Here’s a letter to the New York Times Book Review:
If Mayors Ruled the World author Benjamin Barber is quoted by reviewer Sam Roberts as predicting that “If mayors ruled the world, the more than 3.5 billion people … who are urban dwellers and the many more in the exurban neighborhoods beyond could participate locally and cooperate globally at the same time – a miracle of civic ‘glocality’ promising pragmatism instead of politics, innovation rather than ideology and solutions in place of sovereignty” (“Their Honors,” Nov. 24).
Whatever wonders mayors might launch by ruling humanity, initiating ordinary people’s ability to participate locally in an on-going innovative process of pragmatic global cooperation that is largely indifferent to political sovereignty won’t be among them. Such a process is already well underway. It’s called globalization.
Even the most commonplace items that we consume in modern society are the results of the creativity, risk taking, and efforts of literally millions of people from around the world. The computer that Mr. Barber used to write his book was likely designed in California and assembled in Suzhou, China, from raw materials and parts transported from the Americas, Africa, and Europe on vehicles built in Germany, Japan, Norway, South Korea, and the U.S. Financing and insurance for this globe-spanning supply chain were supplied by investors and institutions from Seattle to Sydney, Lima to London, and Melbourne to Montreal. As your own paper reported in 2011, “Manufacturing is outsourced around the world, with each component made in locations chosen for expertise and low costs. So today’s computer or smartphone is, figuratively, a United Nations assembly of parts.”*
That Mr. Barber thinks that ordinary people’s local participation in an innovative process of global cooperation is only a dream of the future – and one whose realization requires a major change in political governance – reveals his blindness to a blazing reality that surrounds him daily.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
* “Stress Test for the Global Supply Chain,” New York Times, March 19, 2011.