Need for competition

Government in need of competitive stimulus


Far more likely than that inspired political intervention will lead to some form of World Embassy is that politicians instead expend their energies portraying the potential power of Global Guilds as a threat to the claimed monopoly of state government. Big Government risks viewing Big Business as a usurping rival. In reality, such concerns completely miss the point. Any cross-territory power that the Global Guilds wield will be because the governments cannot exercise it themselves. Anyone who thinks that the power of Global Guilds to cut across one dimension of the world economy (territory) with another dimension (industry) is about ‘Big Business taking-on State Government’ is dangerously simplistic. In practice, optimizing such a matrix power-structure is what nearly all multinationals have internally been experimenting with for decades. Governments have simply proved incapable of conducting their own trials.

When politicians have come together in supranational groups such as the UN, they have (rather amateurishly in comparison with multinationals) been completely unable to balance individual territorial considerations against collective global ones. Instead, forced by their governance structures rather than lack of intellect, they have habitually fought for their own country’s self-interest almost whatever the eventual collective cost. There has been no counterbalance, no opposing power. Although government organizations are unlikely to welcome the prospect, the truth is that their relative impotence in harmonizing the multiple dimensions of the global economy is increasingly dangerous. A new power needs to fill that vacuum. Whether we like it or not, and despite the obvious risks inherent in any undemocratic body, the only power that looks like it can be ready in time is the power of something like the Global Guilds.

What is more, government bodies should not forget that it is no bad thing for a monopoly to feel the threat of what it views as competition. Healthy rivalry stimulates improvement. As it is, up until now citizens have had no alternative to having their world run by a combination of politicians – who, it should be noted, in bodies such as the UN are completely unelected – and behind-the-scenes equally-unelected civil servants. Neither of these groups generally have the same skills and experience of top executives from the private sector. In the past that has not of itself been an obvious handicap. But in many countries, leading politicians come to power having spent most if not all of their careers within politics, yet they convince themselves that they nevertheless have a sufficient understanding of how the ‘real world’ works and what up-to-date ‘professionalism’ feels like. Similarly, senior civil servants tend
to have been in their often-old-fashioned and rather inefficient work environments for all their careers, surrounded by others like themselves that consider that they have a ‘job for life’ that may not be cutting-edge but is at least secure.

Yet these are the same people and systems that are expected to help optimize the performance of a global economy of unprecedented complexity and sophistication. With the best will in the world, most current government organizations are simply not up to the task. They need major upgrading, of people and management systems, not just evolutionary reform. Atypically amongst politicians, the Chinese government has proved willing to reassess its operations every few years and, as appropriate, shut down whole Ministries and Government Departments and create very different and better-suited ones in their place. In contrast, most other countries have maintained largely the same government structures as they used fifty years ago.

At every level and in every way the political infrastructures around the world that currently claim a monopoly over global governance are in need of an extreme shake-up if they are to become fit-for-purpose. They need to get their acts together so that they are at least as professional as the comparable organizations in the private sector that over the last few decades have been honed by unrelenting competition. Until the very cleverest and most ambitious and most creative people routinely choose a life in government rather than business, which is far from the situation today, then it is very healthy that politicians and civil servants and the systems they take for granted feel the full force of competitive pressure from the equivalent of the Global Guilds. After all, so far governments have not managed to achieve the necessary changes on their own. And now there is insufficient time to wait to see if they can.