Every victory brings new risks. The biggest risk today is a statist counterrevolution being engineered by the architects of a "Third Way Movement"–of which Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder, Bill Clinton, and most assuredly Al Gore, are at the center.
The Third Way offers the allure of a so-called middle path between freedom and statism and between socialism and capitalism. It is a "new-age" political and economic philosophy that promotes socialist principles and ideals behind a mask of markets and capitalism. Unlike the socialists of old, the Third Way doesn’t attempt to destroy free markets. It tries to harness them, to manipulate, to direct, and regulate them. But behind the mask of Third Way capitalism are the children of the Left who persist in the delusion that bureaucratic planning is the way of the future. Remember what economist Lester Thurow said about Soviet planning in 1989, just six months before the collapse of Communism? "Can economic command and controls significantly…accelerate the growth process?" Yes, he answers! "The remarkable performance of the Soviet Union suggests that it can….Today it is a country whose economic achievements bear comparison with those of the United States."
Words matter; ideas matter. Indeed, they rule the world, as Victor Hugo said. So when national leaders like Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott predict (as he did in 1992) that in this 21st century "all states will recognize a single, global authority….‘Citizen of the world’ will have assumed real meaning," I not only take him at his word, I believe he means to use the power of his position to advance us toward that goal of a "single, global authority."
When a respected figure like Walter Cronkite is honored by the World Federalist Association for his long dedication to the cause of world government, I feel confident that the drive toward global governance is well-advanced and that we are very late indeed in recognizing its consequences and implications for liberty. Consider what Mr. Cronkite said on receiving its Global Governance award last October: "If we are to avoid the eventual catastrophic world conflict we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government patterned after our own government with a legislature, executive and judiciary, and police to enforce its international laws and keep the peace. To do that, of course, we Americans will have to yield up some of our sovereignty."
The Third Way Global Governance Movement is not a backroom conspiracy, but a frontroom, high-visibility campaign by sincere but misguided, well-placed, and influential American, British, and European politicians and academics. They truly believe we must and should surrender some of our independence and sovereignty in order to advance the cause of a greater, more powerful, centralized world order. We reject that categorically as a threat to our liberty and the biggest challenge to economic and political freedom the world may face in our immediate lifetimes. But I respect it enough to take it seriously.
Most of our political leaders, sadly, do not seem to take it seriously. And among those who do, too many of them–like our friend Pat Buchanan (who on this issue is right)–are in danger of being seduced by the very fallacies put forth by global government folks themselves–for example the fallacy that free trade must be managed. In my opinion, Pat would like the US government to manage trade. The Third Wayers want the WTO to manage it. I don’t believe anyone needs to manage the freedom of people to exchange goods and services freely across their borders.
Winston Churchill best articulated the virtue of free economic relations as against the risks of Third Way global government. In 1904, before he left the Tory Party to join the Liberal Party to protest Tory policy, Churchill noted that "there came last year into [our country] from every land and people under the sun, millions worth of merchandise, so marvelously varied in its character that a whole volume would scarcely describe it….Was it to crush us, or conquer us, or to starve us, or was it to nourish and enrich our country? It is a sober fact that every single time…all that vast catalogue of commodities came to our shores because some [citizen] desired it, paid for it, and meant to turn it to his comfort or profit."
Ronald Reagan echoed Churchill when he stated, "We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity, and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefiting from their success–only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free. Trust the people. This is the one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development." Later he added, "As the leader of the West and as a country that has become great and rich because of economic freedom, American must be an unrelenting advocate of free trade."
There is a critical difference between the globalization of freedom and free markets, which is good, and the globalization of big-government bureaucracies, which is not.
The globalization of freedom and opportunity empowers people and allows entrepreneurs to take risks to create and innovate, to improve their own lives and the lives of others. The globalization of government retards entrepreneurialism and promotes bureaucracies that inhibit people’s quest to achieve their highest aspirations.
I suggest we reject the Third Way and return to the First Way. That way is the way of our Declaration of Independence–freedom first, governance second. It is the vision followed by entrepreneurs and inventors who are creating the 21st Century internet economy at breakneck speed, creating jobs, achieving new medical miracles through genetic research and biotechnology, who are making energy cheaper and cleaner without the prod of international bureaucrats. It is the vision that says people around the globe, black and brown and Asian and white men and women, are capable of handling their own affairs, and should be allowed to do so short of the point where they may injure their fellow man. It is the vision that says every child can learn, succeed, earn wages, create wealth, and grow up to raise a healthy family in a world that will be freer, more productive, and more peaceful as we live by the Golden Rule.
The global spread of economic freedom, decisively propelled by free trade and entrepreneurial vision, is truly the triumph of ordinary men and women free to do extraordinary things: the workers and laborers who are becoming savers, investors, and consumers, truly empowered by economic freedom and in charge of their own destinies at last. This must be our legacy of the 21st century. We can do so, but only with a unified front in favor of freedom, and against the intrusion of global governance on our economic, political, and intellectual liberty. We must do it, and so we will. Not for ourselves alone, but, more importantly, for our children and our grandchildren.
CEI Distinguished Fellow Jack Kemp is a co-director of Empower America.