaths vs. 37 million. However, the implications of this fact for global governance have not often been considered.

Supporters of globalism are optimistic that under the aegis of a single government, the world will experience peace, one way or another. But even if we put aside the questionable notion of an enforced peace, which the Balkan conflict demonstrated is merely a matter of putting off today’s violence for tomorrow, it must be understood that an end to war is not synonymous with an end to violence and bloodshed.

Just as soldiers going into battle for the first time tend to think in terms of what they will do to the enemy instead of what the enemy will do to them, globalists envision one-world governance as an efficient means of imposing their views on others. This is why political activists of nearly every stripe tend to embrace globalist institutions even if they oppose a specific aspect of globalism. Thus the radical environmentalist who protests the World Economic Forum nevertheless supports the Kyoto Treaty on global warming.

But there is no guarantee that a one-world government will respect the laws, customs, and institutions of the traditional freedom-loving West. Indeed, the institutions which are most deeply enmeshed in the globalist movement show strong signs that it will instead imitate the autocratic habits of its intellectual predecessors. For example, the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 29, section 3, that:

These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Jawohl, Reichsfuhrer Annan! Consider also the possibility that a coalition of Arab and African states might take control of the global government in the same way they’ve been able to exert undue influence over the U.N. General Assembly. Then everyone could enjoy the religious freedom enjoyed by Jews and Christians living in Saudi Arabia and the Sudan .

Unfortunately, that’s far from the worst possibility. Two of the governments responsible for the worst civilian massacres in history, Russia and China, boasting 62 million and 37 million murders, respectively, hold permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council. And for those who argue that Russia isn’t the same government as the Soviet Union, I have only one thing to say: If they’re not, then what is Russia doing on the Security Council?

Even in medieval times, intelligent people understood that the fact that one king was a wise and benevolent ruler didn’t mean the next one wouldn’t be a complete psychopath. For those of you without historical reference, I’m talking about a situation like the one depicted in the movie “Gladiator,” wherein Emperor Marcus Aurelius was succeeded by his son Commodus. The peril of central power is why America’s founding fathers decided to ditch the whole concept and did their best to break it up, scattering it as far and as wide throughout the land as possible.

Regardless of how global governance is implemented, it is sure to attract every evil, power-seeking individual and organization like pedophiles to a public schoolyard. The intrigues and conspiracies will make Byzantium’s internecine power struggles look like a student-council debate by comparison. Every would-be Hitler, Lenin, Mao and Mugabe will be converging on a single institution, and the most ruthless of them will be the winner.

The National Socialists had a saying that still sounds ominous now, 50 years later. “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer!” One world, one government may not sound so scary yet, but it should. Because one thing is certain. Totalitarian government doesn’t improve with size.