I have been a proponent of global trade and integrated global institutions for some time. Not only did it serve my self-interest - I want to live in a wealthy stable democracy. But it also served a broader interest - economic freedoms tend to force political freedoms, political freedoms produce democracies and democracies tend not to fight wars with other democracies. I'll admit it: I want peace in our time.
The news yesterday that the United Arab Emirates is going to ban the use of email and texting on Blackberry phones forces a bit of a rethink. As with the case of Google in China, we're seeing developing countries looking to have their cake and eat it too. They want some of the benefits of economic freedoms but look to control or limit the associated technology the can support the exercise of political freedoms.
Governments who want to continue to sell global integration both in the economic and security matters have been become lax about linking their actions with the clear moral purpose of furthering the growth of political freedoms. They've been content to let individual companies negotiate their own side deals with oppressive regimes. It's time that this changes. The leaders of the west and of the globalisation ideology need to explicitly align their diplomatic and economic force with the narrow interests of a few companies to support this broader purpose. (Continued...)
Can any free marketer worth his or her salt or any committed globalist really support the continued use of Dubai as a central cog in the global economy if they are willing to ban the use of emails and texts? Their reason should cause even greater concern - they've invoked security as their rationale. While that kind of paranoia makes sense if you are running a brutal autocratic oligarchy, it should have no place in a free market.
If the moral ideal in the abstract does not convince, the economic argument should. A failure to link participation in the benefits of globalisation with the extension of political freedoms will, ultimately, sink the whole globalisation exercise and see global profits winnow and dry up. Only free markets are efficient markets and that freedom requires the unrestricted flow of information and labour. Countries that allow that tend to see their governments change and become more democratic. Countries that don't should be excluded from participating.
There may be some short-term uncertainty but the long-term benefits are massive. And, if recent events tell us anything, private interest do a poor job of managing their long-term interests. Government is better placed to address this. - Beta